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Nashville Predators attendance - how big is the issue?

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On 104.5's afternoon sports radio show, George Plaster was ruminating on the Nashville Predators off-ice issues, and bemoaning the fact that the team hasn't hired a local person to run their sales effort. Much was made about last night's crowd of 10,581 being one of the worst in a long, long time (since December 1, 2005, to be exact).

Here are the monthly numbers for this season and the last two, taking announced attendance figures from the Predators website...

Oct Nov
 Year Avg Games Avg Games
 2007 13,983 6 14,706 5
 2008 13,682 5 14,009 4
 2009 13,399 6 13,556 8

So what do you think, folks? Is the economy to blame? A low-scoring, grind-it-out team? Too many games packed closely together in November? The shutdown of Saturn in nearby Spring Hill?

One factor that we don't have a good up-to-date read on yet is the difference between announced attendance and paid attendance. "Announced attendance" means all tickets distributed, which includes those given away by the team for free. In the NHL, that figure can run from an average of 200 per game up to more than 2,000 for some franchises that are desperate to fill the building. From the 2007-8 season to 2008-9, Nashville's giveaways dropped by roughly 800 tickets per game, as the team sought to maximize paid attendance and hit key targets there.

So the big question is, how are giveaways trending this year? Paid attendance figures come out only sporadically.

UPDATE: As Paul McCann notes, an update from The Tennessean covering the first 6 home games saw a paid attendance increase of 75 per game, which suggests that at least during early in the 2008-9 season, 1,065 tickets were given away for each game, while in the first six of this year, that figure dropped to 503. The drop so far, then, appears entirely to be a reduction in giveaways. It will be interesting once we get November paid attendance figures to see how the trend proceeds.

 1st 6 home games*** Total Avg Paid Freebies
 2008 13,886 12,821 1,065
 2009 13,399 12,896 503

For the 2008-9 season in total, the difference between total attendance (15,010) and paid (14,190) implies an average giveaway of 820 per game. That's well down from 1,815 freebies a game during the 2005-6 season.

The stakes here are indeed large; if the Preds don't hit 14,000 average paid attendance again, they could miss out on 25% of their revenue sharing from the NHL, which is a significant chunk of change (anywhere from $2 - 4 million depending on how things shake out).

Obviously, the solution is for all of you readers to take the following message to heart:

For discounted tickets to any Nashville Predators home game, you can follow this link and use the special offer code "PREDS".

***The figures for the 1st 6 home games of 2008 are different than the October numbers in the 1st table because the 6th game of that season was on November 1st. I just wanted to point that out to avoid confusion.