Bristol - sharp decline

Bristol Motor Speedway, which seats 160,000, might have been half full for the Sprint Cup.

Football season is right around the corner and stadiums are gearing up for hopefully a sellout at every home game.

However, the ugly truth is sports venues have seen a decline in attendance. And this isn’t specific to football only.

Most every professional sports league has seen a decline in fan attendance.

Major League Baseball, NBA and especially NASCAR have felt the effects of this decline. I’m sure all of you have noticed that once full stands at NASCAR events are now, at best, only half-full (or half empty depending on your mood).  

In the NBA, several lower-level teams, like the Sacramento Kings, Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons had major attendance drops. The Pistons averaged only 13,272 tickets sold per home game in the plush 21,000-seat Palace.

So the question at hand is: Why?  There are several factors believed to be contributing to this.

Economics. With the economic downturn several years ago, discretionary income became limited and leisure activities took the hardest hit.

Let’s face it, attending a sporting event isn’t exactly cheap. According to Yahoo Sports, it costs an average of $443.93 for a family of four to attend an NFL game.  

Need more examples? Here’s the average cost for a family of four at other sporting events:

Boston Red Sox (MLB): $360.66

Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL): $572.58

New York Knicks (NBA): $676.42

Chicago Bears (NFL): $685.10

Television. With the advancement in television size, quality, programming and high-definition, the “at home” product has far exceeded the day’s of a 14-inch black and white television. And it’s not just “at home.”

Now your favorite game is viewable on your laptop or even the palm of your hand on your smartphone.

Fantasy sports and sports gambling. This one made me think extra hard. Remember we are talking about fan attendance at sports venues here. Fantasy sports and sports gambling have been shown to increase sports fandom. Fans follow sports and teams they previously never would have bothered. The problem is that while these activities increase sports fandom, they often simultaneously decrease team identification and team loyalty.

This epidemic is very real. It’s causing many sports executives to look for different revenue streams. One example of this is in the form of virtual tickets. A virtual ticket would allow the purchaser to experience the live entertainment of the venue on a virtual platform. The ticket holder would have access to behind the scenes stadium tours, pregame interactivity with players and team staff, even special invites to exclusive tailgate parties.

 The bottom line is the nature of sports and how they are experienced is evolving. It will be interesting to see what this evolution uncovers.

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