Would new Hawks/Thrashers owners make a real difference?

Found! Photographic evidence of an actual Hawks crowd! (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Found! Visual evidence of an actual Hawks crowd! (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Last week esteemed colleague Chris Vivlamore reported that two groups have inquired about buying the Hawks and Thrashers with the intent of keeping both teams in Atlanta. Which got me to thinking:

The Hawks are 25th in the 30-team NBA in home attendance, averaging 14,613 per date. The Thrashers are 28th in the 30-team NHL in home attendance, averaging 13,031. (Philips Arena seats 18,700 or thereabouts.)

Neither franchise excites the populace. But what if the franchises were handed to an ownership group other than the much-lampooned Atlanta Spirit? Would it make a difference to you, the paying (or non-paying, as the case may be) public?

Ordinarily, I’d suggest that ownership matters little when it comes to buying tickets. (Arthur Blank buying the Falcons was different, but I’d also suggest he was the exception.) But the Spirit has compiled such a worksheet of squabbles and lawsuits and strange personnel decisions that it’s possible these addled owners have contaminated both brands.  But if that worksheet were to be wiped clean and a new set of owners to start afresh …

Would new ownership make you more apt to buy tickets?

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Would you be more inclined to patronize their clubs? Or would you look on these franchises and say, “Eh, they’re still the Hawks/Thrashers”?

I’m asking because I don’t know, and I’m not in a position to know. (I get to go to games for free.) So, as we say in pickup basketball: A little help, please. Let me know how you view it. Because you’re the folks who’ll matter.

With that, I’ll hang up and listen to your answers. And, as ever, I thank you in advance.

By Mark Bradley

135 comments Add your comment

5$ Dawg

March 2nd, 2011
9:43 am

Near the first!

O'Brien

March 2nd, 2011
9:44 am

Mark,

I think new ownership would help initially. But the moves off the court must also bring some excitement, and they must play well at home in order to sustain it.

chaz

March 2nd, 2011
9:45 am

First,

Yes it would make a difference. As they say it all starts at the top. If this new regime shows they are passionate about winning and make the neccessary moves, we as the fans will support them. Arthur Blank showed how to sway Atlanta fans. They need to have him on speed dial.

tarps3

March 2nd, 2011
9:46 am

Would I buy season tickets to the Thrashers if they had new owners?

Yep.

DanTheMan

March 2nd, 2011
9:46 am

I don’t think the fans would be rushing back instantly. You’d get a new infusion of frustrated fans that we just boycotting the games because they despise Atlanta Spirit. The only way for the casual fan to come back is if the new owners invest money to bring the team salaries on par with the rest of the league.

The Thrashers Attendance ranking is mostly always linked with their Salary cap ranking

Mark Bradley

March 2nd, 2011
9:47 am

Not just “near,” 5$ Dawg. Kudos.

JoeMan

March 2nd, 2011
9:48 am

No. I’m a football and baseball fan, and have a hard enough time making it to Falcons and Braves games right now. Between the ticket prices and the travel headache, I can only squeeze in a handful of sporting events each year, and the Hawks and Thrashers aren’t exciting enough to merit my consideration.

Andy

March 2nd, 2011
9:49 am

It would only matter if a new owner put up more money for players. I think there could be a Blankian type affect for the Hawks (I just made up a new word!) but there is no hope for the Thrash. Ice hockey in the south? Worst idea ever.

Realist

March 2nd, 2011
9:53 am

The Hawks lost this city when they traded Dominique. If they had gotten good, young players in return instead of an already-peaked Danny Manning, maybe the fans wouldn’t have had to endure a decade of absolutely unwatchable basketball.

It’s hard to take that much abuse and then get excited about a team led by me-first guys like Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, that has absolutely no shot at winning the East.

That being said, the attendance thing is a little overstated. Mark, if your numbers are correct and the Hawks are only 1,700 seats shy of a sellout every night, that’s only costing them a couple million dollars per year (plus concessions revenue). Certainly not enough reason for a franchise to struggle financially or on the court.

DawginLex

March 2nd, 2011
9:53 am

Nashville has no problem supporting the Predators

PMC

March 2nd, 2011
9:55 am

Absofrigginlutely they would. Especially an individual with money willing to spend the kind of money it would take to improve the teams.

The Thrashers are only a borderline professional team right now. If you’re not making the playoffs in the NBA or NHL…. you’re team is seriously flawed. The Thrashers have been much more focused under Rick Dudley but they are still operating on a miniscule budget relative to the really good franchises. The Thrashers really need a couple of marquee players that they currently do not have.

