All the Empty Stadiums

Empty Seat Data
Attendance counts from

The average NBA stadium has a maximum capacity of approximately 19,000 seats. On average this season, there are 1,500 empty seats per game. As a result, we can tell that selling out games has become increasingly difficult for professional sports teams. Some teams are able to sell tickets just because their fan base is so strong, but for the majority of teams, the stadiums aren’t filling if the team isn’t competitive.

Teams like the Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, and Phoenix Suns are examples of teams who have a hard time filling the seats with their current roster. On average this season, the Suns have 17 percent of their seats vacant, Atlanta has 19 percent, and Brooklyn has a league high of 30 percent of stadium seats empty every game. It’s hard to imagine that teams with such large fan bases would have trouble filling their stadiums, but when you look at the price of admission it’s hard to blame people for choosing alternatives like watching from home.

Being a Detroit area native, I’m going to use the Detroit Pistons and the Little Caesars Arena for example. If you want to go see the Pistons play (a team that has only had one winning record in the last ten seasons) it will cost you $15.00 per person to sit in the top corner of the upper deck where part of the court view is blocked by the TV displays hanging from the ceiling. To get a seat in the upper deck anywhere near the midcourt line, you’re looking at $25.00 to $40.00 each. If you are looking for a seat in the lower bowl it will cost you no less than $55.00 per person.

For a family of four to go see a Pistons game sitting in decent upper bowl seats it would cost them between $100.00 to $160.00. The game excursion gets even more expensive when you add in ticket processing fees, parking and food. A simple family trip to see the Pistons play can quickly cascade to over $200.00 for average seats at best.

Empty LCA
Photo Credit: Mike A @mikea71

This year the Pistons are averaging the fifth most empty seats per game (3,908) in the NBA. Professional sports teams used to be able to get away with their high prices because there were very few options when it came to watching games. If it wasn’t featured on ESPN, TNT, or the local sports channel you were out of luck. Now however, there are plenty of alternatives to choose from when watching the NBA live.

Take the NBA’s streaming program for example. For $250.00 a year, you can stream any NBA game live with no commercials or go back and watch full game replays. Why bother spending over $200.00 to go see one game when you could have commercial free access to them all without leaving the comfort of your own home?

Another popular option is to go to a venue that pays for and displays the games. Instead of spending $30.00 to park, $40.00 per ticket, and $10.00 on a soft pretzel, you can go to a sports bar like Buffalo Wild Wings. At bars like this you have access to multiple live games for a fraction of the cost of stadium tickets, and you get great food on top of it.

NBA game tickets are too expensive and are becoming a once or twice a season outing for many. Teams like the Pistons need to start thinking about how they can lower the cost of game tickets instead of spending their time and money on changing the color of the seats so that the stadium doesn’t look empty. Regardless of the color of the seats the stadium is still boasting thousands of vacant seats and that is a shame. Lower the prices to fill your stadiums and show the fans they are important to your organization. Who knows, maybe you will sell a few more overpriced hot dogs while your fans enjoy the experience for less than a small fortune.

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