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For Barclays Center, most events outside pro sports draw modest crowds (except concerts, also most profitable)

The Nets and Islanders don't fill the Barclays Center, as I reported, with actual gate count significantly less than announced attendance (and maybe worse, for the Islanders).

And--guess what--most other events don't even come close. Also, concerts are lots more profitable than anything else (though the business can be fickle).

That emerged in the Official Statement released last August for the refinancing of the Barclays Center bonds. It suggests why most (but hardly  all) events cause fewer neighborhood ripples than once feared.

We've long known some reasons regarding the impact of Nets basketball games: notably, the number of New Jersey-based fans driving to the arena diminished, as fandom declined during the team's long goodbye, and more Brooklyn-based fans, including those who walk, went to games.

Beyond that, the arena shrank from a once-contemplated 20,000-seat venue to instead hold 17,732 for basketball games, which, even with sellouts, typically means fewer than 15,000 attendees.

I reported last August thanks to the Official Statement,  that even when the Nets averaged more than 17,000 reported attendance, that meant 14,900 in the building. Last year's figures, reported at 15,125, actually meant about 11,622 people. Real hockey attendance was 11,200--or maybe 10,200.

What about other events?

Other events, as the excerpt below shows, draw far fewer people.

According to consultant Convention, Sport & Leisure (CSL), the arena has averaged about 5,000 people for family shows, boxing, and college basketball. (Presumably there's much higher attendance at college tournaments and lower attendance at games featuring Long Island University.)


Concerts generally attract more than 10,000 people, though in the first nine months several sellouts boosted average attendance toward 12,000.

This contrasts somewhat with the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement, written before the arena was downsized. It stated, in the Executive Summary:
The arena would host a variety of events. The arena would seat 18,000 persons for basketball games. While there is the potential for additional seating capacity for non-game events (to 19,925 seats if wheelchair seating is replaced by regular seating), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility, production equipment, and line of sight, operational and staging requirements would in almost all instances limit attendance at non-basketball events to well under 18,000. Non-game events are expected to attract fewer spectators than basketball events, with attendance generally ranging from 5,000 persons to 15,000 persons.
(Emphasis added)

That's a reasonable range, but we now know that attendance clusters toward the lower end of the range for most evens that are not concerts.

Concerts bring the profits

Nearly all the events were profitable--note that this doesn't count other revenues, like sponsorships or concessions-- but there were big differences.

Concerts made the most profit, both in sheer numbers as well as a percentage of revenue, peaking at $12.8 million in the second year of operation but dipping to $6.3 million in the next year. In the arena's second year of operation, boxing and family shows were slightly in the red.

So we can see why arena managers would like to focus on "big" concerts. That's where the money is. It's not necessarily clear, however, that if the Islanders leave how many concerts will fill those dates.

Another thing to watch for: the closing of the circus--15 performances in nine days this year--means the arena likely will seek a substitute for that family show demographic.

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