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The attendance issue: there is no easy solution

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Jimmy Chitwood, Apr 26, 2019.

  1. Jimmy Chitwood

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    If you had asked a non-basketball fan to rank the home playoff atmosphere of all 16 playoff teams and only showed them last night's game, Toyota Center would be in the bottom 4 of that list. This is a conversation that has been had numerous times over the years about the regular season and playoff games alike; however, I think most responses to it are far too simplistic. The fact of the matter is that the problem cannot be solved with a "All we need to do is ____" type of response.

    I think 80-90% of the problem stems from these 2 factors:

    1. City infrastructure
    Think of all the well-known cities for having passionate fans: Chicago, Boston, New York, Philly, Seattle, Portland. There are 2 things all of those places have in common: vast public transportation systems and compact living situations.

    I went to a daytime Cubs game at Wrigley last year, and as someone who grew up in Houston for his entire life, it absolutely blew my mind how easy it was to go to the game. Hope on the L Train, get off at the Wrigley stop, turn the corner, and BOOM, it's right there. Now compare that to Houston, where every single fan that goes to the game has to deal with traffic, parking, and walking across busy intersections.

    Then think about the layout around the stadium. While the north and west parts of downtown have become gradually developed better, the east part (where Toyota Center is) is still an extremely lower income area. This fact in and of itself is not the issue. The issue is that, whether we like it or not, the NBA as a whole has become "gentrified"--that is, there is so much demand for it that lower-income individuals are now priced out of being regular attendees. I wish this wasn't the case, but it is. This means that the vast majority of people who live immediately around the stadium cannot afford to go to games.

    Now, with all of this in mind, put yourself in the shoes of the average person (I think) attending a regular season or playoff game who we will give the name Von Wafer (chosen at random [​IMG]). Von works your typical 9-6 office job in the Cypress area. For Von to go to a game, he most likely has to leave work early, drive his ass through an hour of traffic to the middle of downtown, deal with parking & walking to the stadium, pay a ton of money to eat & drink. For a 7pm tipoff, he's not getting home till like 11pm (11:30pm for playoff games), and if the tipoff is any later, he's getting home after midnight. Von still has to get up for work the next day, and if he's got a family, he has to sacrifice an entire evening with them.

    Bottom line is that's a big ask of anyone, in any city. Which leads me to my next point...

    2. City culture
    What's another thing in common with all the well-known crazy sports towns? They're all cold as ****. It's a commonly accepted fact that southerners, particularly Texans and definitely Houstonians, are a friendlier bunch. You'd be remiss to think that the weather has a minor effect on that; it's a huge reason for it.

    As such, Houstonians are much less likely to do things like boo their own team, be especially hostile to opposing teams, and be actively yelling for an entire game. Why? Because it's hot as **** outside, and we don't need any help to stay warm. Yelling, anger, and hostility are all forms of internal combustion in the north. Plus, if you can pack a bunch of people into a stadium like MSG, what does that create? Body heat.

    Again, you may think it sounds silly, but I really think it has a huge effect.

    3. Many authentic fans have been "priced out" of the NBA
    I touched on this a bit in point #1, but it deserves its own focus. If you look at entertainment history, whether it's grunge music, hip hop, sports, or video games, the same arch happens to everything:
    1. The new thing is invented, and only those in close proximity to those who invented it know about it. For a while, the thing is only used/consumed by a niche audience.
    2. Creators/participants of the thing become skilled at it, and they create some truly beautiful/amazing stuff. The thing then captures the attention of a much wider audience.
    3. Markets learn what the wider audience is paying attention. And wherever there's a wide audience, there is money to be made.
    4. Large corporations begin pumping millions of dollars into the thing, trying to recreate and scale the thing. It takes the thing to new heights now that there are high incentives for being good at it, but it also makes the thing less authentic than it was before.
    There are plenty of pros and cons for this happening. One of those cons, though, is reduced accessibility, as prices rise to take advantage of the demand. Like it or not, NBA owners are hired as business people, not basketball people. If Merrill Lynch is willing to spend crazy amounts of money for lower bowl season tickets that are empty 70% of the time, there's not a single owner in the league that's going to say no to that.



    TL;DR, Houston is too wide, too hot, and too nice, and the NBA is too expensive. There's no easy solution, and it just sucks.
     
  2. Roc Paint

    Roc Paint Contributing Member

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    Win the Chip!
     
  3. Bo6

    Bo6 Member

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    our home crowd is pathetic compared to some.

    i blame our branding. it's so ****ing lame that it carries over to the fan support.
     
