See Part I here.
With the Thrashers' season at an end, it is time for us here at the Chronicle to step back and look at thins from a distance just as the Atlanta Spirit Group is hopefully doing. Toward that end, I will be posting a four part series designed to examine Atlanta as a sports market (parts one and two), then the Thrashers' place within that market (part 3), and finally the things that can be done to improve Atlanta's place therein (part 4).
In the first installment of this series, we saw that Atlanta, with far more choices available, attends their local sporting events at a much higher rate than fans in Toronto. If you take away the huge factor of college and professional football, the attendance per capita is roughly the same, but higher in Atlanta than our neighbor to the far north.
Let's make these same comparisons using three American markets. Chicago and Pittsburgh are generally considered to be two of the "best sports towns" in the US. We will examine their attendance numbers along with those in Columbus, which is home to the NHL team that I feel most closely mirrors the Atlanta Thrashers in most respects. All figures will be averages over the past ten years using the most data I can compile.
Team Sport Average per game attendance
Cubs Baseball 38,240
White Sox Baseball 27,645
Bears Football 62,166
Blackhawks Hockey 16,112
Notre Dame Football 80,795
Bulls Basketball 20,749
Aggregate Average 245,717
Per Game Per Team Average 40,952
Baseball (two teams), basketball, and hockey average 25,685
Per Capita Attendance at Baseball, Hockey, and Basketball: .0027
Metro Population 9,569,624
Pirates Baseball 22,608
Steelers Football 63,886
Penn State Football 107,131
Penguins Hockey 15,767
Aggregate Average 209,392
Per Game Per Team Average 52,348
Baseball, and hockey average 19,187
Per Capita Attendance at Baseball, Hockey, and Basketball: .0079
Metro Population 2,431,087
Blue Jackets Hockey 16,618
Ohio State Football 104,716
Cleveland Indians Baseball 27,094
Cleveland Blazers Basketball 18,440
Aggregate Average 166,868
Per Game Per Team Average 41,717
Baseball (Cleveland), basketball (Cleveland) and hockey average 20,717
Per Capita Attendance at Baseball, Hockey, and Basketball: .012 (hockey only- .0096)
Metro Population 1,725,570
So looking at the per capita attendance excluding football, Atlantans at .0039 are slightly better fans than their counterparts in Toronto (.0038), a good bit better than fans in Chicago (.0027), and fall far short of Pittsburgh (.0079) and Columbus (.0096 for hockey alone).
Since our whole point here is that Atlantans have more choices than other cities and attend sports in general at a higher rate, let's factor football back in and see the per capita yearly attendance rating for all cities. For this we'll add up the per game averages of all major teams then divide by the metro area population.
Columbus (Blue Jackets and Buckeyes only): .0703
Keep in mind that for Columbus we are using attendance figures not just of the Blue Jackets and Buckeyes who are in town, but also of the Cleveland Trailblazers and Indians two hours down the road. For Pittsburgh we are using attendance figures for Penn State University football located two hours away, and for Chicago we are including Notre Dame which is an hour and forty five minutes away. The University of Georgia is one hour and twenty minutes from downtown Atlanta.
When you look at the population and how they turn out for major sporting events, Atlanta eclipses Toronto and Chicago, but does not approach the numbers put up by Pittsburgh and Columbus, but Atlanta does enjoy a much larger population than the latter two cities. Thus, the Atlanta market is obviously a good one for sports in general. In my next installment we will examine the competition between the Thrashers, Hawks, Braves, Falcons, Yellow Jackets, and Bulldogs for Atlantans money and emotional investment, then we will explore what can be done to shift the balance more in favor of Atlanta's hockey franchise.
For the Blueland Chronicle, I'm Razor Catch Prey.