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ALLEN, Texas – With the ECHL season coming down the home stretch there is some good news regarding attendance. Not an exciting topic but certainly an interesting one if you are looking at the health of your favorite team and the entire ECHL.

What you find when you look at average attendance over time is the ECHL will have an increase in attendance this season for the first time since 2013-14. Average attendance was 4706 in 2013-14 and declined each year, bottoming out at 4251 last season which had the lowest average attendance since 2007-08.

The good news is the recent downward trend has been reversed. With 823 of 972 (85%) games completed the average attendance is 4345 and should go up a little more over the last month of the season.

The information below is taken from the ECHL website and includes average league-wide attendance for the last ten years and a comparison of attendance from last year to this year for each ECHL team.

Here is the average ECHL attendance since 2007-08:

4345 – 2017-18 (823 of 972 games played)
4251 – 2016-17
4385 – 2015-16
4598 – 2014-15
4706 – 2013-14
4695 – 2012-13
4282 – 2011-12
4339 – 2010-11
4485 – 2009-10
4258 – 2008-09
4173 – 2007-08

If you look at the figures above some of the variation can be explained by teams coming and going from the league. However, until this season the recent trend was certainly downward. Even with the increase this season, the average ECHL attendance is 361 less per game than just five years ago. When you figure most ECHL teams get an estimated 60% – 70% of their revenue from ticket sales that is significant.

The next step is to look at the individual teams to compare average attendance from last season to this season to see who has lost attendance and who has gained attendance. The list below goes from the teams that have gained the most in average attendance from 2016-17 to 2017-18 to those that have lost the most. This compares the number of games the team played this season to the same number of games last season. The number in parenthesis is the average attendance for this season:

+1317 Cincinnati (5160)
+516   Tulsa (6089)
+454  Toledo (7538)
+386   Florida (5399)
+353   Idaho (4522)
+325   Kalamazoo (2638)
+284  Adirondack (3065)
+276   Indy (3871)
+262   Colorado (5011)
+183  Wichita (4852)
+173   South Carolina (3941)
+163   Fort Wayne (7715)
+114  Utah (5319)
+50     Orlando (5227)
000   Jacksonville (5574) – first year
000   Worcester (4302) – first year
-67     Brampton (2997)
-159   Greenville (3797)
-170    Kansas City (4886)
-215   Wheeling (2367)
-234   Allen (4005)
-247   Norfolk (2520)
-294    Rapid City (2999)
-371   Atlanta (4171)
-553   Quad City (3303)
-596   Reading (3243)
-646   Manchester (2715)

– If you look at the percentage of increase or decrease you get a little different picture than just looking at raw numbers.

Here are the five teams with the biggest average attendance increases and decreases compared to last season (same number of games). I have included each team’s winning percentage which shows there is more to sales and marketing success than on ice results.

Manchester has the sixth best winning percentage in the entire ECHL but has the largest percentage decrease in attendance in the league. Cincinnati is ranked #10 in the league but has by far the largest percentage increase (34.3%).

Five largest percentage increases:
+34.3% – Cincinnati – .593
+14.0% – Kalamazoo – .533
+10.2% – Adirondack  – .605
+9.3% –   Tulsa – .524
+8.5% –   Idaho – .631

Five largest percentage decreases:
-19.2% – Manchester – .631
-15.5% – Reading – .598
-14.3% – Quad City – .361
-8.9% –   Rapid City – .369
-8.9% –   Norfolk – .427

CONCLUSIONS 

– It is hard to show up on any improvement list when you consistently draw big crowds. A special acknowledgment to Fort Wayne who is averaging 7715 in attendance and Toledo who is averaging 7538. They are far and away the league leaders in attendance. These two teams are so successful they would rank in the top 10 in AHL in attendance.

– The ECHL average is better this season (4345) than last season (4251)  partially because of two teams dropping out (Elmira & Alaska) and two new teams starting up (Jacksonville & Worcester). Elmira (2300) and Alaska (3623) had a combined average for all of last season of 5923. They have been replaced by Jacksonville (5574) and Worcester (4302) with a combined average of 9876.

– One cause for concern is the number of teams averaging fewer than 3000 per game.  Here is the list.

2999 – Rapid City
2997 – Brampton
2715 – Manchester
2638 – Kalamazoo
2520 – Norfolk
2367 – Wheeling

If you look at the six teams on the list above some are of more concern than others. Wheeling and Kalamazoo survive even though they almost always average less than 3000. Kalamazoo has actually been one of the top teams in the league in percentage increase year over year both this season and last season. The biggest concern just looking at the numbers is Manchester who averaged 4622 their first year in the league (2015-16), 3580 last season and is averaging 2715 this season. Rapid City has experienced declining attendance since joining the ECHL in 2014-15 when the Rush averaged 3856. Since then the attendance has dropped to 3717 (2015-16), 3321 (2016-17) and now stands at 2799. Noteworthy because of the huge drop in attendance from last season are Quad City (-553), Reading (-596) and Manchester (-646).

– There are some good news stories as well. Double kudos to Cincinnati who has the largest increase in attendance (+1317 per game) and by far the largest percentage increase (34.3%). Tulsa leveraged an opening night crowd of 12,845 to the second best increase in average attendance in the league (+516). Toledo has increased their average attendance by 454 per game and lead the league in percent capacity. The Walleye average 7538 per game in an arena with a capacity of 7431 for a capacity percentage of 101.4%. Not that is getting the job done!

– There are 14 teams with increased attendance over last season and 11 with decreases. Next season Colorado, who averages 5011 per game, will move to the AHL and Quad City, who is averaging 3303 per game will cease operation. Two new teams will join the ECHL in St. John’s (Newfoundland and Labrador) and Portland (Maine). The two new teams were previously AHL franchises. In their last AHL season (2015-16) St. John’s average attendance was 5717 and Portland averaged 3363.

DID YOU KNOW: If you look at the top 10 in regular season average attendance in the history of the ECHL the same team holds the top four spots. Here is the list:

11433  –  Louisiana IceGators (1996-97)
11196  –  Louisiana IceGators (1997-98)
9857   –  Louisiana IceGators (1998-99)
9776   –  Louisiana IceGators (1995-96)
9473   –  Cincinnati Cyclones (1991-92)
9269   –  Greenville Grrrowl (1998-99)
9151   –  South Carolina Stingrays (1993-94)
8589   –  South Carolina Stingrays (1994-95)
8158   –  Ontario Reign (2013-14)
8130   –  Charlotte Checkers (1993-94)

1 COMMENT

  1. Well, hopefully the fans in Allen will start showing up at the end of the year to support their Americans bid for a playoff spot.

    I wonder, based on the attendance stats given, if Jack Gulati wishes he had purchased the Tulsa Oilers instead of the Americans, from the Steven Brothers. I seem to remember Jack stating, last year, after buying the Allen franchise, that with all he was doing to help the team, the fans needed to do their part, in putting, and I quote “butts in the seats”.

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