Putting Phoenix Coyotes Attendance Figures in Context

The Phoenix Coyotes attendance figures have been a constant point of contention between supporters and critics of Gary Bettman’s Southern strategy. It is undeniable that they are among the worst in the league. So how should they be interpreted? And what can we learn by looking at them?

Jobing.com Arena (Photoree/Creative Commons)

Jobing.com Arena (Photoree/Creative Commons)

The Pure Numbers

The Phoenix Coyotes’ franchise suffered a severe drop in average attendance when the team was purchased by the NHL in 2009. According to attendance figures compiled by ESPN, average attendance of Phoenix Coyotes’ games went from 14,875 in 2008-09 to 11,989 in 2009-10. Since then, the Coyotes have made modest but consistent gains at the ticket office. The team averaged 12,188 in 2010-11, 12,420 in 2011-12, and 13,929 in the abbreviated 2013 season.

With five home games already played in the 2013-14 season, the Coyotes appear to have regressed slightly. At the time of this post, the team is averaging 12,833 per game, a drop of slightly over 1000. While that may seem to be cause for alarm, let’s take a look at how these figures stack up against the first five home games of each season since 2009.

A Little Context, Please

While it is true that attendance typically depends on which teams are playing and what day of the week the game is being played on, the first five games of each season have a sufficient amount of variation to be a good sample. Here’s how they look in chart form:

Attendance at the First Five Phoenix Coyotes Home Games

2009-10

2010-11*

2011-12

2013**

2013-14

Game #1

17,532

17,125

17,132

17,363

17,125

Game #2

6,899

6,706

11,051

8,355

10,594

Game #3

9,162

8,189

7,128

14,780

14,624

Game #4

11,938

8,171

6,948

8,581

10,141

Game #5

7,968

6,761

7,434

12,955

11,684

TOTAL

53,499

46,952

49,693

62,034

64,168

AVG Per Game

10,700

9,390

9,939

12,407

12,834

* Technically, the Phoenix Coyotes played their first “home” game in Prague as part of the NHL’s European Series. The figures here only represent those games played in Glendale.

**Because of the NHL lockout, the first five home games for the Coyotes were played in January.

Analysis

While many of those numbers are ugly for a professional sports franchise, there are more than a few encouraging signs. First, the Coyotes successfully sold out all five of their home openers (the listed capacity of Jobing.com Arena is 17,125). While that should be a no-brainer for an NHL team, the Coyotes have demonstrated a basic level of competence in that regard.

Second, with the exception of 2010-11, the average attendance of the first five games of the year has been higher than the previous year. This will become important later on.

Finally, the Coyotes have had 10,000+ fans attend each of the first five home games of 2013-14, something that they could not claim during any of the bankruptcy years. There is nothing particularly special about the games this season compared to seasons past, so this is encouraging.

Conclusion

Small sample size aside, the Phoenix Coyotes attendance figures should instill some confidence in their fans. Much like the holistic season figures, the numbers are trending positively as each season progresses. Even more importantly, there is a noticeable difference in early season attendance averages and whole season attendance averages. This means that the Phoenix Coyotes tend to draw more fans later on in the year.

Much like points in the standings, early season success pays off down the stretch. The Coyotes should expect to see their season average pick up as snowbirds from Canada and the Northeast flock to the Valley in the winter months and as the other professional sports franchises in the Greater Phoenix Area either end their seasons or are eliminated from postseason contention. While the numbers may not be improving quickly, they are improving. This bodes well for the financial success of the Phoenix Coyotes heading into the future.

 

10 Comments

  1. Interesting numbers but lets remove opening night which skews the numbers and is full of freebies. Games 2 – 4 average 11,761. At a reasonable average price of $50 per ticket this would still leave the franchise struggling to make payroll. I suspect prices to be on average $30. This is must improve for the team to stay beyond 5 years as per the purchase agreement and Glendale’s appetite to contribute to the team.

    Would like it to be successful and allow the NHL to collect full new franchise fees in terms of expansion but I am not yet convinced.

  2. To put the attendance figures into a wider context we need to compare additional variables, such as attendance capacity percentages & average ticket prices with those of the NHL itself.

    In term’s of capacity percentage, Phoenix has a big problem.