The Hawks….are not in bad shape, they are simply lacking an owner willing to pay the luxury tax to land the elite point guard that they lack and they need to find 2 NBA quality centers that can play good minutes and defense to help Al Horford.

Sports are entertainment. People are not going to pay to see substandard products. That’s the reason the Heat and Knicks attendence are up wildly this year…..they are freaking interesting.

Who right now would you be willing to pay to watch on either team right now? Joe Johnson? Been there, watched him come up short. The Thrashers, Evander Kane is pretty awesome but he’s young. They need some stars who can be counted on to consistantly score. I like Buff but he should go back to being a sniper and they need to find consistant good defenders to help out the reasonably good goalies we’ve had in this town.

Go with the Falcons model, sell ridiculously cheap upper level seats fill the freaking building and make it exciting…then the people will come back. Right now, it’s not exciting unless it’s the playoffs.

Absolutely a new RICH owner would help. Money is the biggest thing holding these teams back right now.

ProfFish

March 2nd, 2011
9:56 am

Good question. I go to a lot fewer games than I once did. I saw every Flames playoff game that they lost (hint: all of them). Now, I attend a handful of games each year.

It doesn’t have anything to do with the owners or won-loss records. Downtown is just very inconvenient for me. Not unsafe, just inconvenient, as it is for most of the population of the Atlanta metro area. Put the Hawks and Thrashers in a new arena north of 285, and I’d go a lot more often. I’d be a Braves season ticket holder.

All of the Atlanta teams made decisions to stay downtown, and I can’t argue with the reasoning. Unfortunately, the most attractive target market is way north of downtown. Forget us on school nights and for 7:00 start times.

5$ Dawg

March 2nd, 2011
9:58 am

It’s gonna be a good day.

J from the A

March 2nd, 2011
9:58 am

I think the change in ownership might make a difference for those of us who follow the Hawks closely (ya know, the handful of us that are on these blogs everyday + a few others), but for the casual fan, I have to wonder whether they even know much about the Hawks ownership (if they know anything about the Hawks ownership at all).

If they don’t really know much, don’t really have an opinion, a change in ownership won’t make a difference. (Or at least, a change in ownership won’t make a difference qua change in ownership. However, if the change in ownership led to a better quality product, then that would make a difference.)

And I have to say, even for those of us that follow the Hawks closely, a change in ownership might make an initial difference for us. It would be a nice jolt to perk our interests a bit more. But if that change in ownership doesn’t translate into a better product, even this potential difference in interest and excitement would taper off.

Carlos

March 2nd, 2011
9:59 am

Mark, in this economy is the state of Georgia seriously considering using tax dollars to partially finance the Falcons proposed new stadium?

phil

March 2nd, 2011
9:59 am

Fred

March 2nd, 2011
10:00 am

I won’t be attending (free) or buying any tickets as long as the ASG owns the two teams and the arena. As soon as there is a new owner who is passionate about winning and cares about the fans then I will go back to buying tickets to see both teams.

Larry

March 2nd, 2011
10:01 am

Mark,

Not without a distinct personality, passion and creativity.

The Hawks and Thrashers need to be totally re-branded and re-casted to stimulate and sustain interest in this city. It will take much more than than a transfer of assets and liabilities to a new owner.

TD Mike

March 2nd, 2011
10:01 am

Blanks has been so successful because he’s been willing to pay for good players and actually cares about winning. The ASG doesn’t seem to care one way or another if the team is actually competitive and they certainly aren’t interested in spending even a penny more than they have to unless it’s to hire lawyers to sue someone.

PMC

March 2nd, 2011
10:02 am

Andy, if Ice Hockey in the south is such a stupid idea then why are the Tampa Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes so good? The Thrashers are only unsuccessful because they are inept as a franchise.

The Thrashers have had one of if not the worst GM’s in the league (perhaps all of sports) and certainly the bottom half of professional ownership.

The real problem with most of the professional teams historically in this city have been ineptitude with the leadership of the franchise (kind of mirrors the city government really)

The Braves, when they got the owner, GM and coach in place with the Superstation…. became the 3rd largest fanbase in the league behind the Yankees and Red Sox and one of the most competitive teams over the last 20 years.

Sports teams in this city have been overseen by and large by all manner of ineptitude and bumbling fools.

Chris

March 2nd, 2011
10:03 am

Thrashers yes, Hawks no. There are no upside surprises forthcoming from the Hawks or really anywhere in the NBA. On October 1 every year, we know which 4 or 5 NBA teams have a shot at a title, and everything else is a sideshow. Hockey championships are much less predictable and therefore more teams can begin the year with a legitimate shot.

