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Looks Like New Basketball Arenas Don't Mean More Fans

I don't enjoy fawning much over attendance figures, because it can sometimes be one of the sadder aspects of the entire conference, not to mention a bragging point among fans. But I noticed something rather curious.

When I went to the Bowling Green-OHIO game a couple weeks ago I noticed that it wasn't ... well, packed. And yet this was the Stroh Center's first year in existence. Attendance has always been small for the school given its tiny location and general neglect from citizens in Lucas County. This year BG basketball ranks eighth in men's basketball attendance at 1,856 per game. Central Michigan basketball is tenth at 1,506.

Both teams have been straddling the .500 fence for a while, now, so that could factor into the number of butts in seats.

If you want to know all the up-to-date 2011-2012 numbers:

1. OHIO (5,796)
2. Toledo (4,073) — probably a good time to mention these are all number of SOLD tickets.
3. Ball State (3,975)
4. Kent State (3,442)
5. Akron (3,289)
6. WMU (2,880)
7. Buffalo (2,271)
8. BGSU (1,856)
9. Miami (1,832)
10. CMU (1,506)
11. EMU (1,309)
12. NIU (994)

What amazes me the most about these numbers is that BGSU and CMU have the most recent modifications to their arenas. The Stroh is completely new while Rose Arena renovated itself into McGuirk Arena, which opened last year. I guess new arenas don't always mean new attendance — even though in both cases new facilities were badly needed.

And this probably has no correlation, but BGSU and CMU are two of the three schools which have women's basketball attendance about 1,000 people per game:

1. Toledo (3,788)
2. BGSU (1,589)
3. CMU (1,483)

Everyone else is below 900 per game and yet these three teams bring the mean MAC women's basketball attendance to above 900. However both of these schools drew similar numbers before their new courts were unveiled, so that remains unaffected.

BGSU Basketball Attendance:
2010-2011: 1,574 — Last season in Anderson Arena
2009-2010: 1,709
2008-2009: 1,729
2007-2008: 1,352
2006-2007: 1,403

CMU Basketball Attendance
2010-2011: 2,669 — First year in McGuirk Arena
2009-2010: 1,796 — Last year in Rose Center
2008-2009: 1,060
2007-2008: 1,611
2006-2007: 2,097

Well, CMU saw a large bump last year even though their team wasn't very good. And BG has a bit of one this year but not much.

So if you want to draw any conclusion here, it's that basketball attendance doesn't seem to be affected by shiny buildings (save for year one), but rather the size of the market, the strength of the team and the savvy of the salesmen who can work season ticket packages into the wallets of people willing to pay for them and dole them out as party favors. So basically the message remains simple: want more fans? Get a better team.

And since this is a Stroh Center-related post: