Wednesday, February 8, 2012
In Which I talk about Seattle Attendance, Part 1 (Sonics)
Seattle, for about two decades now, has been pretty well thought of in the team-support category. From setting decibel records and causing earthquakes, shattering beliefs about what soccer could be in this country, to making opposing players shout out on television "I MISS SEATTLE", this city has become a place that players hate to play and that fans love watch.
But it always seems like there's that one guy that wants to chime in (usually from Portland) that wants to say "HEY! No one goes to Mariners games any more! And how about those Sonics, huh? How's there attendance these days?"
The Thunder retort is extremely simple to explain. Despite watching a frequently lousy team (without beloved Sonics stars like Payton and Kemp, soullessly traded away), tiny Key Arena still sold near capacity every night in 2006, averaging over 16,000 fans per game at a 95 percent sellout. (Only seven other teams in the league had higher percentages) This in a market with two other professional sports.
For Seattle readers, the year I picked will stand out. That's because it's the year that the Sonics were sold out from under us to the good ol' oil boys from Oklahoma City. Amazingly enough, that year and 2007 were pretty similar, with attendance dropping JUST under 16,000 at a 93.5 share of capacity. In 2008 however, as emails were leaked and it became obvious that Bennett was never keeping the team in Seattle, attendance tumbled to only 13,000. So in short, attendance was only as about as high as it could be in their building.
(BTW, Since the move, despite all the misplaced ballyhooing from OKC about how we lost the Sonics because we didn't support them well enough, they have failed to crack the top 10 in their brand new-ish building and only draw 2,000 more per game, as the only pro team in the market, with one of the best players in the league. Would NOT have been particularly hard to sell Seattle on a new building with perennial playoffs in sight.)