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Bipolar Attendance in the ATL

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Perhaps the only big downer at Tuesday's victory over the Devils was the lackluster attendance. The Thrashers have put some solid numbers since their hot October start. Here are the monthly totals so far this season. Clearly October is the month that doesn't fit the pattern.

Oct. 14,348
Nov. 16,264
Dec. 17,146
Jan. 16,492

But the most striking thing is the dramatic split between the weekend games and the weeknight games this season. Most of the weekend games have been either sellouts or near sellouts while the week night game have been...well let's just say there is plenty of room to set your coat in a nearby seat. So I decided to take a look at the monthly attendance and compare the weekend and weeknight totals. To put it bluntly, we draw like a champ on weekends and like a chump on weeknights.

Week Night Average Week End Average
OCT 14,924 14,508
NOV 14,927 18,048
DEC 16,571 17,718
JAN 13,131 18,411
SEASON 14,889 17,171

What should we make of this? Well the first question that came to my mind is what was going on during the month of December where the team had three strong weeknight totals. Those three games were: Anaheim 16,028; Pittsburgh 17,328 and Tampa Bay 16,356. I fail to see any strong pattern here to be perfectly honest (perhaps there promotions on those nights but I don't have a list of which promotions were on which night).

I'm surprised that Anaheim drew that well, they were 1st in the NHL but many western teams draw poorly here. The Tampa game was the day after Christmas so perhaps that helped--but I'm also sure many season ticket holders were out of town that day as well. Of course people came to the Pittsburgh to see the Crosby and Malkin show and perhaps a repeat of the penalty box pointing of last season. Again, looking at December's mid-week tilts I don't find any obvious solutions here.

Way back when I lived in Washington DC I remember talking to my ticket rep and he remarked that the club put great emphasis on selling out their weekend games because if you develop a reputation for being a hot weekend ticket it gives fans a logical reason to invest in season tickets or at least a partial plan--you know for certain that you will have a seat for those sold out contests.

The good news is that the Thrashers are approaching that goal on the selling out their weekends now. If people are being turned away this may enlarge the base of people who buy full and partial season tickets next year (of course some playoff wins will do wonders for sales too). The bad news is that those weeknight totals are not very good right now.

One suggestion for the team is this--try a natural experiment. I know for a fact that the Thrashers lost numerous season ticket holders among my group of friends when they shifted the week night game times from 7:30 to 7:00. A larger number of NHL fans live on the north side and traffic is simply very difficult to manage.

I've heard that the 7:00 starts are favored by fans with children but I can tell you as a season ticket holder I only see a handful on kids at the games on weeknight right now. Personally I think the Thrashers lost more season ticket holders with the time change than they gained in terms of new tickets sold for kids.

I propose next season that they conduct a natural experiment. Make the Tuesday night games at 7:00 and the Thursday night games at 7:30 and see which draws better. Think about this--the Thrashers could offer two different partial ticket packages:

1) A "family-friendly" set of games that include the Tuesday 7:00 starts plus all the Sunday matinees.
2) A "I live OTP and Atlanta traffic really sucks" set that includes Thursday 7:30 starts and the 7:30 Friday and Saturday games.

This would allow the team to market their seldom attended weeknight games to two different blocks of potential fans and they may be able to increase the number of tickets sold.