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Qingdao home season attendance figures fail to live up to expectations

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Tracy McGrady played the last home game of the season for the Qingdao Eagles on Wednesday. As has been par for the course, they lost, this time to Zhejiang. Whether it was the last home game of McGrady’s career is still up in the air.

Obviously, from a record standpoint, nobody in Qingdao thought it was going to go down like this at the beginning of the season.

But besides the wins (way too few) and the losses (way too many), there’s something else in Qingdao that hasn’t gone as well as initially anticipated: Ticket sales.

Expecting a huge swell in local demand from fans eager to see their longtime hero, the club acted quickly to move their home stadium, which was originally located on the campus of Qingdao University, to the much larger 12,000 seat capacity GuoXin Stadium. The logic isn’t difficult to follow — T-Mac is a walking god in China and conventional wisdom would suggest that many people would be willing to pay to see him in person.

Like we said, it’s not advanced trigonometry. But for those who either went to the stadium or watched on television this season, you probably noticed something kind of… empty. As in all of the empty seats. The many, many empty seats…

Just how many exactly? According to an article that came out yesterday in Qingdao local media, Qingdao averaged 41% capacity throughout the season. And although total attendance figures were the highest in club history, they did not come close to leveling out with pre-season expectations, according to GuoXin Party committee deputy secretary, Guo Min.

“This season’s attendance did not add up to what we originally thought,” said Guo. “We’ve already added it all up. For the two games against Guangdong and Beijing, attendance was over 8,000 people. Against Shandong, Bayi, Xinjiang and our season opener against Foshan, it was over 5,000 people.”

On average this season, attendance was at 5,000 people per game.

“To be honest, although this season’s ticket profits increased by a good amount, it was still very far from what we forecasted at the beginning of the season. Taking away various stadium costs, security and other costs, we can only say there was a slight profit.”

Profits were further limited because GuoXin was also responsible for paying other team costs such as player living costs, food, practice and other expenses.

The numbers are more disappointing when compared to other teams. According to an anyonymous insider quoted in the article, Guangdong and Beijing both accumulated more than CNY 2 million off ticket sales last year. This season in Qingdao with McGrady in tow, the team was unable to even approach those type of figures.

“Right now we’re really far away from getting to that goal. We’re not even at half of that.”

For us, 5,000 people per game seems awfully low. At first glance, you could say the Eagles’ light-speed quick spiral to the bottom of the standings contributed to the lack of demand. But then you read that even their home opener against Foshan was only slightly above average. The article moves to dismiss other potential reasons like fake tickets (“eradicated,” as written by the author) and free tickets given out to government/companies/other big wigs (which were apparently kept to a minimum).

Like at every arena this season, the cost of tickets increased. In Qingdao, there were seven pricing options. The cheapest ticket cost CNY 30 while average lower level seats cost CNY 500 — a 150% increase over last year. Courtside seats cost more than 10,000 a pop and special T-Mac signed VIP tickets, which were only limited to 10 per game, cost an even 10,000.

Still, with all of that being said, why did so many people stay home? Do they not like basketball that much in Qingdao? Was everyone bummed out about losing Li Gen? Is everybody too busy drinking beer? Please, if you have any ideas, leave some in the comments.

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2 Responses to “Qingdao home season attendance figures fail to live up to expectations”

  1. JimiLives Says:

    People here love basketball. I play almost every day, so I’ll throw in my two cent’s — or two fen’s — worth, given from the perspective of someone who attended the Eagles’ games both as a fan (buying tickets) and later as a member of the credentialed media.
    People are willing to pay high ticket prices to NBA games because they want to see the players — LeBron, D-Wade, Kobe, Kevin Durant, CP-3, Blake Griffin and Carmelo Anthony — do their thing. Those players are compelling. I’m guessing that the same holds true for the CBA, especially in a market like Qingdao.
    Other than McGrady Qingdao had no one truly compelling, especially among the Chinese players since Li Gen left for Beijing. And after a while, T-Mac really wasn’t all that compelling anymore.
    When he came, McGrady was packaged as a guy who would deliver 30, 40 or even 50 points, along with a few dazzling highlight plays, every game. But fans realized fairly quickly that their idealized vision of McGrady no longer existed. McGrady was still savvy enough to average 25 per, but the athleticism and explosiveness that fans loved so much was long gone.
    It seemed that most local fans were content to come to the games once, just to say they saw McGrady play in person. After that there was no compelling reason to come back. The team was losing, McGrady wasn’t going to drop 70 points on anyone or go 13 points in 35 seconds, and while Li Tao and Zhao YongGang had their moments, there were no great or up-and-coming Chinese players to watch.
    Put it all together and you have disappointing attendance numbers.

    Reply

  2. Steven Says:

    It has long been noted that attendance at events in Qingdao is not what it should be. Promoters and fans in the Dao are flustered and frustrated to see low numbers at world class performances, whether sports, music, drama, you name it, QD yin (qd hua for ren) and QD wai di/guo yin are just off doing something else when events are taking place. Off drinking beer, working, eating ga la, stuck in traffic, at home to avoid the traffic… they’re just somewhere else … even online there’s relatively less participation/engagement than in comparable 2nd tier cities in China.

    Weird it is, reason cannot be named. Couldn’t have helped that they lost a bunch out of the box. Also, Guoxin Arena is a bit on the outskirts, and hard to get to by bus/taxi (no subway in QD yet).. private car is how many got to see the team lose this year. Really should’ve stayed at QDU venue, which is in town and very accessible. It would’ve been packed, creating high energy and higher interest in attaining a hard to get ducat. Hopefully T-Mac comes back, and the Shuang Xin brain trust gets some support for him, better luck next year.

    Reply

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