Bad News for the Bobcats

Creative Loafing Charlotte columnist Tara Servatius recently wrote this column about the uncertain future of the Charlotte Bobcats NBA franchise. As anyone that follows Charlotte sports knows, the Bobcats are having a difficult time simply generating interest in the Charlotte area, to say nothing of actually selling tickets or merchandise. The team has given free tickets to the homeless and slashed season ticket prices in attempts to fill the seats at the Bobcats Arena (I won’t call it the “Time Warner Cable Arena” until TWC pays me $1,000 per mention on this site). No matter what they do, Charlotteans just don’t seem to care.

Servatius’ column bears this out. In a recent study released by Public Policy Polling, 500 North Carolinians were asked which sporting event they would attend if they could get free tickets. Here are the results:

Sporting Event Percentage
Carolina Panthers 29%
UNC Basketball 28%
Duke Basketball 13%
Carolina Hurricanes 10%
Charlotte Bobcats 5%

The numbers get even more amazing when you consider that 18% of overall respondents didn’t even know that North Carolina had an NHL team (this includes an incredible 6% of the people in the 919 (Raleigh) area code, where the Hurricanes play). So twice as many people said they’d go to a Hurricanes game than a Bobcats game, even though almost 20% of the overall respondents had no idea that there even was an NHL team nearby! That’s bad news for the Bobcats, folks!

Even worse, of the 5% that said that they’d prefer to go to a Bobcats game, only 1% were white. And no, that’s not a typo: of the 25 people that said they’d prefer a Bobcats game, 24.75 of those people were non-white. So when I say that white people “couldn’t care less” about the Charlotte Bobcats, it’s almost mathematically accurate. And here in the city of Charlotte – which is run by a bunch of white bankers – that ain’t good.

Now, I don’t know the full details of either the study or the overall situation with NASCAR and college tickets.

I do not know, for example, the geographic makeup of the people in the study. I, for one, would prefer tickets to either a Panthers or Bobcats game, simply because they’re local. I just don’t care enough about UNC or Duke to drive to Chapel Hill or Durham to watch a game. I’d probably enjoy a Hurricanes game, but not when the minor league Charlotte Checkers are local, and have much cheaper tickets.

I also don’t know if UNC or Duke tickets are hard to come by. Many sports fans would jump at the chance to get free tickets to certain events (whether they actually like the teams or not), simply because many sports teams have sold out every single home game for ages. Think of the Pittsburgh Steelers or Green Bay Packers, for example. Maybe UNC basketball tickets are similarly hard to get, so respondents were thinking “Free Tarheel basketball tickets? My dad’s been on the season ticket waiting list for 12 years! Hell yeah, I’d drive 3 hours for that!”

Whichever way you slice and dice the numbers, it just ain’t good for the Bobcats… and also, perhaps, the Charlotte-area taxpayer. The Bobcats Arena’s lease says that Bob Johnson is responsible for all losses incurred at the arena. Taxpayers better hope that the arena lease is bulletproof, or we could all end up footing the bill for a team (and arena) that no one seems to care about… especially after ol’ Bob’s well-publicized meltdown back in April.

The full text of the study is available here (PDF).

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