Nashville Predators attendance continues strong growth

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 24: Fans of the Nashville Predators cheer during a timeout in a game against the Anaheim Ducks in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on April 24, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

"Fill the building. Nothing happens until the building's filled."

That was the mission which team CEO Jeff Cogen spoke about with Pete Weber right after he joined the Nashville Predators 19 months ago, and so far, it's a campaign which is paying off.

Remember the old days when Preds fans kept a dire watch on attendance figures, hoping that the magical 14,000 average paid attendance mark would be achieved, to keep the team from being able to trigger an escape clause in the arena lease and leave town?

Those times now appear to be just a distant memory. Follow after the jump for a look at just how well tickets are selling this season...

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The following chart, based on the latest data obtained from Nashville's Metro Sports Authority, depicts average paid attendance, total attendance, and tickets given away per game for the first 33 home dates of this, and the last three seasons:

In a nutshell? The building is indeed filling up (average paid attendance currently stands at 15,992), while the "comps", or tickets given away for free each game are down. It's not like discounts are driving the increased figures, either. Year-over-year, ticket prices (net of tax & seat user fees) are up 5.8% over this period of time, compounding the financial gain of having extra people in the building.

Of course, this is just the ticket-selling aspect of things. We've already heard that TV ratings are up in a big way (thanks in part to broadcasting some games into the Atlanta market), the new gold Predators jerseys have been a big hit with fans, and corporate partnerships have been growing as well.

There's still a long ways to go, but the trend on the business side for the Nashville Predators is undoubtedly headed in the right direction. Is this enough to sustainably operate a hockey team with a payroll near the upper bounds of the salary cap range? Unless the new CBA brings radical change to the league's revenue sharing scheme, I don't see that as realistic. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a Top 10 NHL market (keep in mind the building capacity of 17,113, one of the smallest in the league). But progress is definitely being made.

In the interview noted above, Cogen referred to an attendance goal of 15,000 for his first season. The team instead finished with an average paid figure of 15,562 in 2010-2011, so he's already ahead of schedule. With a strong playoff run this spring, who knows what the target could be for 2012-2013.

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