I was at the Wachovia-soon-to-be-Wells-Fargo Center for the 76ers-Knicks game tonight, as was Jimmy Rollins of the 2008 World Series Champion Phillies. (No, not together -- he sat courtside while I was, well, not.)
With so many people in the sports complex for the finish of the Phillies' parade, the 76ers came up with a promotion: anyone showing up at the box office wearing Phillies gear could buy tickets to tonight's game for just $10. The team said they sold about 2,000 tickets through this promotion. The tickets I bought had a face value of $54. (I wonder if Rollins paid $10 for his courtside seats?)
However, the announced attendance was just 11,717 -- in an arena that holds over 20,000 for basketball. Although their home opener on Wednesday against Toronto drew just 15,750, tonight's crowd still surprised me. The Sixers made a late-season run and surprised everyone by getting into the playoffs and giving Detroit a run for its money in the first round. They then made a big free-agent signing, picking up Elton Brand in the off-season. All of this was supposed to generate excitement and, presumably, ticket sales.
So why was the building half-empty? It can't be because the team isn't living up to expectations. This was only the second game of the season. They haven't had a chance to disappoint yet. Are people too obsessed with the Phillies right now to be into the other teams? The Flyers had 18,227 for their game last night. Are the Knicks a lousy opponent, interest-wise? Well, yes. Right now, at least, the Knicks are going nowhere as the 76ers rolled to a 116-87 win.
Is this a sign that the economic meltdown is going to take its toll on sporting attendance? Again, the Flyers nearly had a full building. And from what I've read, people were willing to spend top dollar on World Series tickets from scalpers such as StubHub -- even for Game 5 tickets that were already used on Monday, before the rain put a halt to the proceedings, and were needed for re-admission for the resumption of the game on Wednesday. People were paying hundreds of dollars to see 3 innings of baseball.
The 76ers' opponents for their home games in November: Sacramento, Utah, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State, Orlando and Chicago. I'm not anticipating huge crowds for any of these games.