  4. YOLO

    YOLO Member

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    the later the playoff gametime weekdays, the better the turn out will look at the start of the game. 8:30 starts are drastically different from 7:00. its been that way for years. I've always preferred the later slots. but then the flipside is other people complain how late they need to stay up



    tickets were as low as $30 for the utah series. that's as low as I've seen for several of the last houston playoff runs. And as cheap as youll see for any of these top teams in the league. So what if those are upper bowls. They still play a huge part in being the crowd noise in that building. If you're gonna support the rockets, then go to the game and support but don't sit at home and constantly question why such and such is an issue when you're not doing anything to help.
     
    #4 YOLO, Apr 26, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
  5. Amel

    Amel Contributing Member

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    Nah, thats not gonna do it, Jimmy has a couple of good points.

    I would add to it. The way the arena seats are setup, theres way too much space per seat, and also lower bowl seats that are sold to corporations is a mistake
     
  6. sirbaihu

    sirbaihu Member

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    I fall into the "priced out" category. For tickets under $100, it's barely worth going to the game. For tickets over $100, how many games am I gonna go to? I see a couple Rockets games a year, not in Houston.
     
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  7. Mr. Clutch

    Mr. Clutch Contributing Member

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    Bring back bidding on flash seats
     
  8. RayRay10

    RayRay10 Houstonian
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    Watching the San Antonio-Denver game last night, there were quite a few open seats early for the Spurs. They filled in late, as ours usually do, but it seems they had similar issues with the earlier start time.

    Living in San Antonio for about 6 years, the sprawl is nowhere near as big as Houston, but traffic and entry points can be a problem. There is no rail system and there is really nothing near the arena where people can live and walk to it (the arena is not downtown on the Riverwalk).

    Honestly, traffic in Houston tends to be a huge issue for 7 pm games and you can see it at almost any sporting event during the week. Astros games take awhile to fill-in and aren’t as well attended M-TH. I attend UH events regularly and games during the week often start out looking like Rockets games. Against Temple basketball, a weekday game at 7, the game was sold out and people were still arriving late in the 2nd half due to traffic. By the end, it was loud and full, but it started at around 1/2 full.

    Later starts would be better for Houston fans, but we’re at the whims of the networks.
     
  9. cheke64

    cheke64 Member

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    Resale tickets have a $30+ resale fee per.
     
  10. marky :)

    marky :) Member

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    69/288 exit at Polk street is a cluster **** so there's that also.
     
  11. Xerobull

    Xerobull Salve Dicit Mater Tua
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    @Jimmy Chitwood

    I appreciate the time and effort you put into this post.

    More than anything else, commute time affects my decisions when I make plans. Houston absolutely is massive and there's no way to get many places without driving. It factors into what I do, and since I live in a suburb, I don't see a point in driving to downtown on a regular basis to see games.

    Pricing isn't as much of a factor for me, but it stings a little when I buy tickets, and the concessions sting some more. I don't let it bother me, though. Money is just a number.

    I never really gave much thought to getting worked up to stay warm, and it's a fact that in hotter climes around the world, siesta is a real thing and even a survival trait. But Houston has a MASSIVE portion of people that did not grow up here. I think the rationale is OK but it's a stretch to apply it to cheering. You can go to other hot areas in the world and the fans are apeshit in outside stadiums. I think it's more of a culture here. We're a pragmatic people in Houston. If it helps to yell, we will. Otherwise, whatever.
     
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  12. J Sizzle

    J Sizzle Member

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    This is correct, but it's still embarrassing no less.
     
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  13. topfive

    topfive CF OG

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    Great post, OP. And while I agree with most of what you said, I think you're missing the point on Seattle and Portland, especially the latter.

    Neither of those cities qualify in the "compact living situations" category. Both are sprawling cities, though not nearly as much as Houston (but then again, Houston is the acknowledged king of sprawl). Seattle's Key Arena is on the outskirts of downtown, at the edge of one of the city's pricier area (Queen Anne), and nowhere close to their baseball and football stadiums. Portland's MODA Center is just over the river from downtown, in the convention area.

    I think the two keys to both of those cities having passionate basketball crowds is (or was, in the case of Seattle) simple:

    Key Arena was one of the smaller venues in the NBA, with a capacity of just over 17k, and it was even smaller before a mid-nineties remodel. That remodel may have bumped up the seats, but it didn't change the size of the place, and it feels MUCH smaller than most arenas. In particular, the Toyota Center feels spread out and spacious, while at Key Arena, even second- and third-tier seats leave you feeling like you're on top of the action. That can't help but result in a louder, roudier crowd.

    The MODA Center, on the other hand, is much more similar to the Toyota Center in its capacity and overall feel. The different with that particular crowd is easy to explain: The Blazers are the only game in town. No NFL, no MLB, no NHL. Most anyone who loves top-level professional sports in that city has Blazers season tix, and because of that, the lower bowl isn't predominantly corporate seats that are given away to unenthusiastic people.