    2012-2013 = 81.3% = 2nd worst in NHL (1% above Columbus)
    2011-2012 = 72.3% = worst in NHL
    2010-2011 = 71.2% = 2nd worst in NHL
    2009-2010 = 68.5% = worst in NHL

    The attendance capacity jumped in 2012-2013 but we still have to remember 3 things:

    1) The attendance capacity record was still the 2nd worst in the NHL & merely 1% above the bottom. It was less woeful than the year before but it was woeful.

    2) Overall average attendance capacity across the league was up in 2012-2013.

    3) Phoenix offered the cheapest average ticket prices in the NHL in the 2012-2013 season. In the prior season, average ticket prices in Phoenix were 2nd lowest in the NHL.

    These numbers are not promising. Things would need to change drastically & then demonstrate sustainability for Phoenix to have a any sort of future. I don’t like to be fatalistic but I really don’t expect this to happen.

  3. Pingback: Hockey is growing in Phoenix - SportsHoopla.com Sports Forums

  4. Look at the real attendance figures, not just your ‘small’ sampling.

    http://www.hockeydb.com/nhl-attendance/att_graph.php?tmi=7450

    These numbers will not improve when next year, the IceArizona organization will start ‘bundling’ premium games with lesser games AND increasing prices.

    Five years and $50 million in losses will be here before you know it.

  5. Congrats to the Coyotes for hanging in there. Truth be told – they are the franchise that should have moved to Winnipeg. The Thrashers were thrown under the bus by Bettman. He loved that re-location fee.

  6. Thank you for the stats and putting this article together. I was wondering what the stats looked like too for this season. I’ve only missed two home games and one was last nights vs the Kings due to a prior engagement and the arena has looked much more filled with people. This further cements my belief that more and more people have been showing up now with new ownership and the ceiling is the limit as the team has been working so adamantly (since they took over) to embedd itself into the hockey community and grow awareness which was placing them as the most ignored team even by the media since Gretzky was a coach.

    • Brendan Porter says:

      Thanks for reading. I think more than a few people around the hockey world (especially within the Coyotes community), got very excited by the new ownership group and started expecting big things immediately. That won’t happen. Unfortunately, hockey is still a distant fourth (and maybe even fifth depending on how ASU football is doing) when it comes to the Valley sports scene. It may not always be like that, but for now it is. So long as things trend in the right direction, the prospects of success in the desert improve. It will be a long and hard road without a guarantee of success, but for the moment it appears the ownership group is going to give it their best shot.

  7. Wow…,Brendan, got to hand it to you…how to turn a black frying pan white. Truth be known, with the promise of new owners, new excitement of what the future could hold, stability for fans that would not attend or commit before and now could, getting 60-70 % for weekday home games INCLUDING their arch-rival the KIngs, will just not cut it…especially with new ownership fresh in the fans’ minds that will eventually wear off..maybe stick to writing for Five For Misinformation.

    • Brendan Porter says:

      Thanks for the read, glad you thought enough of my article to leave a reply. The funny thing is we actually agree: 60-70% average attendance will not cut it. But that basically misses the entire point of the article. The argument I make is that early season receipts are higher, which means overall season averages will be higher too. While it’s certainly not a guarantee that more people will show up in the 2nd half of the season, that was a consistent trend in the past four years, and there really isn’t a good reason to believe that trend won’t continue this year as well.

      In short, you can disagree with the conclusion I didn’t make all you want. It doesn’t change the fact that financially, the Coyotes are on significantly better ground than they were last year (most of the reasons for this have absolutely nothing to do with attendance, I might add). It’s also hardly “misinformation” to suggest that the franchise is doing better now than it had in years past. Whether or not that means the team will eventually pull a profit is too far off to predict, and I have no intention on making that prediction. All I can say is what we’ve seen now trends positively.

      • Agreed…perhaps “Misinformation” was strong but was more a referral to the Five For Howling which has been full of tailored articles spouting half truths to promote the Coyotes at the expense of real journalism..not necessarily penned by you I should add. But my “frying pan” comment was because I feel that with all the positives that happened attendance should be 80-90% for the first 20 games regardless of what night or popularity…just that momentum should have generated that..the fact it didn’t is very disturbing. A fall off can be expected, but I fear the fall off will reduce them to 6 to 7,000 faster then I would have expected for weekday games. If they were doing so well in other areas, I would have expected that to be trumpeted to the hilt to maintain momentum and have not heard any heralding of any such success. So while you consider it a positive trend, given all the factors I would submit it isn’t nearly positive enough to allow for a conclusion other than worry.

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