There was a recent Tweet that showed the Wolves as the 5th most improved team in terms of TV viewership via sportsbusinessdaily.com. Wolves TV Viewership ranked in the top 5 in terms of increases from last season.
These numbers make sense. The Wolves were an already exciting team to watch last season after the rebuild was kicked off with Andrew Wiggins. The Wolves still had rookie Zach LaVine and second-year players Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng and then Anthony Bennett. Injuries became an issue and D-Leaguers filled the roster so the Wolves had enough players to play, but at least the young guys were clocking minutes. Kevin Garnett also came back after the trade deadline which could’ve hedged viewership with all of the injuries to Rubio, Martin, and other veterans.
So, to me, for viewership to increase by 17% from last season on Fox Sports North is still impressive. There are many factors to this. One variable to compare is did League Pass subscribers increase? Is it even an input to these numbers? Did the Fox Sports Go app have an impact? Personally speaking, the app never worked for me, but it may’ve increased the viewership by a few percentage points just due to the fact that people are not always home to watch games. Jim Petersen also seems like a league-wide favorite, rightfully so. His insights to gameplay gives you a coach’s perspective on what is happening on the floor.
But the concerning part is, overall attendance. The numbers speak for themselves, here is average attendance since 2012:
2012: 17,490 (15th)
2013: 16,340 (21st)
2014: 14,564 (27th)
2015: 14,528 (29th)
2016: 14,175 (29th)
This is a franchise-worst. The crazy thing is, most fans will tell you they haven’t been this excited for a Wolves team since 2003. So what is happening? Why the significant dip?
Tickets: The average Ticket Price for the Wolves this last season was 37.27, which is the 6th cheapest in the league. But below the Wolves are all teams that made the playoffs with the exception of the New Orleans Pelicans. That said, resale was highly regulated by Flash Seats this season so that may have been a factor. The whole Flash Seats fiasco could be the biggest reason why attendance dropped this season. Fans don’t react well to that significant of a change without a well though-out transition plan.
Target Center: Right now, the Target Center is nothing exciting or glamorous. Luckily renovations are coming soon. But there is nothing that is going to make fans excited to show up. The screen looks like a TV from 1998. The concourse isn’t lively. Its missing things that stick out. A lot of people attend Target Field and soon to be US Bank Stadium because they are state-of-the-art. The Wolves have to compete with both teams as sometimes, the stadium is a major part of the experience.
In-Game Experience: If you haven’t seen, I have a side-hobby of visiting a bunch of different NBA arenas. One thing I pay most attention to is the in-game experience. What is happening outside of the game that makes fans excited. If anything, the Wolves don’t do too much in this category and may be one of the worst of stadiums I’ve visited. Its harsh words, but as a former season ticket holder, not much has changed in the last 10 years. The Wolves need to tie in more Minnesotan culture to the games. That means the music being played and the contests that are happening align more to what Minnesotans can relate to. While in DC for the Wizards game, they played nothing but DC-artists for game breaks and even when players were bringing up the ball. The same audio has been used that is not engaging fans to get excited. You expect the ‘everybody clap your hands’ audio segment to be played about 5 times again and the fake-howl meter to play during opposing-team free throws. Some new things need to happen because if a fan has attended a game in the last 10 years, they likely know exactly what to expect when they attend their next game.
Continuing on with the in-game experience, the Wolves have to do better with their theme nights. I had the opportunity to attend the Wolves Latino Night as well as Noche Latino in Sacramento. They had the same host at both games so I figured it was a league wide-initiative. But the theme in Sacramento was very authentic and genuine. The night in Minnesota felt stereotypical and offensive. The Wolves could’ve used the ‘Los Wolves’ jerseys that most teams in the league used during that month. An exciting theme I did get to experience was 90’s night in Milwaukee. It was original and taken to the max. Check out the visit here. The Wolves tried a ‘ White Out’ theme against the Warriors that didn’t turn out too well. The Wolves handed out white towels and a majority of the fans in attendance were Warrior fans.
Jerseys: A way to potentially stir up some excitement is via jerseys. The Wolves didn’t wear throwbacks this season. I would’ve loved to see a game in some type of throwback, especially if Garnett were to wear one. Then, there are the current jerseys. My hope is that as soon as next season the Wolves change their jerseys and logo. These jerseys remind me of Johnny Flynn, Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. A new era of Timberwolves basketball has finally dawned and hopefully a end to the playoff drought can occur, without the current jerseys.
My apologies for being overly-critical and probably a little harsh. But the Wolves can capitalize on the team’s current situation. Wolves fans are excited about the team and there is no reason why the Wolves hit a franchise low in attendance this season. I hope that feedback from a former season ticket holder and long time fan can at least start the conversation on fixing the problem.
The Timber Rebuilder.