Pacers' attendance still lagging

December 13, 2010
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Despite an improved team on the floor this season over last, the Indiana Pacers continue to struggle at the gate.

In the third year of Pacers basketball operations boss Larry Bird’s three-year plan to clear cap space and transform the roster, the team still seems to be having difficulty winning fans over at the gate.

During the 2009-10 National Basketball Association season, the Pacers averaged 14,202 fans per home game. That was 27th in the 30-team league.

With the addition of guard Darren Collison and emergence of Roy Hibbert, the Pacers have showed glimpses of promise on the court, and have gotten off to an 11-11 start. The team is not red hot, but they’re certainly not ice cold either. They’ve had a handful of nice victories, and they’re in the hunt for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Still, through 11 home games (more than one-fourth of the season), the Pacers are averaging 13,712 per home game, slipping to 28th in the league in attendance. The New Orleans Hornets are 29th averaging 13,654 per home game and the Sacramento Kings are 30th, averaging 13,457.

New Orleans might have more to complain about in terms of fan support than the Pacers. The Hornets feature on of the league’s most exiting players in Chris Paul, and are 14-9 so far this season.

It’s difficult to say what’s behind the Pacers’ inability to get locals excited about heading to Conseco Fieldhouse to watch a game. Team officials have actively marketed the team (including discounted ticket specials) and are taking steps to rebuild the franchise.

The stalled economy certainly hasn’t helped. And maybe local hoops fans haven’t yet become attached to the new and emerging Pacers players the way they did with Reggie Miller and Rik Smits. Or maybe, the team simply isn’t winning enough yet. It’s likely a combination of some or all of those factors.

One thing is clear; the Pacers have been stuck in neutral in terms of attendance since 2007-08, when the Pacers averaged a league worst 12,221 per home game. The last season the team averaged over 15,000 fans per home game was 2006-07.

After more cap space is cleared following this season, Bird is promising to be active in the free agent market to continue to upgrade the roster.

Bird and the rest of the Pacers are going to need to throw their effort into overdrive, or they might find they’re slipping into reverse in terms of fan support.

  • Still interested
    I'm still interested, but the money just isn't there. Perhaps all the other NBA cities just have more people with disposable cash, mines not what it used to be so it's tough to go, no matter the level of interest

    I've been to four games this year, but the level of excitement in the building is just not there which is sad
  • Seriously - basketball is boring
    Really? Who wants to be entertained by having to wait in line to do this stuff and then sit in uncomfortable seats that don't have chargers by the seats? And buy extremely overpriced food/drinks?

    I went to a game...nearly killed the battery on my phone because there wasn't a space to plugin and charge.
    • NBA fading
      The NBA, overall, is like NASCAR. Once giant, still big, but slowly but surely returning to lower-tier status. It'll take a long time, but the NBA will one day be a huge afterthought on the American sporting scene. But it will take some time to plummet from such a high altitude. But the fact remains, the NBA is kind of fading.
    • It's not difficult...

      It takes more than a year or so to overcome the image of thuggery. The team has done its best and I, for one, will begin attending more regularly.

      I think the attendance usually goes up after the Colts season ends. Only so much money to spend on entertainment in one week...
    • Errors in the article
      Aren't the Hornets one (not on) of the best teams in the Western Conference?
    • Pacer pride
      It took a few years to get to this point, and it will take a few years to dig out of this hole. The Pacers still need to do a better job of getting their players out in the community. That would certainly help. The next step, though, in Bird's transformation, might be getting a new coach. I'm not sure it's working under Coach J.O.
    • Expensive product
      I've attended 2 Pacer games this season, which is 2 more games than I've gone to in the past two years.

      The crowd was barely into the game, very little cheers and the Pacers themselves looked bored throughout the game. Watching NBA teams dog it for 3 quarters then play hard in the 4th quarter makes for a very boring evening.

      Throw in the expensive tickets, food and parking in today's lagging economy and there's more reasons than ever these days to not attend a Pacers game.

      For half the price you can attend a Butler, IU or Purdue game where the fans are always cheering, the action is non-stop and the players are young men to whom you can relate.

