After all, the Nets have a buzzworthy new arena, a new look and logo, scads of sponsors, a valuable TV contract, and a deep-pocketed principal owner, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, willing to spend big to win now. Their first home playoff game this season is tomorrow night.
While the Brooklyn Nets have built a new fan base, both locally and beyond, they actually haven't had--though it's far less obvious-- that many more fans in the seats. In the first season, according to figures not previously released, gate count averaged approximately 14,974.
Still, 15,000 fans in the Barclays Center, which seats 17,700 people, sure makes the Brooklyn arena feel more full than when 15,000 came to the cavernous Izod Center, which seats more than 20,000. It doesn't hurt that the Barclays Center deploys dark, theater-style lighting.
"We don't want the space to ever look empty," said MaryAnne Gilmartin, CEO of arena builder/operator Forest City Ratner.
So what if the Barclays Center isn't always packed. Brooklyn trumps New Jersey thanks to luxury suites, sponsorships, and higher ticket prices. No longer do the Nets just give tickets away to the general public (though there are periodic discounts).
But it's remarkable how attendance of 15,000 counted as a failure in New Jersey.
"I was trying to be charitable at 15 [thousand]," Francesa said, claiming others estimated far less. "There were so many empty seats it was a joke.” The official gate count that game, it turned out, was 15,504.
Looking at the numbers
The Nets averaged 13,961 in their last season in New Jersey, 2011-2012, after drawing 14,179 in 2010-11, 13,103 in 2009-10, and 15,147 in 2008-09. In their first Brooklyn season, the official attendance was 17,187.
A recent report by Empire State Development, the New York state agency that oversees the arena and larger Atlantic Yards development project, aimed to analyze the traffic impacts of the arena, noting, "Actual attendance during the 2012-2013 season (including Playoffs) averaged approximately 14,974."
Not once did 17,700 fans fill the seats. The game with the highest attendance drew about 16,900 people, according to Appendix C/Operational Transportation to the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. (Previously, a memo from transportation consultant Sam Schwartz suggested that average gate count was closer to 15,500.)
What if Gehry's design had stuck?
At the time, the Barclays Center was said to seat just 14,500 for hockey, with an awkward off-kilter layout. They've since increased up hockey seating up to 15,813 (or, now, 15,795), by selling obstructed-view seats. That's not much below the current capacity in Nassau of 16,170.
After all, the Nets have seen their value skyrocket, according to Forbes, from $357 million in 2012 (#14 in league) to $530 million last year (#9), to $780 million this year (#5), the largest increase in the NBA, thanks in large part to the new market and the arena.