Attendance Claws: Addendum

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Published: January 26, 2012

Jason follows up on the attendance as the end on January gets closer by the day.

Last Friday, We addressed a number of issues related to attendance, including a history of why it is more important to the New Orleans Hornets than any other team and a pretty severe rant. Like such posts are prone to do, it generated questions from readers. Also, we’ve had two home games. So, we update the outlook and try to answer those questions.

Let’s get to it.

Current Situation

We drew 15,471 and 12,599, yielding a new target average of 14,022. Here is our updated January:

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
December 25, 2011Boston
17,802
Phoenix
15,790
January 01, 2012Philadelphia
12,387
Denver
13,035
January 08, 2012Oklahoma City
13,565
Minnesota
14,295
January 15, 2012Portland
14,758
Memphis
12,045
Dallas
15,471
January 22, 2012San Antonio
12,599
January Average
13,519

The situation is now much more straightforward than before since the problem is down to consideration of two games:

Orlando MagicFriday, January 27, 7:00
Atlanta HawksSunday, January 29, 6:00

Tickets are available for each game. If they were closer to a sellout, this analysis would be much easier.

The Magic should draw at least as much as the Mavericks due to the Dwight Howard appeal, their success in recent seasons, and the fact that the game is on a Friday night. The Atlanta game will not fare as well, but it should be fine due to it being a weekend game with the 7-Up Friends and Family promotion. Note that the lowest attended games are all weekday games. The Boston and Portland day games are counter examples with easy-to-explain causes, as noted in the original article. The Oklahoma City game barely exceeded the attendance of our lowest attended “weekend” game.

Here is how it shakes out going forward:

Orlando AttendanceAtlanta Attendance Needed
14,00014,044
15,00013,044
16,00012,044
17,00011,044

To play the home game:

Atlanta Attendance Needed = 28,044 – Orlando Attendance

Good weather is expected, and that will help, or at least keep the weather from hurting the attendance in late January. Additionally, the conclusion from the original article holds: an attendance of at least 16,000 for Orlando effectively, and likely mathematically, neuters the clause. Getting to 15,000 is likely good enough. 14,000 for that game is a cause for concern, but it’s still within reach.

Not making these attendance levels should open the current lease’s odious escape clause. Though there is little reason to expect the team to take advantage of this, the option never being made available is better for Hornets fans, no matter their location.

Season Tickets Up, Attendance Down

How is our attendance down from last year when our season ticket sales are newsworthy?

This was discussed at length in the original article, but further reflection and a little investigation combined with some reasonable assumptions paints a picture. It’s more of a Monet than a Rembrandt, but it’s what we can paint with the tools available.

Every season ticket sold counts towards attendance for every game, no matter if the ticket is scanned in or not. The same is true for components of full season equivalents. The lowest attendance seen this year (12,045, last Wednesday) provides an approximation of this. As half-season and partial plans need not be sold in a balanced fashion, we can only guess, but it would be hard to look at out average attendance in January and defend an estimate of much larger than 12,045, with 12,100 sneaking by due to the love of `round’ numbers.

In the interest of completeness, this also includes a base of complimentary tickets, so this number is not all `sales’, but some complimentary tickets will always be complimentary, so we can count on them. We include these in our ticket sales since they are phenomenologically sales.

The data suggests that there are few walkups attending, and this is the group that would be most affected by the team’s performance this season, which has been poor in terms of win-loss record, and in terms of textbook basketball, though it has been fantastic in terms of fun, effort, and drama.

As noted, group tickets are likely a factor, and a large change in this is not likely to arrive to save the day by the end of the month, but we can likely expect a slight climb though the season due to this `pipe’ starting to `flow’.

So the proper interpretation of the data may be: The increased season ticket sales are keeping the attendance from being 50% – 75% of what it was last year, which is what the current performance would drive, depending on what `upgrade’ rate was in season ticket sales, that is, the rate at which new season ticket holders were gathered from partial plan holders compared to those who did business with the team less consistently.

Balcony Busting

I checked with the team, and the latest word on the balcony busters indicated to me that all seats in the balcony in rows 5 and above, without limit on row or count, were eligible for balcony busters. This program gave each patron who purchased two qualifying seats an additional pair of seats for free. I was under the impression that there was a limit, but I think what I had at the time told me the `worst’ row at the moment. As they continued to sell, the seats got farther back, just as in most typical ticket sales. It’s also possible that I did not get a clear answer this time around. Assuming the latest information is true, sorry for the wrong info before. If not, sorry now.

Thus, the season ticket renewal rate has a built-in structural flaw. As soon as this deal expires, approximately 40% of the balcony tickets, over 20% of the Arena, 4,000 tickets, are at risk of vanishing as this promotion vanishes. Note well that this number is approximately the the incresase in season ticket sales this season.

This is likely an loose upper bound of the outflow from the balcony, as some people will renew because they like the games regardless of the performance. This will be in addition to the normal ebb and flow in season ticket sales.

Perhaps the team will offer balcony busters again . . . one can only hope if maintaining these season ticket numbers is so important. Why not? At least those folks are getting the hook set, buying up that jambalaya, and are in place when the winning starts, a la January 2008.

It’s not all bad, but the uplifting factors, at this point, are all `soft’.

Will the sale / lease / tv deal / naming rights energize the fan base? Most of the teams who’ve had changes in ownership are down for the season, with Golden State being the lone exception with less than a 1% increase based on current data. Our situation is different, of course.

How about the benchmark-free living that will come with the new lease? Do Brussels sprouts taste better when you don’t have to eat them?

What about the draft picks? Will new young players excite people? What if we land the topic pick? Does that add any excitement?

What about a possible Gordon deal this summer? Will a face for the franchise make a difference?

Time will tell.

Depending on how this all plays out, what questions are generated, etc., I may do more addenda.

2 comments
bee dat
bee dat

shhhhhhh, don't tell gary chouest. I was trying to keep the whole balcony thing on the dl having has a pretty good idea that the 10000 number was pretty fake for a while now. lost my discipline dialoging with you and now wish I'd kept my big mouth shut

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

Ha. Any owner worth their salt will have his accountants, plural, look at the books daily, by the light of the full moon, on the equinox, upside down on Wednesdays following a rainstorm, etc.