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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Are New York Islanders Padding Attendance Figures?

Some very strange anomalies in reported attendance figures for the New York Islanders hockey club, namely, similar numbers for crowds for different games, when seating capacity is not an issue.

In 2013-14, they had five crowds end with "008," three with "108," three with "888" and four ending with "922." Seating capacity doesn't explain it - the Islanders play at the Nassau Coliseum which officially seats 16,170. These digital similarities cannot be a coincidence. (Evidence: See…/new-york-islanders/2013/.) 

(This type of apparent padding has been suspected in the past. See this 2005 article reporting on a largely empty Continental Arena for New Jersey Devils' games.  And years ago, I saw the gross ticket revenues reported in a franchise's prospectus -- the team was going public -- and those numbers required either sharp discounting or absolute giveaways of tickets in order to avoid a conclusion of serious crowd padding.) 

Other seasons also have evidence of this trend. In 2014-15, there have been at least two crowds (one was tonight) ending with "888." Oh, and in 2012-13 there were four crowds ending with "22" and two crowds ending with "888."

Are the Islanders trying to make Nassau Coliseum crowds look bigger in order to induce a Coliseum renovation? Are the Islanders looking far down the road or hedging their bets, perhaps at a return to Nassau Coliseum if Barclays Center (to which they move in the fall of 2015) exercises a reported "out clause" in the team's new lease after five years? 

The implications of the numbers game, and the reported arena out clause, suggest the Islanders' future in New York is not secure -- not contractually at least. (It is highly unlikely the team would move out of the New York area, for the simple reason that it would lose a lucrative cable television contract, and that comes straight off net cash flow, thus destroying the team's potential out-of-market valuation and potential sale price.)

These are just questions, but the reported attendance figures raise legitimate questions. As nothing occurs by random and it is highly unlikely (like, Earth-getting-hit-by-asteroid-unlikely), explanations are warranted. 

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