SBJ/May 4 - 10, 1998/No Topic Name

NBA ranks Hawks as most improved

The Golden State Warriors had one of the NBA’s worst records in 1997-98, but the team managed to lead the league in one category: biggest drop in average attendance.

Thanks to the Latrell Sprewell suspension and the team’s subsequent 19-63 record, Golden State averaged 12,201 fans for 41 home games, a 20 percent decrease from last year’s 15,167 average attendance.

Not far behind were the Sacramento Kings with an average home attendance drop of 15 percent to 14,766 fans per game, and the Dallas Mavericks, with a 13 percent drop to 13,208 fans per home date.

The Atlanta Hawks, playing most of the season in the Georgia Dome while their new arena is being built, had a 22 percent increase in average attendance, largest in the NBA.

The Hawks drew an average of 17,450 fans compared to 14,288 a year earlier as the team benefited from two dates when the Chicago Bulls drew record crowds at the Georgia Dome.

Other notable attendance increases included the Boston Celtics with a 12 percent jump and the Washington Wizards with a 14 percent jump, thanks to the team’s move to the MCI Center in downtown Washington.

The NBA’s 1997-98 average home attendance was 17,135. Average attendance increased for 14 teams, while 11 teams saw lower average attendance. Four franchises had the same attendance as the year before.

Overall, NBA attendance was less than 1 percent higher during the 1997-98 season than a year earlier. The Chicago Bulls had the highest average attendance at 23,988 per game, with the Charlotte Hornets next at 23,405 per game. The Los Angeles Clippers had the lowest average attendance at 9,968 fans.

Golden State Warriors officials would not disclose how much revenue the drop in attendance cost the franchise, but the decrease couldn’t have come at a worse time.

After playing the 1996-97 season in San Jose, the team spent $102 million to refurbish the Oakland Coliseum Arena, adding 72 luxury boxes, boosting seating capacity to 19,200 and renaming the facility the New Arena in Oakland.

Typically, franchises count on new facilities to significantly increase attendance but even with an updated arena, Golden State couldn’t cash in. Negotiations to sell the naming rights are ongoing.

"It was tough to be in San Jose, and the team not winning hurts," said team spokesman Eric McDowell. "But the [Sprewell] chapter is complete and there will be a lot of positives."

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