FanPost

Addressing the NWA Attendance Problem


It seems to be a topic better left untouched in the 614, at least if you're one of the media members covering the Blue Jackets. Attendance...or lack thereof.


According to ESPN's attendance numbers (http://espn.go.com/nhl/attendance), the Jackets are only filling 78.8% capacity of Nationwide Arena. This is with Opening Night Festivities, a Saturday tailgate before playing Boston, Toronto on a Friday, and TWO Nationwide Associate games. The team is 29th in capacity through 6 home games ahead of lowly Phoenix (in total, the Islanders fall behind as well). Through nothing they've done, the Jackets actually are drawing 99.1% on the road.

Last season, the Jackets were a league-worst 80.3% (again, in total they did surpass Phoenix and the NYI). In 2011-2012, the team was 28th at 80.8%, ahead of Phoenix and Dallas. 2009-2010 was the last time that Nationwide Arena was above a bottom 4 showing, checking in at over 85% capacity, good enough for 22nd in the league.

This really isn't about the die-hards or the Jacket-backers. Through some of the worst stretches in franchise history, the economic collapse, and trading away the face of the team, there still remains a loyal core of fans, though it is small when compared to the 18K+ seats at NWA. The team has said that season-ticket equivalents are up over the last couple of seasons, at almost 8,000. Yet, we're still seeing some of the worst crowd draws ever at Nationwide.

Obviously if you are reading this, you would count as one of those "loyal" fans as the team tries to build a bigger fan base and get butts into the seats at NWA. It's early, but all we heard in the off-season was how much momentum the entire franchise had....new management, another blockbuster trade, signing a big-time FA, locking up Bob for two years, etc. My question is - did this momentum and excitement extend how to the casual fans? Through six games, the answer is a resounding no.

Perhaps we'll see an uptick in attendance as football season winds down. Maybe the quarter and half season ticket holders "back loaded" their games in anticipation of a playoff run. Or maybe fans just aren't used to seeing so many Eastern Conference teams. But the lack of attendance seems to be brushed under the rug, at least in the early part of this season - outside of some of the blogs and diehard fans wondering why more people aren't showing up. (Of course, Pittsburgh and the NYR come to town within the next week...likely to be sellouts) Is it as simple as a playoff run bringing out more fans in the following season? Do they need to see the results first before buying in?

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