Attend Me, Hawk Fans

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Of the 20,300 seats available at Philips Arena, the Hawks averaged 13,798 fans this season and 12,894 last season. That means about one in three seats were empty. If there's a person to the left of you and a person to the right, then you must not be there.

Why haven't fans been coming out to watch? Even the Wizards and Bulls, who each finished with worse records than the Hawks, had more attendance. Washington was 21st in the league and Chicago was third, for crying out loud! What do the Hawks need to do, get Michael Jordan to suit up for one gamea laRasheed Wallace?

No Wizard or Bull fan is attending games because they think MJ might suit up by accident or out of habit. He's gone.

And it's not necessarily star power that's drawing fans. Tracy McGrady is one of the top draws in the game, but Orlando would have been the worst-attended home team in the league, if it weren't for the Hawks and Hornets. And speaking of the Hornets: Baron Davis had been having an MVP-type year at the beginning of the season, and they also have All-Star Jamaal Magloire.

It's not star players that draw fans. It's certainly not winning, if the Bulls can be in third place and the Nets in 26th. It's not the arena: fans and players consistently rank Philips Arena as one of the best in the league.

Then what is it? What is it that Detroit, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Utah are doing right to get them to be the top five in attendance this year?

Could it be beating expectations? Perhaps one model of attendance ought to suggest a base number of fans for a 42-win season, i.e., if the team were an exactly average team, plus some sensitivity in both directions for exceeding or underperforming expectations. Utah and Denver clearly outperformed expectations this year: they are 5th and 12th in attendance this year, compared with 7th and 25th last year. Bear in mind that last year, of course, Utah still had Karl Malone and John Stockton.

That model doesn't quite hold water either: Houston arguably outperformed expectations by making it to the playoffs, yet they averaged fewer home fans than the Wizards.

There's no easy answer to what would bring more fans for the same price. Of course, simplistically, lowering ticket prices would increase attendance. It's surprising ticket prices don't get lowered more often.

The marginal cost of having one more fan attend the game is virtually zero. Even if you let someone in for free, when you weren't able to sell the ticket even at the last minute, what have you lost? Maybe a dollar worth of insurance to cover him?

But parking usually costs more than that. Lower all seat prices and you increase your revenue.

The problem is decreasing prices temporarily and then increasing them later. That's the sort of thing that tends to anger and alienate your fan base, and that's not something you can do.

Perhaps the answer is to hold last-minute or last-hour or last-day auctions for the remaining seats? Find the market-clearing price. Frame it so that it is not a permanent or even a temporary price increase or decrease, but merely a raffle of sorts to ensure full capacity.

It increases revenue; it increases attendance; and it doesn't alienate fans. On the contrary, it makes fans feel like they are a more integral part of the story.

Why not do it?

Because it's the Atlanta Hawks. Who ever heard of a company making new, unique, and intriguing decisions while it's undergoing an ownership change?

Like Hawk fans have been told all season long in regards to free agent signings, basketball-motivated trades, and the continuing search for a name-brand head coach: soon, Atlanta, soon.

Bob Sura attended the Hornets-Heat game in Miami on Friday night, watching the Heat win 87-83. Without Sura in attendance at New Orleans on Sunday, the Heat lost to the Hornets, tying the series at three games apiece and sending everyone back to Miami on Tuesday for the deciding seventh game. Let's hope lucky charm Sura attends again.

You have voted and here are the results. Atlanta's Performance of the Year was Bob Sura's two consecutive and nearly three consecutive triple-doubles. Atlanta's Brightest Future is Boris Diaw. Atlanta's Game of the Year was March 2 against the Lakers. Atlanta's Best Sport was Chris Crawford. Atlanta's Toughest Hawk was Bob Sura. Who was the Most Valuable Hawk? Votefor Chris Crawford, Stephen Jackson, Bob Sura, or Jason Terry.

The Hawks will have 104 chances out of 1000 to win the rights to the first, second, or third pick in the draft lottery to be held on May 26. The Hawks also receive the 17th pick from Milwaukee.

The 2004 Hawks Summer Basketball Camp will be held July 19-23 for children of ages 8-17. Instructors include current and former Hawks players and coaches. More info.


Lacy J. Banks ofThe Chicago Sun-Times writes: Coaching changes also are expected to be made with the Atlanta Hawksand possibly with the New Orleans Hornets, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns. Among the top coaching candidates for openings are Mike Fratello, Paul Westphal, Lionel Hollins, Avery Johnson, Jeff Hornacek, Jerry Sichting, Mike Woodson, John MacLeod and Dwayne Casey.

The Cincinnati Enquirerwrites: Little-known fact: Rasheed Wallace played one game this season for the Atlanta Hawks, scoring 20 points at New Jersey. Wallace wore uniform No. 36 for the Hawks, becoming the first player in franchise history to wear that number. 

Dave D'Alessandro ofThe Newark Star-Ledger writes: Atlanta's delay in making a move is most baffling, and again, you can't trust the hierarchy.As a wise man says of that group: "Democracies in ownership never work well --think of the Secaucus Seven." And the Hawks have owners spread from Boston to D.C. to Atlanta, and their decision-making process reflects it.

Joe Juliano ofThe Philadelphia Inquirer writes: The 76ers led the league in at least one category during the past season. They had more games lost to injury and illness, a total of 350, than any other team in 2003-04, according to Harvey Pollack, the team's director of statistical information. The Atlanta Hawks were next at 318, with the Chicago Bulls right behind at 316. The Milwaukee Bucks lost the fewest games of any of the league's 29 teams, with 124...