Steve

March 2nd, 2011
10:04 am

If the new owner(s) are accountable for their decisions, represent the community, and genuinely act like they are interested in putting forth a good and enjoyable product, they will get more support. I don’t think it is unfair to ask owners to be present at most games, be in a box or sideline seat where fans can say, “Hey, that’s _____, he’s the reason this team is great (or sucks).”

Lying, absence, and general disregard pisses people off. Make the product exciting not only for what is on the court, but also for the benefit that what is on the court will have on the community at large, and the owners will have a winner…that, or make beers and hot dogs competitively priced.

Mark Bradley

March 2nd, 2011
10:05 am

Let me just note one thing: There’s a salary cap in both the NBA and NHL. Only so much any owner could spend.

Although I must also note that the Thrashers and Hawks, as a rule, haven’t come close to touching the cap. (The Hawks are near the luxury tax now.)

Mark Bradley

March 2nd, 2011
10:06 am

Carlos, you’ve asked the $700 million question.

Mr. Phil

March 2nd, 2011
10:06 am

I would probably patronize the teams under new ownership, but I don’t think right away. I would have to see what their first moves were. I refused to buy tickets this season specifically because of Joe Johnson ( see number2sucks.com).

Mr. Phil (not to be confused with "phil" or "Dr. Phil"

March 2nd, 2011
10:08 am

BTW,

Is it just me or are there an inordinant amount of people named Phil who frequent this blog.

Bob

March 2nd, 2011
10:08 am

I’m not sure that new ownership would help. It’s the direction of the teams that hurts attendance. The Hawks have been hurt on their playoff results the last two years. Last year we were led to believe that keeping the core intact would lead to an improved team…and it resulted in a 3 seed and a four game sweep in the second round. So while the team’s record did improve, the end result did not. It’s hard to get excited for the same team this year, new coach or not. It’s especially difficult to get excited for the same team when the other teams in the East added new assets to their teams.

As for the Thrashers, one playoff season in 10 years in your answer. The same was true for the Braves in the ’80’s. Atlanta fans will turn out for a winner.

Boom Dizzle

March 2nd, 2011
10:09 am

New Owners would be make a tremendous difference initially. It’s going to be what they do after the newness wears off will determine how successful it will be.

Everything the ASG (or as Mr. Schultz calls them, Team Pinocchio) has done (more related towards the hockey team) has been second rate. IMO Hockey could succeed here, if the right people are running it…

Even with the Hawks, when you have majority of the top teams spending whatever it takes to compete for championships (Luxury tax and all), the ASG seem content on not going the extra length to do so. It’s sad b/c Atlanta will watch quality basketball, the TV playoff numbers every year prove that.

Mr. Phil (not to be confused with "phil" or "Dr. Phil"

March 2nd, 2011
10:10 am

Inordinate ( I can to spell)

Mr. Obvious

March 2nd, 2011
10:11 am

RE: “The Thrashers are 28th in the 30-team NHL in home attendance, averaging 13,031. (Philips Arena seats 16,300 or thereabouts.) ” – Mark Bradley

Bradley,

Philips Arena seats 18,775 for Hockey.

It seats over 20,000 for Basketball.

Even if you are too lazy to do any research, you can find such information on any number of web sites, not the least of which include AtlantaThrashers.com, Hawks.com and PhilipsArena.com.

Get It Right!

Brett

March 2nd, 2011
10:12 am

Mark,

I think ownership has to show a desire to win! The AS hasn’t show any such desire!
They run the teams on the cheap the same way the run their other business. Unfortunately team success is related to money spent. I think new ownership will help both organizations in the long run! Any new ownership group is going to have to understand it’s going to be an uphill battle initially to get the fans back! They’ll need to show the willingness to put money into the teams. If only would could be in the situation Buffalo finds itself in now!

sugarpikegang

March 2nd, 2011
10:13 am

What if the issue is the facilities’ locale? I know that the Falcons are eager to move away from the downtown area. Would these teams be more appealing in an out-of-the-downtown area facility?

I think so.

Darkhorse

March 2nd, 2011
10:13 am

Yes, with new owners that actually enjoy owning, spending $$ on bringing in more legit NHL players to the roster, and have an understanding on how to market the Thrashers in Atlanta,

E43

March 2nd, 2011
10:14 am

There are many excuses that really don’t even matter. Your either going to watch the game or not. being ranked 25th is sad because Toronto and Cleveland are better in attendance than Atl.Fans with nothing showing you up is just unacceptable.

You either have enough heart to come watch the hawks or don’t. Anything else is just an excuse.

Darkhorse

March 2nd, 2011
10:15 am

….I would return to buying season tix.

