It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Charlotte Hornets were among the teams with the lowest attendance in the league. It makes sense, but can that change next year?
It’s hard to sell tickets when a team is going to struggle. Some teams are immune to this, but that’s usually reserved for those clubs in bigger markets. The Charlotte Hornets aren’t one of those teams, sadly, and while the Queen City is a large metropolitan area, a large portion of the population is from other areas of the country.
Not much can be done about that unless the Hornets suddenly become title contenders overnight. That’s not likely to happen, so the process of winning over new fans and gaining back old ones will have to be of the gradual nature.
That process will need to start sooner, rather than later, because, in terms of total attendance, the Charlotte Hornets ranked dead last in the NBA, with a total of just 478,591, according to ESPN. There are a few ways you could parse this information.
The Charlotte Hornets need more fans in the seats but that will prove to be a tall task unless the team can start winning.
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Firstly, yes, it makes sense given that the team lost their greatest player ever in the offseason and replaced him with capable, but somewhat unfamiliar faces. Star power sells and Kemba Walker, humble and reserved as he may be, was the team’s star for many years.
Upon closer inspection of the numbers, though, you see that the Hornets only played 31 home games. The teams around them in attendance all played one, two, or even three more games than they did. In fact, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team with the next lowest total attendance, was only 3500 or so fans ahead.
They also played one more game at home than Charlotte did, so if you even out their number of games, Charlotte comes out ahead by a few thousand or so. This is where average attendance factors in because the Hornets are tied with the Detroit Pistons for second-lowest average in terms of fans per game, at just over 15,400 in attendance.
Of course, we’re splitting hairs as no matter how you run the numbers, the Hornets were among the league’s worst in terms of attendance. On an average night, they filled up about 81% of the seats in the Spectrum Center, which is still the third-lowest in the NBA.
This inability to sell tickets pales in comparison to the 2011-2012 season where they had fewer than 14,800 fans per game, but that’ll happen when you set the lowest winning percentage the NBA has ever seen. Yes, that too was a shortened season, but that Bobcats team was never going to sell tickets.
To put all of this in perspective, this amount of fans is the fewest it’s been since the final year of the aforementioned Bobcats. That team averaged 100 fewer fans per game than this year’s squad. If that sounds dreadful, then you’d be right.
Furthermore, at their best since the 2012 season, the team was pulling in over 17,000 people a night, but this was after Charlotte regained the Hornets moniker and Buzz City was at an all-time high. For the next three years, they were filling the Spectrum Center to about 90% capacity. They had a playoff run in the midst of those three years, so that certainly helped.
And, that will probably be what it takes to get the arena that full again. The Hornets don’t have the prestige that some teams do or the market that others have, so winning will have to be what gets fans cheering again.
It can’t just be one year, either. The team desperately needs to make the playoffs not just once, but two, three, or even four times in a row before they can build a brand back up that, frankly, has been tarnished.
Going nearly two decades without repeat appearances in the playoffs is not a good look for a team that has a hard time making new fans, and sometimes, keeping old ones. Much of this on the front office, though, and up until recently, they have dropped the ball, and even fans of other teams acknowledge this.
So, here’s hoping the team is trending in the right direction. After what will surely be a longer than usual offseason, perhaps that long wait can get people excited to see Charlotte Hornets basketball again. If the team can come out of the gate hot and provide a great product on the court, perhaps those fans will keep coming back.