By: Dan Hauser
It’s no question that the sports franchises in south Florida have struggled with attendance for years now. With sub-par performance on the field and the sun and fun options off the field attendance at sporting events has taken a significant hit. Let’s take a look at each team individually.
The Miami Heat was this year’s NBA Champions and since signing the big three of Lebron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade two years ago has seen a significant increase in season ticket sales and demand for tickets. Let’s not forget, however, two years ago when the Heat had to launch the “Fan Up” campaign to get fans to stop showing up late and leaving early, a staple in the South Beach lifestyle. The Heat seems to be the most successful franchise in the area right now and should remain so as long as they keep up the winning.
The Florida Panthers made the Stanley Cup Finals during the 1995-96 season and have not had much success on the ice since then and their attendance has suffered for a decade plus. The arena name might have changed a half a dozen times but one thing has stayed consistent, the empty seats. Even this past season as the Panthers made the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season the franchise struggled to fill up the building. Lower bowl tickets were available for purchase far under face value and they even had trouble selling out for the playoff games.
The Miami Marlins have been one of the most scrutinized franchises in all of professional sports and yet with next year being their 20th year of existence (2nd under the new Miami Marlins name) have already managed to win two World Series Championships. Yet they have had some of the worst attendance numbers. The opening of the new stadium and the splashy new pay roll was supposed to change things but with the underwhelming season followed by yet another trade deadline dump the new Miami Marlins find themselves in the same spot the old Florida Marlins did. While they rank 18th this year with an average attendance of just over 27,000 per game attendance has died off since the all-star break. Tickets to Marlins games right now start at just $.75.
Football is king in this country. Unless you are the Miami Dolphins and have not had much success since Dan Marino retired. One playoff appearance since 2001 and only one winning season since 2006 has caused issues with ticket sales over the last few years. While the Dolphins have not been blacked out like our neighbors in Tampa due to lack of sellouts, those sellouts have not come easy. Over the years tickets have had to be purchased by local television and radio stations, car dealerships, and other organizations and given out in order for the stadium to remain or look full. Attendance for this past Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders was listed at 54,245, which is about 70% capacity. However, it appeared that attendance was closer to the 50% mark than the 70% mark. Tickets this past weekend were as cheap as $24 and there were a lot of free tickets being offered up. You would think that with the rival New York Jets coming to town this weekend that attendance would increase but the question would be how many Jets fans will be out there. Dolphins fans seem to be taking a “wait and see” attitude with this team right now.
Then you have the Miami Hurricanes. While they are not a professional franchise, The U is a long way away from their dominant days in the Orange Bowl and their performance on the field isn’t the only thing that has taken a hit. They now play in the same 75,000-seat stadium the Dolphins play in and their attendance has suffered. Tickets were going for as cheap as $4 to this past weekend’s home opener against Bethune Cookman and it still couldn’t get butts in the seats. There is no doubt that games like Florida State and Virginia Tech will have large crowds but the days of large crowds no matter what the game have fallen by the wayside.
Mediocre performance coupled with the economy and all the other options in the area make South Florida sports a tough sell right now for everyone but the die hard fans.