As for the Hawks, don’t care much for today’s NBA, but would at least attend a few more games if it looked like the trickle down affect from new ownership was having a positive impact and results on the team.

Thrashers Season Tickets for 9 Years

March 2nd, 2011
10:19 am

As a Thrashers season-ticket holder for almost a decade, the entire Atlanta Spirit Group can all go burn in Hell with Hitler and Ted Kennedy.

After throwing my over-taxed money away on this team that shows no (consistent) heart on the ice, Winnipeg can have the Thrashers and the Hawks, too.

Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon, Jr. can both go infect each other and then go jump together in front of a MARTA train.

FunkyBobbyJ

March 2nd, 2011
10:21 am

I am a huge Hawks fan, been to three games this year – but they continue to take the wind outta my sails. I do not really care who the ownership is. If they are willing to spend money wisely to put the best product they can on the floor – I’ll get to the arena a few times a year. Like many have said – getting downtown for a week night game is almost impossible from the north side. Fighting to get downtown for a mediocre team – not gonna do that to often – regardless of ownership.

Mike

March 2nd, 2011
10:22 am

The NBA just doesn’t have the vibe/value compared to the NFL or college football. A week to week buildup for football, plus the fun of tailgating and having the game be an event just offers so much more than a Tuesday Wizards vs. Hawks game at 150 a ticket.

Phil Joe

March 2nd, 2011
10:25 am

Former Club Section season ticket holder. This season we purchased Thrashers tickets for 4 games. Next season considering half season tickets. With new owner half season tickets would be a lock.

YardDawg

March 2nd, 2011
10:26 am

“People are not going to pay to see substandard products.”
***************************************
You mean, people in Atlanta are not . . .

Most cities (other than Atlanta and Tampa) support their teams no matter how bad the product is.

uga_b

March 2nd, 2011
10:29 am

Mark, when Arthur came in he also realized he needed to cut ticket costs and reach out to the fans. It would take that level of commitment again.

ByteMe

March 2nd, 2011
10:30 am

One word: POLL!!!

5150 UOAD

March 2nd, 2011
10:30 am

Start giving unsold ticket to schools so the parents cant take the kids. Maybe if more children and parents became fans more people would then buy tickets.

wombat

March 2nd, 2011
10:30 am

Won’t affect my decision in the least. Back office squabbles are not what’s keeping me out of Phillips Arena.

Hillbilly Deluxe

March 2nd, 2011
10:35 am

If new owners made a commitment to winning, or at least trying to win, the fan attendance would increase. It would take a while to undo the damage that has been done by the current owners but it would happen in time.

If new ownership was about like the old ownership, they’d get a honeymoon period but in the long run people wouldn’t go.

Sports teams are a business and they have to give people a reason to buy the product. Consumers don’t owe them anything. Either they entertain the people or the people find something else to do.

Another Phil

March 2nd, 2011
10:38 am

@Mr. Obvious Bradley was talking about Philips the capacity at Philips @ around 16K with the curtain up over the 400 section, which is the case for most Thrashers and Hawks games.

Mark Bradley

March 2nd, 2011
10:40 am

Good idea, Byte. (See above.)

Mark Bradley

March 2nd, 2011
10:42 am

Capacity, according to ESPN, is listed for both Thrashers and Hawks games at 16,500 or so. Capacity, according to the Philips site, is listed at 18,500. I have now decided to use the Philips version.

alex

March 2nd, 2011
10:43 am

according to Forbes Atlanta second worst sport city in USA. doubt even perfect ownership can change that. example – braves in prosperity years and still no excitement despite big promotions from media unlike hockey, no more comment

Bluelander

March 2nd, 2011
10:48 am

Mark:

It should be noted that those attendance figures are tickets sold. There are often far less “butts in the seats” for both franchises. If you doubt me, try any midweek game of the Thrashers and Hawks (if it is not Boston, Miami or Lakers). What that says is that even the folks who are invested in the teams (season ticket holders) are looking for ways not to come. I think that if the new owner is committed to putting a winning product out there, things can and will change. Instead of blaming the fans for not showing up like the ASG does, new ownership must take accountability for the teams performance, listen to the fans opinions and be visible. Blank is a great example. There is always hope because you know he wants the team to succeed just as bad as the fans do. He will never stand pat. In Atlanta, lets face it, there are not enough hard core fans. That is basically what things have sunk to now down at Phillips. Only the “hard core” is showing up due to the mess that is the ASG. We need a change to stimulate the “casual fan” into believing in these teams again. We have no where to go but up in my opinion. Getting rid of the ASG is the first step.