Monday, June 05, 2006

If a Tree Falls in the Forest . . . It has not escaped the BasketCases' attention (or that of message board posters) that the Mystics' three home games this season have been among the least attended (if not the least attended) games in franchise history. And we aren't talking just a bit lower here. No, as of today, only Charlotte (the perennial bottom-feeder of WNBA attendance) and the expansion Chicago Sky (who have yet to win a regular season game at home) are averaging fewer fans than are the Mystics. That's scary. For several years, attendance was the one positive that Mystics fans could count on. But long gone are the days when 16,000 screaming fans would fill the Phone Booth game in and game out, generally to see the Mystics lose but still coming back, hoping against hope that this year would be the year. It never was. We don't blame folks for tiring of the soap opera that the original owners made of this team: the revolving door of coaches, the lack of a true GM (yes, Pat Summitt may be a hall of fame college coach, but if truth be told, she did exactly nothing to improve this franchise), some less than stellar draft choices, and ownership's benign neglect of plan-holders and other Mystics fans.

Now, however, the Mystics have stability in coaching, a real GM who has worked actively and successfully to improve the team through trades and free agent pickups, and a roster of truly talented players who also seem to enjoy playing together. Unfortunately, there are few fans left to see the results. Sheila Johnson and her staff -- who are not responsible for what went before -- have inherited a real mess. To say that they have a challenge ahead of them is an understatement. Following 8 years of disappointment on and off the court, how do the new owners go about winning back the biggest fan base in WNBA history? The BasketCases wish they knew the answer. Unfortunately, one thing is certain: it will take more than a friendly panda.


At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that it really is depressing. I just hope that don't resort to the past practice of nearly giving away tickets. I know that that last year some fans felt ripped off paying full price then Washington Sports had lots of fire sales.They didn't renew.

I'm hoping if the Mystics win a game or two more, the attendence will pick up. Everyone love to see a winner.

At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Kayaker said...

While I share season's tickets with others, I've already bought tickets to two additional games because I'm so excited about the way they are playing. Hopefully, there are others out there who will start to do the same thing.

At 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From BobScoutingReport:

I attended a game last year in DC & felt the place had the atmosphere of "Charlotte North." It was far different from the vibrant crowds of prior years. I'm really concerned as this trend started last year & continues.

My question is what is the cause?

The Nationals? Did baseball take away most Mystic support?

I heard the prior owners gave away lots of Mystic tickets for years to fill seats? Possible I say, but 5,000 drop is a lot of disappearing & could so many have been free?

Was Ms. Johnson duped into buying a loser posing as a properous franchise? How long will the new owners put up with these losses before opting out as is possible?

At 10:15 AM, Blogger BasketCases said...

Bob, I think the Nats impact was minor. Some people may have chosen to spend their sports entertainment dollars on baseball, but that doesn't account for the steadily declining attendance.

The prior owners DID indeed paper the house. Some planholders got tired of all the freebies going to everybody but them! The numbers now are much much lower, but at least they represent real ticket sales.

I rather doubt that Sheila Johnson was "duped". I suspect that SJ and her organization did due diligence before taking the plunge. They are working to turn things around. Doesn't happen overnight. The team is actually owned by Lincoln Holdings with Ted Leonsis as majority partner. Ted has been a frequent fan at Mystics games. From what I've read, SJ is a billionaire. Ted and Sheila can probably afford to carry a losing franchise longer than most owners...just think of the tax savings!

Thanks for your comments!


At 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From BobScoutingReport:

Thanks for the reply!

So what you are saying is that the prior ownership gave away tickets to the extent that maybe 5,000 seats per night were free-bees! Wow! In Orlando in the last year before they left, the Mystics couldn't give away tickets & have people show up to fill seats to any extent. At least they came in DC! But, still, that is a lot of give-aways!

More WNBA cities than not suffer attendance problems but continue to publish "supposedly sold" ticket figures which are much higher. I for one am a huge fan of the WNBA, but firmly believe the league only continues to exist due to the backing of David Stern. I keep hearing the league is close to overall profitability and say I only wish it was true.

At 10:29 PM, Blogger BasketCases said...

While the prior owners did tend to paper the house, we don't think the entire drop off is due to the end of freebies. We've talked to many former planholders, and they left out of disgust, for all the reasons we mentioned in the blog.

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