Since the new Arena in Seattle appears headed for a live birth we need to look closely at what we are bringing into our world. Ya know, there is "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" and then there is the agony of victory.
Anybody out there take one of those Logic 101 classes in college? You bit on that logic class because it seemed manageable AND maybe a babe you knew was taking it. In that class you learned that if A was greater than B and B was equal to or greater than C then A was greater than C. Extending that train of thought to The Great Seattle Arena Adventure one could easily conclude;
-Seattle has no NHL or NBA teams because there is no suitable arena here or ....WAITAMINUTE!...is it the arena does not exist because those teams aren't here? Doesn't matter, just get it built and those franchises will flock to Seattle like pigeons to a statue.
It appears the time has come, the involved parties (city, county, sidewalk musicians) have agreed that this is a can't miss opportunity. The moment may never again present itself to construct such a facility with minimum direct public money or public risk or exposure. Therefore, finally we can move forward. But is that a sigh of relief or a big gulp we hear? Let's talk about what makes this little adventure gulpworthy. As my favorite guy Bill Clinton said this past Wednesday night at the Democratic Convention it is one word: ARITHMETIC.
Here are the numbers that count. Both NBA and NHL teams play 41 regular season home games each season. Let's assume each of our new Seattle franchises draw AVERAGE attendance and charge AVERAGE ticket prices for the NBA and NHL.
Attendance Ticket Price / Revenue
Avg Total Avg per game Total season
NBA 17,500 717,500 $48.48 $34,784,400
NHL 18,500 758,500 $$57.10 $43,310,350
Digest those numbers if you can. Over 1.4 MILLION tickets at a cost of $78 MILLION dollars belly flopping into our Puget Sound pool of sports spectator consumer wallets. And those are INCREMENTAL dollars and tickets. And yes, I know that you know the Dawgs have a new Husky Stadium going up out in Montlake with 67,000 seats to sell, many at higher than ever club seat type prices. And yes, I know that you know the Mariners attendance at 22,000 per game will get to about 1.7 million for the season, a good 500,000 under where they would like to be.
Even the Sea Hawks season ticket waiting list has disappeared and the games are not longer completely sold out for the season.
And we have neglected the biggest single success factor in big time sports: Luxury suite sales. If there is a single issue slowing down revenue growth luxury box sales is an area of extreme concern to all sports. Frankly the NFL TV money is so huge and player expenses are so low by limited roster sizes that most NFL teams could sell no tickets and make money. But the rest of Sports are really dependant on on those revenues they don't have to share, luxury box sales. The Mariners sales are way down as we would expect. But how will the new NBA and NHL teams peddle those high priced boxes while the Huskies are out selling their new offerings at the same time. Where is all this big money coming from? C'mon, why cant we be more positive, why all the black clouds?
Well here is some breaking news: The economy still sucks. Yes it is getting better but a generation of fans are now used to NOT snapping up tickets regardless of price or quality of the team. The Huskies and Mariners have both learned painfully how easy it is to lose the base and how difficult it is to get back. There is no money more discretionary than sports tickets. For the price of parking, TYEE donation and two season tickets you can get a pretty nice big screen flat screen delivered to your TV room / home tailgate cave. And for the future even the most die hard young fans are not as prone to buy $40-$75 tickets at we older folks were. Add to that the possible change in tax deduction rules and things could get more, not less challenging.
All is not lost, all is not bleak. I am confident a new NBA team here would command great attention and following. And if the team can be somewhat competitive in a few years success should make for a stable franchise. I am much less sure about NHL success. The few hockey fans we have in the area have been paying less than $25 for most of the tickets in Kent and Everett. Whatever comes to town owners will have to figure out how to get the relatively well paid Puget Sound middle class to provide a solid foundation of ticket sales for both teams. Our region's economy while recovering has lost some significant headquarters and with it anchor companies. Qwest is gone, Safeco is gone, WAMU is gone,even Boeing headquarters is no longer here. Selling high priced events and boxes to fat cats is getting tougher.
So all of you who have been clamoring for this to happen now have the opportunity to step us, as they say. No more savings bonds for for graduation and Bar Mitzvah presents. No more cash donations to Head Start and homeless shelters. Nope, starting in a few months we will be expected to fill those little gift cards with NBA and NHL game tickets, or concession vouchers. For that matter some of us might need to siphon donations from our church to our new teams. We will all be in this together. Our new rallying cry:
If they build it, they will come. If we pay, they will stay. Now, take a really big gulp.