“How Many People Are Here, Anyway?”

The Phantoms beat the Senators last night at the PPL Center.  It was a much-needed win for the orange and black squad who had dropped a few in a row at home lately, and were threatening to become playoff irrelevant.  Plus, Rob Zepp “…movin through Kashmir” has also passed through waivers and should return to the team soon.

Near the end of the game, the paid  attendance was announced as 8,964–“A New Phantoms Record!”  Actually, the record was already set at 8,983 on Saturday, January 24 vs St John’s.

With all this attendance shenanigans, it does raise some interesting questions about attendance numbers, announcements, and how important it really is, anyway.  Please note:  I don’t have all the answers.  Some may have more information than I; just leave it in the comments if you like, and, if it has to be anonymous, so be it.  Sometimes we just wanna know.

  1. Why do they only announce ‘paid’ attendance?  How many people are actually here?  Throughout minor league sports, “paid attendance” is the standard, although it may not be universal.  It’s not to say that “turnstile” attendance isn’t important, too.  Those fannies in the seats will buy sodas and beers and snacks and souvenirs–something empty seats never do.  Plus, just ask the outside vendors who lease space at Coca Cola Park:  The people in the stands are important to them so that they can meet their sales goals and pay their rent.  Announced, paid, attendance means little to them; they want bodies and wallets.  The teams do too, of course, which is one possible reason why the IronPigs now give STH (Season Ticket Holders) “loaded credit” for the first half of the season–get folks out for those cool-weather games early on.
  2. What constitutes a “sellout,” anyway?  Again, the standard is, that all the fixed seats have to be sold.  This allows a team with fewer fixed seats but more SRO (Standing Room Only) tickets to announce more sellouts.  One interesting thing to watch here, is that Coca Cola Park has been adding “fixed seats” at a good rate in recent years:  the Bacon Strip, the Hot Corner, now the Pig Pen and more reserved seats in the Oasis.  To a degree, this is to the detriment of the folks who like the GA (General Admission) or SRO admission.  However, they have increased the total capacity, as well.  Just something to watch.  Finally, if you hear “capacity sellout” then you can assume that all the tickets they have, have been sold, and that folks have been turned away at the windows and online.
  3. How can one “capacity sellout” be more than another?  There may be some funny business here, but not necessarily.  It likely has to do with some of the group areas.  For example, a “party porch” or “party suite” may have a capacity of, let’s say, 40 people.  However, a group may only have to pay for or reserve 25 in order to book the hospitality area in question.  In this case, the number of “sold” seats–or tickets–may be less.  For the IronPigs, the Party Porches have seating which overflows into the club sections below, depending on how many tickets they’ve sold.  If those seats aren’t needed, they’ll then go on sale to the public–usually about a week prior to the game.  Depending on what gets sold and what doesn’t, then the attendance figure could be impacted.
  4. But there are so many empty seats.  Where is everybody?  There are a few reasons for this.  First, as a full-season ticket holder to all three major teams  in the valley, I sometimes need a night off.  Secondly, there are cool areas of our wonderful local facilities where you can socialize and watch the game and relax without being in your seat.  This is actually a good thing as it allows those in the seats to concentrate on the game.  Thirdly, the club areas and the suites of the two facilities allow for food and beverage choices, socializing, and environmental protection.  Finally, large companies who have seats, sometimes either forget to give them out, or they go unused for a variety of reasons.
  5. OK, Kram, you’ve mentioned “shenanigans” and “funny business.”  What’s up with all that?   I’m sure I don’t know everything.  I’ve heard some stuff from reliable sources, and I’ve been around enough to observes some things.  First, there’s always the chance that a sponsor has an agreement to purchase the last several seats or tickets in order to assure a “sell-out” of one type or another.  But, there’s also the chance that a team may sell seats that don’t actually exist or double sell to get more people in the park.  If they go over the capacity, they’ll never tell for fear that it could expose them to fire marshal liability or the like.  Accessible seating areas may also allow for some flexibility in the number of actual seats or actual people that can inhabit them. We’ve also seen that the opening of additional areas can impact the number of folks in attendance.  We already talked about the new areas at Coca Cola Park, but the arena has additional suites and areas that are connected with the hotel.  I’m really not sure how those areas are counted or how that will impact the overall number announced as “paid attendance.”  Probably more-so for baseball, but some seats may be held for scouts or VIPs or players’ families or the like–or could be released and sold.  These seats could be “counted” or “not counted” in different ways depending on the facility or the circumstance.
  6. This is all good stuff, Kram, but don’t you have any other ideas on this topic?  Of course; you know me so well.  Rapid fire, here we go:
    1. Over time, teams should try to dwindle the number of “corporate” seats.  Many times they go unused.  I know the advertising and luxury sales that go along with them are important to the teams; however, if your attendance is near the tops in the league, make sure your fans have access to seats.
    2. Set up a “ticket exchange.”  I’ve proposed this a number of times over the years, but rather than force fans to go to Craigslist or StubHub or the like, offer a method for STH in particular to sell their unused tickets.  Take a fee if you want.  But you’ll get more fans in the stands and more fans happy with their seats–maybe even more season ticket holders for a variety of reasons.
    3. Have an intern check to see if it is actually a new record.
    4. If you’re going to “kram” more than the capacity into your stadium or arena, make sure you’ve got a place to hide the cars.  See, it’s easy to know when something’s up, because all of a sudden the lots are WAY more full than normal–even for a “capacity” game.

As we wrap this up, let me make a few more comments.  I love that our community can support these teams as well as we do.  It’s part of why this blog exists, as well.  I’m proud of us as a fan-community and love seeing us near the tops in attendance for all of the teams.  To echo a previous post, I don’t think it’s “all about the money.”  And, it’s hard work that these team organizations put in to try to fill the seats.  If you don’t think so, just look at the games when they aren’t trying:  the “222 Showcase” and the baseball playoff games?  Those games aren’t promoted and/or aren’t planned for as well, and the attendance suffers–sometimes stunningly so.  Even the exhibition with the Flyers this year:  the attendance wasn’t record because they didn’t have time to sell out all the hospitality areas–and they were even offering them at a steep discount.

One more thing I wanted to write about in regards to attendance:  If you’ve been reading my hockey previews, I’ve been noting that some other teams–including league-leader Hershey–have significantly fewer mid-week home games compared with our Phantoms.  Yesterday, I asked Phantoms broadcaster Bob Rotruck about it on Twitter.  He replied with some very good information.  He related that arena availability dates need to be submitted way in advance, and with our arena still under construction, there may have been some unknowns there.  Another thought I had, was that keeping more weekends free from hockey allows the arena to be available for other events:  concerts, monster trucks, ice shows and the like.  Take a little less during hockey on Wednesday (It’s a school night and a work day, etc.) but pack the place for other stuff on the weekend–double dip!  Finally, another thing Bob brought up which I didn’t consider:  Hershey for one hosts a lot of Sunday games–we haven’t had one yet–which can be tough to fill during the NFL season, especially the playoffs.  Seems like Sunday matinee games would be good for families–we’ve got two coming up–but would be a tough draw with football.  Bob, if you’re out there, thanks for your feedback!

So that’s it.  Just wanted to share some thoughts and knowledge with regards to attendance at our local games.


See you at the arenas and at the ballparks,


Categories: Kram's Korner - From the Club Level

1 reply

  1. Yes indeed would love some earlier Phantom games. last week there were two AHL lunchtime games! hey don’t knock it till ya try it. I buy tix to all those afternoon iron pigs games…

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