    • Possible lockout
      I think another factor that will hurt the NBA is the fact that there is a big chance that there will be a lockout next year. There is probably a better chance that the NBA will lockout than the NFL. If that happens the NBA will lose so many fans that it may never come back. EVER.
    • NBA tough to watch
      The NBA is difficult to watch these days and has been getting worse for years. Stars get the calls, nobody called for traveling, etc.. There is some but not enough good basketball in the NBA these days and I can see Pacers moving on as the city has turned into more a football town anyway. IHSAA helped that by killing the state tournament.
    • Pacers not dead yet
      It's true that the departure of Bob Knight at IU and the IHSAA's class basketball tournament ripped apart this hoops crazy city. The Pacers untimely demise sure didn't hurt either. But I still remember when there was a crowd at Indy International Airport after most away games. And I think, with some good management, the Pacers could get back to that. The way Indiana residents have embraced Butler and continue to embrace IU basketball, shows a fundamental hoops program will still sell here. And it has to be one composed of good character too. The Pacers have been sorely lacking in that area, but I've seen some improvements there this year. As a Pacers supporter, I'd like to see Larry Bird take a more visible role in the community. But first things first, put together a winner and get rid of the off-court craziness.
      • Still trying to find a nucleus
        While the Pacers will have to increase their wins to increase their attendance, they also need to begin forming a core of players that will remain in Indianapolis for many years to come.
        During the Reggie Miller era, the Pacers had two different teams that were successful and each had a unique set of players. Attendance was great and this city was as much in love with the Pacers as ever. The nucleus of Reggie, Smits, the Davis Brothers, Mark Jackson, Jalen Rose, etc. was a group of guys the city fell in love with. Though Indianapolis became fed up with the nucleus of Ron Artest, Jamaal Tinsley, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O'Neal, etc., the city did initially embrace these guys. Likewise, Indy has embraced the nucleus of the Colts: Manning, Wayne, Freeney, Clark and the list could go on. Ever since Byrd has been attempting to rebuild the team, the Pacers still lack a nucleus of guys who will be part of a long term plan. Look at it now, Granger, Hibbert and lord only knows who else Coach O'Brien might have in the game. If the Pacers can get three or four more players that will be in Indianapolis to complement Granger and Hibbert for many years to come, this city will fall in love with the Pacers again. However, that of course assumes this new nucleaus will be one that can win and be of good character.
      • Anthony,

        What is the Pacers attendance this year compared to the same number of games last year. It seems like Pacer attendance goes up after football season.
      • Lockout could doom them
        If they do lock the players out, and the season doesn't start on time, or is greatly delayed, it will set the league back years as it is definitely not on solid footing with the fan base - except in the cities where the teams are long time consistent winners

        That the league wants the players to take a massive cut will never happen, but if they don't, the lockout could continue for some time
      • ERIC GORDON!!
        I would actually pay money to go see him play. He is so high energy and explosive, not to mention a home town guy. Eric Gordon would put butts in seats period.
      • I'm pessimistic
        Mainly because Indy just is a very fickle sports town; we love winners, but in the lean years (which just about any sports team besides the Yankees has) support for our local teams evaporates.
      • Cell phone
        Luke above is hilarious...he wants a phone charger by his seat...What a basketball fan! Just the kind of naval gazing multi tasking megalomaniac that I would love to sit next to at a game...a legend in his own all means Luke, stay one will miss you.
        Attendance will go up after football season, if the team continues to play well...the economy is a mess, not a lot of disposable income out there. The Colts get priority right now.
      • comparison
        Several people have asked me if I have a comparison of the first 11 home games for the Pacers last season vs. the first 11 home games of this season, noting the Pacers attendance usually increases as the season goes on. I do not have the numbers for that comparison at this time. I will say, though, that's a phenomena that is true for most teams (unless there's a serious late season slump), and the relative league rank for the Pacers speaks volumes. Team officials can't be happy that the league rank has sunk (albeit by only one spot) and not risen during the first quarter of this season compared to last season. As for the Pacers seeing an attendance increase after the NFL season ends, Indiana is far from alone among NBA teams in that category. As always, thanks for reading.
      • Radio
        Anthony, You used to update us with sports talk radio ratings? What has heppened to the big change that occurred with JMV switching and Mark Patrick coming back? You don't keep us informed nor does the Star anymore. I find this stuff very interesting and I know other folks do as well. Thanks
      • radio ratings
        I'll check with my pals at Arbitron and try to get something out on the radio ratings soon. Thanks for reading.
      • HA, that's ridiculous
        You are seriously complaining about your phone losing a charge?? haha, I had to laugh at this one!
      • Not return on investment
        Since money tightened up, I take my family to events that have either reduced ticket prices or reduced food and beverage prices. I've also become pickier about where we go. We used to pay well over $100 a seat when there were players there we liked, but now it's just not worth it. Too little return for what we would have to spend. I would consider going when the opposing team is one I'm interested in, but the food prices would have to get more reasonable first.
      • I'd rather
        watch the Naptown Rollergirls. It's cheaper, more entertaining, and they are paying their own way to play not making millions to play a kids game.

        At least the Pacers finally fired that idiot Jim O'Brien

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