SBD/Issue 103/Franchises

Hornets Among Several NBA Teams Struggling In Attendance

Hornets, Grizzlies Among Eight Teams In NBA
Averaging Fewer Than 15,000 Fans Per Game
The Hornets, Pacers and 76ers are "among the eight teams that are averaging fewer than 15,000 fans per game" as the NBA enters the All-Star break, according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. The Bobcats (14,577), Timberwolves (14,400), Kings (13,898), Sonics (13,375) and Grizzlies (12,758) round out the list. NBA Commissioner David Stern: "Teams that are not winning are going through the life cycle of events that all franchises have, that they get bad and their payrolls go down, their season-ticket base falls off and their attendance drops, but as the draft comes it replenishes them." The Hornets, the only team among the eight with a winning record (36-15), have "experienced a slight attendance spike" recently. Hornets Senior Dir of Communications Harold Kaufman said that the team has averaged 15,150 for the past five home games, including a sellout against the Grizzlies last Saturday. The Pacers rank last among the league's 30 teams with a 12,260 per-game average, drawing 3,099 fewer fans than '06-07. Pacers Senior VP/Marketing Larry Mago: "It's not just our record. These are not great economic times right now in north-central Indiana. But we view this as a slight bump rather than a long-term problem." The Grizzlies are "struggling to attract a fan base after having two consecutive losing seasons," and their average attendance trails the Univ. of Memphis men's basketball team's pace of 17,404 per game. The 76ers are averaging 13,178 per game, and an average of 64% capacity, "which ranks last in the league" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 2/14).

Shinn Feels Hornets Are Overshadowed
By Saints In New Orleans
CAN HORNETS SURVIVE IN FOOTBALL COUNTRY? Hornets President Hugh Weber said that "it does local sports fans a disservice to label New Orleans as a football town." Hornets Owner George Shinn indicated that "it's an issue." New Orleans City Council President Arnold Fielkow said that "losing the team would be powerful, negative advertising."  In New Orleans, David Hammer writes, "Can New Orleans afford the Hornets? At the same time, with New Orleanians hoping to rebuild a city that's better than it was before Hurricane Katrina, can it afford to lose the Hornets?" Former Louisiana Superdome Commission Chair Tim Coulon: "We're not taking money that's dedicated to recovery and putting it into sports franchises. ... For some people it's ludicrous because they're in a state of desperation, but entertainment venues and sports franchises are part of motivating those who are here to stay here" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 2/15). In Boston, Marc Spears writes the Saints "have had a strong following not only in New Orleans, but the Gulf Coast region for years." Spears notes even in the "post-Katrina era, the Saints averaged 70,004 fans despite a 7-9 record" in '07-08. Shinn: "I've accepted the fact that in this part of the country, football is king. This community hasn't been excited about the round ball. We're new." Former NBAer Robert Pack: "I look forward to seeing support for the Hornets with a full city. This city has supported the Saints with paper bags on their heads. Regardless to whether they were unhappy with the team or not, they were there. They put butts in the seats" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/15).

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