    Similar only-game-in-town cities have likewise exuberant crowds: the Jazz, Thunder, and Kings, for example. The Kings less so in recent years because their teams have sucked, but those CWebb/Vlade/Peja teams had crazy loud crowds.
     
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  14. tobster

    tobster Member

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    Can't complain about resale prices. The people who have season tickets have invested enough to sell at whatever price they want. Expect to pay much higher for particular games if you aren't buying the whole season or even mini packs.

    I think a bigger concern is how slow the security lines can go. Due to the time most people get off work (in their respective areas of town) and having to get to the game, find decently priced parking, walking all the way from parking to the arena..... By the time they get in the door they are trying to buy concessions, drinks and rocket shop items before they go sit. If they could open up another entrance it would definitely help (entrance at Bell and La Branch) the flow of people getting in.

    This whole narrative of the fans don't care is very tiring... Several factors go into it. It's not always about feelings. There are time constraints, budgets and logistics to consider. Every time I hear that tired narrative it makes me feel like I'm paying attention to Max Kellerman....
     
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  15. YOLO

    YOLO Member

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    there's a couple of entrances to get into TC. many of them are fairly empty or move pretty quickly because most people go through the main.
     
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  16. tobster

    tobster Member

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    I agree. But for instance, coming from the Tundra garage side it gets very packed right before the game. It would help relieve that if they did a no bag line through there as well.Not for every game but for Nationally televised games and Playoffs it would help to have more entrances.
     
  17. YOLO

    YOLO Member

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    yeah ive seen that stretch a bit too. then i just decide to make the walk all the way to the main haha
     
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  18. DreamShook

    DreamShook Member

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    I wonder if this thread was in response to the last home game. I think the home crowd has been good during the playoffs. The last Utah game everyone was late because there were 3 events going on all at the same time downtown. By the 3rd and 4th quarter TC was filled and loud. It is what it is.



     
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  19. The_Yoyo

    The_Yoyo Contributing Member

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    I appreciate this post but I would like to say this when it comes to the attendance and one city you left out

    Los Angeles

    Staples Center is in the middle of one of the biggest cluster****s of traffic in the country. Right at the 10 and the 110 intersection and its in one of the worst parts of LA in terms of income and housing. Go 1/2 mile south on Figueroa and you're in the hood already around the USC area. Go East or West and its similar. Going north you get more into the downtown part of the city only.

    When it comes to playoff games though Staples Center is usually filled up either before the game starts or by the end of the first quarter for sure. The Lakers/Clippers games I've attended for the playoffs over the years have always been packed prior to tip. There is just as much (and most likely more) congestion when it comes to traffic in LA compared to Houston and there is very little public transportation as well to get you to Staples center.

    As for other things to do - Maybe only New York and Chicago have more going on in their cities on any given random night compared to LA.



    Weather wise - LA has even better weather than Houston and yeah regular season Lakers/Clipper games are going to be fairly tame and quiet - heck they dim the lights on the crowd and put the spotlight on the court which even contributes to a more quiet atmosphere. Playoff games though are loud.

    The NBA is too expensive and Lakers and Clippers tickets are still pricier than Rockets tickets and cost of living is even more so but the upper bowl still has die hard fans attending.



    I think the biggest issue though is "hype/culture" Going to a Lakers/Clippers game is a "in thing" to do in LA so a lot of celebs go and attend. I don't think its the same in Houston when it comes to the Rockets. Hell the times I've flown/driven to Houston for games there are people around that dont even know that the Rockets have a playoff game that same day at the airport or stores. Also one of the biggest issue is having pretty much the entire lower bowl being "club" seats is the biggest issue. Staples has a middle section that is the club section so the lower bowl is mainly tickets sold to people not companies. The Premiere Section is more catered to the Corporate life and of then the 3 levels of suites above the premiere section.

    The times I've sat in the lower bowl club area at TC it is not a sporting atmosphere at all. People are talking shop or they get up and go to the foyer/concession to talk shop. The game is secondary. The times I've sat in the lower bowl at staples its not like that at all. In the PR and suites? Most definitely but not in the lower bowl.


    I still think that Houston as a city doesn't embrace the NBA as much as the MLB and NFL and the way the TC was built adds even more to that issue.

    Maybe its just me and memories being more romanticized but I do not recall the Summit/Compaq Center having these issues when watching games on tv as a kid
     
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  20. leroy

    leroy Contributing Member

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    I assumed the attendance problem for Game 5 was just due to a perfect storm of events...with the Bernie Sanders thing at Discovery Green, an Astros home game, and the Rockets. It was pretty bad from a television perspective. So many empty seats and it just seemed like there was no energy in the building...no where near like Games 1 & 2. The crowd in those games was what we'd hope for.

    Hopefully this won't be an issue going forward.
     

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