Pacers’ attendance still lagging

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.

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