Friday, July 10, 2009

Real Attendance Last Season: 7,570

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2009 at 11:10 AM

Published NBA attendance reports don't count actual attendance. The universal formula is "tickets sold + comps used." The true count of "butts in seats" is always lower than the reported number.

Apparently, CBS Sports has gotten ahold of a report that gives the real numbers, and which puts the Grizzlies' real attendance last season at a league-low 7,570. I think anyone who went to a lot of Grizzlies games last season would find this number plausible.

There's lots of great stuff in this CBS Sports story — and lots of important issues related to the league's recent memo projecting a steep salary cap decline next summer. I wish I had time to try to put a Griz-specific spin on some of it, but that won't be possible until later next week, at the best.

Until then, if you've got a stomach for financial minutiae, this story is well worth a read. A choice selection:


While the NBA claims that its arenas were at 90.4 percent capacity last season, that figure doesn't account for comp tickets and people who don't show up. According to the league data, an average of 14,072 fans actually attended NBA games last season, putting average arena capacity at 73 percent.

Paid tickets are good, but teams prefer to fill seats with people who are paying for parking and concessions. The teams that struggled the most to get people through the turnstiles last season were Memphis (7,570 per game), Minnesota (8,969), Charlotte (9,404), Indiana (10,057), Sacramento (10,188), Milwaukee (10,884) and Washington (11,030).

If a certain number of tickets can't be sold, Grinstead said teams prefer to give them away — or "comp" them — in the hopes that those fans will show up and spend money on food, souvenirs and parking. But too many comp tickets can also mean lost revenues. Three teams shared the dubious honor of handing out an average of more than 5,000 free tickets per game last season: the Hawks (5,616), Nets (5,213) and Timberwolves (5,205).

RELATED: Here's a piece I did about a year and a half ago for Memphis Business Quarterly on NBA economics.

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