WNBA attendance is always a topic. The league is constantly shuffling around matchups to get the best draw to either look good on television or help struggling franchises. That’s why you won’t see many games on Monday nights — they don’t work. Or too many home games in June in markets where it’s a high graduation/school month.
But to say folks aren’t showing like before is a little misleading. Attendance in 2011 was technically up about two percent to its best mark since 2005. And Minnesota had a record 12,611 for its season-opener on Sunday — largest in franchise history for opening day.
In Los Angeles’ case, you can blame decision-making by front office brass for the packs of empty seats for Tuesday’s home-opener despite 10,717 reported attendance at Staples Center.
About 1,000 “fans” are actually premium reserved seats purchased for year-round admittance to events at Staples Center. And about 3,000 tickets had to be refunded because of the choice to move the opener from Sunday to Tuesday to accommodate NBA and NHL postseason play.
In the past, the Sparks have drawn an honest 11,000 to games against Seattle.
According to sources and a spokesperson, there was some waffling over the winter about where to place the Sparks opener. It’s the norm to worry about the Lakers’ playoff runs conflicting with the WNBA schedule, but the Clippers and Kings were late surprises, so the Sparks date was set at a time when the men could host a postseason game.
With the Sparks’ marketing campaign already set, the change was announced a week ahead of time. And to a weekday. You can imagine the scramble.
As for places like Tulsa, the 5,341 is a bump from the days when the Shock barley drew 2,000 in its new Oklahoma home. New York has dipped because of the move to New Jersey but Connecticut draws well. There’s similar stories across the league.
Like anything, winning helps. The WNBA also remains star-driven, so you need your Candace Parkers, Sue Birds, and Becky Hammon’s on the court to be sure to sell tickets.
I wouldn’t say there’s a dip. Interest, like the talent is on the rise. You just can’t move a matinee game to Tuesday evening and expect everyone’s schedule to sync.
“Sunday afternoon maybe would have had a little more energy in the building,” said first-year LA coach Carol Ross before her team’s 74-61 win against Seattle. “But we’ve got to create our own energy, it doesn’t matter what building we’re in.”
*PHOTO CREDIT: Crowd shot of Los Angeles’ home-opener against Seattle on Tuesday at Staples Center by Jayda Evans