Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hornets Attendance Not as Bad as it Seems

Posted By on Thu, Mar 27, 2008 at 12:36 AM

click to enlarge Hornets fans

Seeing as how the Hornets are on a season-long six-game road trip, what better time than now to talk about home fans? Hornets fan attendance has been much maligned for most the of the year; before the All-Star Break, the Hornets had sold out just two games despite being in first for much of the season. With a recently signed deal that lets the team opt-out of its lease if it doesn't average 14,735, some wondered if the team would even be back in two years.

(Full disclosure: I spent the better part of two weeks trying to convince my editors to run a story inquiring as to whether the lagging attendance was a sign of something more and that maybe basketball can't succeed in New Orleans, no matter how good the team. Shows what I know.)

Oh my how things change.

As this Times-Picayune article describes in fine detail, the Hornets have turned things around since the All-Star break and, if things continue on this upward trend, the team could well pass that magic number of 14,735 by next year. More importantly though, the attendance boom gives ownership confidence in keeping the team here long term. In an e-mail, Hornets Vice President of Public and Media relation said, "[Owner George] Shinn's plan is to be here in the long term and that number just helps us gauge where we stand and gives everyone an idea of what it takes to support an NBA team."

Really, it's a modest number; right now, that number would rank the Hornets at 23rd in NBA home attendance. But with only four home games remaining this season, and the playoffs not counting towards that attendance average, fans are on the clock to start showing their support for this team and leave no doubt in Shinn's mind if and when he decides to keep the team here.

The bad news? Well, it's isn't really bad as it is circumstantial. Two of the Hornets last four games are against non-playoff teams: the Knicks and the Clippers. But even if those opponents result in lackluster numbers, both those games should be counteracted by their nationally-televised Sunday April 6th matchup against Golden State followed by their April 8th matchup against a tough Utah team.

The good news? It won't take much. The team has averaged 14,361 fans a game in the 30 games since the team struck the deal with the city. That's just 374 fans shy of the magic mark. Bottom line? The Hornets have 45 games, including next season, to reach the magic number of 14,735 — or a total of 1,105,125 dating back to Dec. 30. Right now, the teams has had a total of 430,830 fans come through turnstiles. That means they need to have 674,295 more fans by the end of next season or roughly 14,984 a game — or just 623 more fans again.

That's more than doable. See? Isn't math fun?

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