Pacers attendance is up, but should it be even higher?

November 14, 2013
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Eight games into the NBA season, there’s a lot for the Indiana Pacers to be happy about.

Still, in some respects it’s a glass half-empty/half-full scenario.

Let’s start with the part that’s half full. OK, maybe slightly more than half full.

Through five home games, attendance is up 13 percent over the same period a year ago. Fans are still buying 11-game ticket packages three weeks after the season has tipped off and individual ticket sales are up about 50 percent over last year, according to team officials. Tickets are selling fast for some marquee games almost a month in advance.

If the team doesn’t sell one more ticket for the next five home games, based on pre-game sales it will still have a better per-game home average this year (14,500) than last year (13,940) through 10 games. Pacers sales boss Todd Taylor predicts the average home attendance through 10 games will be at least 15,500. That’s a strong increase over last year.

Still, you have to wonder how the league’s hottest and only undefeated team is 24th out of the league’s 30 teams in home attendance. You have to wonder why Bankers Life Fieldhouse has been only 87-percent full and why last Friday’s game against Toronto only drew 13,350 to the 18,165-seat Fieldhouse.

Granted, Toronto isn’t exactly a marquee match-up, but for a weekend game, that’s a bit weak for such a high-flying team.

On Monday, the team drew 13,150 for its home game against Memphis.

This Friday’s home game against Milwaukee will be a good litmus test to see how fired up the community is about this Pacers team. The Pacers have never been off to a hotter start as they go for 9-0.

Of course, you can’t forget that every game these days is airing on TV. So the local fans might be plenty excited about the season, but simply choosing to stay home and watch on the big screen instead of trekking downtown. The numbers seem to show that is at least partially the case.

Through eight games, Pacers telecasts on Fox Sports Indiana are averaging a 3.9 household rating in the Indianapolis market, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research. That’s up 75 percent vs. the same number of games last season (2.2).

Monday’s game vs. Memphis scored a 5.0 rating—making it the highest-rated telecast of the season and the highest-rated regular season game on Fox Sports Indiana since Dec. 10, 2005.

Either way, Taylor is all smiles.

He rightly pointed out that the Pacers had three home games in six days, which is bound to have at least a little impact on attendance.

And remember, Taylor said, “November and December are always the most challenging months” for NBA tickets sales departments. Last year, the second and third home games had attendance less than 12,000. The Pacers have been well above that mark this year.

“We feel pretty good about where we are, and we think it’s only going to get better,” Taylor said. “We expect to see [ticket] sales pick up at Thanksgiving and again right around Jan. 1.

In the long term, Taylor is confident the Pacers will have higher attendance this year than last and more sellouts. Last year, the Pacers had 10 sellouts and three games where attendance was over 17,500. Taylor thinks at least 15 sellouts (out of 41 home games) is possible this year. The team already has scored two.

Taylor said it’s important to emphasize that ticket revenue per game is also up considerably this year compared to last year due to fewer discounted tickets and giveaways.

“What I especially find as a cause for optimism is that people are buying tickets further in advance in anticipation of those games being sold out,” Taylor said. “We’re selling more and we’re selling more in advance.”

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  • Its Not Only the Pacers
    It's also the economy. Until this state administration recognizes that we have done little to alleviate unemployment, there will be a number of people who cannot afford the luxury of attending a game.
    • Trend is up, although lower ticket prices would help
      The fact that the games are not selling out just because the Pacers are undefeated isn't really cause for concern as long as the overall sales trend is upwards (which it is). It's not like fans are going to flock in droves to the ticketbooth just because they won the first couple of games (likewise, by this logic the stands would be empty if they had a losing record in the past 2 weeks of season play). I think part of it the non-sellout crowd is due to the current price of tickets - it's less of an impulse buy than it might have been a few years ago. I will say that there certainly is high demand for some of the bigger games - I suggested to my wife this week that a few Pacers games would make a good Christmas present this year (hint hint) and threw out the Heat and Thunder as fun games to attend. Shortly found out those games are sold out or mostly sold out, so there's some demand right now. On the ticket price front, I was looking at some other games and was a bit surprised on the prices - middle level seat (club level I think) go for around $100 - $140. I had thought those ran about $60 - $80. Yikes. I'll either have to go nosebleed section to afford multiple games like I had intended or just choose 1 game to get something closer.
      • should be higher
        Absolutely yes, attendance should be higher. Yes ticket prices are high but that doesn't stop people from going to Colts games. What more does this town expect? Very frustrating as a long-time season ticket holder. I do think it would help if they'd scratch the corporate Krieg-Devault level (overpriced for location and wait service) that worked when the economy was booming and price these seats for the average consumer, not a corporation.
      • The economy still stinks
        I appreciate what you are saying Anthony, and attendance likely should be a little higher, but the fact is, pre Auburn Hills brawl, lots of people used to regularly go to the games from Anderson, New Castle, Muncie, and other basketball hotbeds, towns surrounding Indy, as well as the folks from the Indy metro area, and that landscape has changed completely...the people in those towns still love basketball, but the factories in those towns are gone now, the economy in those communities are under siege. People who still live in those places are either retired and on fixed incomes, working out of town (which compromises one's free time for activities), or they are working in their community for a lot less money than they used to be paid. It is a fact...when the politicians in this state quit posturing about social issues and do their part to stimulate the economy, create jobs, and put disposable income in people's pockets, Banker's Life will be full. I like your column a lot Anthony, but when folks who can attend the games on a press pass want to speculate on whether or not the fans are fair-weather and be critical of people for not spending their shrinking disposable income dollar on the Pacers, especially during football season when people are maybe still trying to see the Colts playoff run (which costs a lot more than a Pacer game) I think it is totally premature...and as you noted, every game is on TV, and the NBA still holds on to the idiotic 82 freaking game season threshold...if you count the 8 preseason games, the regular season and let's just say the Pacers make it to the NBA finals...you are talking about a potential number of 115-120 total games, half of which are home games, that is 50 + home games...and you are wondering why the attendance wasn't better for Toronto? Please...
      • Completely agree....
        .... with just about everything Jim has to say! Attendance WILL be higher once the Colt's season ends.

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