Much was made about the fact that there were two teams in the WHL who had attendance increases last season: Portland and Seattle. In fact, the Thunderbirds attendance numbers for last season probably went a long way to their marketing department winning an award from the WHL. It’s early but let’s take a look at the path Seattle is on so far:
From the website HockeyAttendance.com we can see what the Thunderbirds drew for the 2013-14 season as an average and game by game. Seattle had 159,836 for the season. Over 36 home games, that averaged to 4427 per game. As a comparison, the season before Seattle had 145,303 which averaged out to 4036 per game.
Through just 6 games so far this season, the TBirds have had 24770 attend which is a fraction over 4128 per game. It would seem that the number is trending behind last season and ahead of the season before. But you need to drill down a little deeper to see that it is more positive than it seems on the surface.
Through 6 home games in 2013-14, Seattle had 21787 or a little over 3631 per game. So already we can see that they are averaging almost 500 people more per game so far this season compared to last. But there is room for more optimism than that:
- Last season’s home opener was against Portland. Home openers usually draw well no matter the opponent and Portland games usually draw well due to the opponent. By not opening with the Winterhawks, Seattle has moved a high attendance game to later in the season.
- Portland hasn’t come to town yet. Seattle has built this season’s average without a Winterhawk bump. Attendance vs Portland went up as the season went on in 2013-14. This season, with the appearance of a weaker Winterhawk team and the better chance for a win, attendance should start strong and stay strong.
- Game #7 this season may be the difference maker. With less than 1400 tickets left at the time of this writing, this Thursday’s game vs Edmonton should have an attendance of over 5000. Last season’s game #7 was a Tuesday Brandon game that drew 4096. So the TBirds should draw more than 1000 extra than last season, further widening the gap between season averages. (That Brandon game was the first 2-for-Tuesday of last season. The first 2-for-Tuesday this season vs Spokane drew 4105, also a comparable number.
Granted, there are mitigating factors that may add to the bump in attendance so far this season. There have been ticket deals for 4 of the 6 home games so far. Thursday’s game has tickets available for $5 to season ticket holders and that would account for a lot of the projected crowd for that night. However, I’m sure the team would tell you that they can’t grow the fanbase unless people come to a game. Even some of their marketing materials were built around the fact that experiencing hockey in person is more likely to make you a fan than anything else. So they would probably take a crowd of 5000+ where half the tickets were only $5.
Also, if one looks at just the numbers from this season, every game so far has had a lower attendance than the one previous. But even then, the numbers have started out higher than last season so once the Everett and Portland games start happening at home, those numbers will level out. Put another way, if the same pattern occurs this season that did last, the average attendance will stay just as high or get higher as the season goes on.
We’ll be keeping an eye on the TBirds attendance trend as the season goes on but, as it stands now, this might be best attended season for the TBirds in a long time. And well-attended games are something that are good for the team, ShoWare Center, the city of Kent and all the nearby businesses.