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What's wrong? In move to Brooklyn, attendance at Islanders games is down

ESPN chart, click to enlarge
What's going on here?

The New York Islanders, upon their move to Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season, were not only expected to take advantage of a suite-filled new arena that would drive revenues, they were also expected to reconstitute their fan base.

That was supposed to make up for the loss of some Long Island-based fans no longer willing to drive (and seek parking) or take the LIRR by drawing more from Brooklyn and the boroughs.

So far, that hasn't really happened--though there are some partly plausible explanations.

According to ESPN, the Islanders are averaging just 12,407 people per game, 28th in the 30-team league, in the arena with the league's second smallest capacity, 15,795, which includes some very bad seats.

That's 78.5% of capacity, 25th in the league, while in their final season at the Nassau Coliseum, they averaged 15,334 fans, or 94.8% of capacity.

Of course, the cost of seats rose 70%. But if the Islanders have already sold more than 8,000 full season-ticket plans, well, that's not a lot of casual fans adding to audience.

Now the Barclays Center, which is in charge of Islanders tickets, is straining, for example offering a $15 food and beverage credit for tonight's game against the Philadelphia Flyers, which would offset seats costing (when I checked) $45 each.  See graphic below.

Then again, seats via the arena web site for tonight start at $25, while on StubHub they start at $20. And the arena/Islanders also find ways to quietly give tickets away to fill seats, as noted by one fan.

Don't trust the numbers

Note that official attendance figures are typically exaggerated. As the Times reported, the arena/team listed the Islanders' debut home game against the Chicago Black Hawks "as a sellout, but there were many rows of empty seats, especially in the lower bowl."

Buffalo's Art Voice reported 11/5/15, "Sunday’s attendance was announced at 11,278, although it appeared that about 8000 were actually in the house which has a capacity of just over 15,000." 

What's the explanation?

Indeed, the Times's Allan Kreda, on 11/21/15, observed Islanders Are Adjusting Faster to Their New Home Than Their Fans Are:
Against the conference-leading Montreal Canadiens on Friday, the arena had swaths of red-clad fans rooting for the visitors. They yelled, “Go, Habs, go” after each Montreal goal as the Canadiens skated to a 5-3 victory.
The influx of opposing fans may have helped generate a crowd of 15,171 at Barclays, which has the league’s second-lowest capacity at 15,795, including many seats with obstructed views.
There are partly plausible explanations, including the lack of Saturday night games, the competition with the baseball Mets, and the lack of Eastern Conference opponents. Attendance should go up during the holiday season.

Still, as Kreda reported, ticket resellers report low interest, likely tied to the arena's location, which, while accessible via public transit, is less accessible to the traditional fan base.

Trying to Draw In Fans, Islanders Dip Into New Palette,  Kreda reported earlier in the month, citing a small sample of fans who like the Islanders' new third jersey, in black and white (echoing the Nets), a color scheme that has infuriated some Islanders die-hards. The Times reported:
[Arena CEO Brett] Yormark said that on average, about 5,700 fans were taking the Long Island Rail Road to the team’s games in Brooklyn. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority relayed an average closer to 5,000. But either way, the number is significant.
Ah, that's Yormark, always spinning.

Play-by-play announcer Howie Rose, according to Newsday, doesn't like the new jerseys, and tweaked Yormark for claiming that black-and-white were the borough's official colors. Yormark has since claimed they're the borough's "adopted" colors, which of course equates the borough with the Nets.

One solution: cheaper bad seats?

Why are there obstructed views? Because the original arena design, which could have easily accommodated a hockey rink, was downsized to save money and, it was said, to preclude major league hockey. So they had to retrofit the arena, which means many sections with limited view seats.

Obstructed seats, from the Barclays Center, via The Brooklyn Game

NY SportsDay's Joe McDonald suggested:
Something also needs to be done with the obstructed seats. Instead of charging 40 bucks and have a large portion of the arena empty, why not charge $5. Put the fannies in the seats and make money from the concessions. And remember you are forcing your Long Island fans to pay the LIRR fees, so maybe something cheap will get them out too.
Indeed, PuckDaddy blogger Greg Wyshynski wrote, Islanders at Barclays Center: Where terrible seats meet good intentions:
That level of self-awareness is rare among Islanders fans making their first foray into Barclays. There has been widespread anger and frustration with the move, not only because the arena features some of the oddest and most terrible sightlines in pro sports, but because the arena’s policies haven’t always been that welcoming to Islanders fans – witness the recent crackdown on fans watching warmups from the lower bowl. You need a special ticket to get downstairs before the game.

But sometimes, if you're sitting in Section 201, you get a ticket to come downstairs during the game.


  1. Here's more wonderful things about the Islanders move.

    1. If you are a season ticket holder, you better hope you can use all of your tickets as resellers such as Stubhub have a massive supply. I've seen tickets go for pennies on the dollar in my section for games against Arizona and Winnipeg.

    2. The Season Ticket Holders got screwed. I am in the ICE PASS section which includes food and non alcoholic beverages. I was told all the seats in my area are ICE PASS. LIARS! There are seats in my section on stubhub that do not include food and beverage. I talked to some of these people who bought these tickets- they got them from resale

    How can I put this? Remember all the NY Jets fans who were screwed when they bought PSL? That's how Islander season ticket holders feel right now. At least there were no psl with the Islanders and I can cancel after this year. There is no demand for the tickets. They didn't come close to selling out on a Sunday against an Original 6 opponent.

    The Islanders also discount tickets on an individual basis for certain games. That screws the season ticket holder as well.

    My advice to everyone is DO NOT buy tickets for the Islanders or Nets except off Stubhub. Wait until just before the game. You'll get a great deal unless they are playing a premium opponent suck as ny rangers

    You've all been warned.


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