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Declining attendance isn't big worry to Jazz

Published: Monday, Feb. 25 2013 12:45 a.m. MST

As for the cost, Sundury isn’t complaining. Even though he is an “hourly worker” and his wife is a schoolteacher, he hasn’t been dissuaded from keeping his tickets despite the cost.

“I love watching the NBA,’’ he said. “Basketball is a game I was never able to play, but I enjoying watching it.’’

When Sudbury first started going to games over at the old Salt Palace, he paid $9 per ticket. Today his prime 8th-row midcourt ticket costs $175. For a pair of tickets, it costs him upwards of $12,000 a year.

Sudbury says he has noticed that a lot of the old regulars around him no longer attend games.

“There isn’t a game goes by that I don’t see a new person sitting by us,’’ he said. “There’s probably 10 different answers why people don’t come anymore.’’

One of those who stopped coming is Todd Noall, a 36-year-old from Draper who seems like just the kind of person the Jazz want to cultivate as a fan for the future. He runs his own advertising agency and held several thousand dollars worth of season tickets for eight years before giving them up a couple of years ago.

“To me, it feels like a mediocre product,’’ he says. “We need a marquee player. I used to enjoy watching D-Will (Deron Williams) when he was here, but there isn’t anyone real exciting to watch.’’

Noall also says he “got tired of the hip-hop culture’’ of the NBA and that he “couldn’t connect with the players’’ and longs for players like Karl Malone and John Stockton. He said he recently went with a friend to a Jazz game against a non-marquee team and left before halftime.

“I don’t miss it,’’ he said. “I don’t know if I’d ever be a season-ticket holder again.’’

Winning still seems to be the main factor in filling the arena and no one knows that better than Rigby. Teams such as Sacramento and Detroit, which were among the best in the NBA in the past decade, have seen their attendance plummet as their records have gone south.

“No question, all of our market research shows you can track attendance and your win-loss record and it flows right with it,’’ Rigby said. “As the team goes, has a big element to attendance. A lot of your core base is there through thick and thin. But you have a certain fan base that has a limited amount of expendable income. They follow you a little more if you’re on that winning road.’’

Rigby says the Jazz also try to keep their prices down as much as possible.

“We are extremely sensitive to pricing and we know that people work very hard for their incomes,’’ he said. “We constantly look at market research as to how we are compared to other NBA teams and feel very good about how we base our pricing for our fan base so that it’s affordable and works for this market place.’’

Rigby says roughly 40 percent of the seats in the arena are under corporate accounts with the other 60 percent under individuals. He said the Jazz management is constantly looking at ways to improve the product and to provide a “clean, safe environment” for “fun family-friendly entertainment.’’

Sudbury complains about the outrageous concessions prices, but something that keeps him coming back year after year is his respect for the Jazz management.

“They’ve always treated us like gold,’’ he said. “I don’t have one bad thing to say about them. The management couldn’t be better.’’

While Sudbury is frustrated that the Jazz have never won a championship, he says the lack of a title will not keep him from retaining his seats.

“It boils down to this,’’ he says. “Are they competitive and is the game fun?’’

Rigby feels confident the Jazz will continue to remain competitive and entertaining and that fans will again fill the EnergySolutions Arena to capacity.

“They love the Utah Jazz. They’re very supportive and they will come back as we continue to play hard and put on a very good entertainment package,’’ Rigby said. “We’re going to do everything we can to earn that trust and continue to make it a great experience for everyone."

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