Moncton Magic attendance climbs after worries about move to Avenir Centre
Team set attendance record at new venue Sunday, drawing almost 2,000
Attendance at Moncton Magic basketball games is almost 30 per cent higher for home games halfway through the team's first season at the Avenir Centre compared to last season at the Coliseum.
The National Basketball League of Canada team has averaged 1,221 fans over its last 11 home games, according to league data. That's compared to an average of 954 over the same period last season.
A Sunday game against the Saint John Riptide saw 1,964 attend, setting a record for the team at the Avenir Centre.
Deputy Mayor Greg Turner is a season ticket holder and regularly attends Magic games.
"I've seen the crowd dwindle some nights and be really strong other nights," Turner said. "Not consistently good, but obviously this weekend was the highlight."
He said weeknight games have had weaker attendance, with figures dropping below 1,000 for such games in November and January.
The rise in average attendance comes in a year the team feared for its financial stability during the move to the new venue. If the team doesn't hit revenue targets, it could receive a subsidy from the City of Moncton.
The team forecast revenue of $644,682 this season had it remained at the Coliseum, according to figures provided to city council last August. The team slashed that to $310,897, with projected declines in revenue from ticket sales, sponsorships, concession and merchandise at the Avenir Centre.
City council voted 9-2 to cover the potential shortfall.
The team did not provide an interview. It's not clear whether any of that funding will be required, which would only be provided at the end of the season after the city reviews the team's finances.
Turner said councillors have not been given an update on whether city funding may be required.
Isabelle LeBlanc, a spokesperson for Moncton, said in an emailed statement the city is pleased with the attendance numbers. She said the funding agreement requires updates throughout the season and is based on overall revenue to the team, not an attendance range.
Any payment would be determined at the end of the season once further information is received from the team about how much "the team would be able to receive."
Mike Storey, the team's vice-president of operations, told reporters last August that it would be a challenge to fill seats at the new venue.
"We have to quickly find a way to get more people in that building," he said at the time. Asked how many people would have to attend games, he said the team projected it would need about 2,000 to "poke its head above water."
The team has eight more regular-season home games left to play. It sits atop the league in points, with 17 wins and eight losses.
Audley Stephenson, the deputy commissioner of the National Basketball League of Canada, said he's pleased to see what's happening in Moncton.
"They're charting for growth," he said. "We're not seeing this number as a ceiling … as long as they continue to be successful on the court, that will certainly help at the gate."
Though each market varies, he said the average attendance isn't far off figures for other teams.
The Magic, a new organization with different owners, replaced the Moncton Miracles before the 2017-18 season.