Kevin Johnson’s arena task force details Sacramento’s advantages over Seattle in report

Fans show support for Kevin Johnson, Ron Burkle, Mark Mastrov against Charlotte Bobcats. (Photo: Steven Chea)

Think Big Sacramento, the regional initiative focusing on building a new downtown arena, released a report today detailing the strength of the capital region’s professional sports market.

“Today’s report provides further proof that, pound for pound, Sacramento is one of the strongest and best performing markets in the NBA,” said Kunal Merchant, Executive Director of Think Big in a statement accompanying the “Home Court Advantage Report”.  “Whether measured by fan support, corporate support, or media market reach, Sacramento has proven to be a model for what a one‐team NBA market can be, should be, and is.”

According to the report, Sacramento consistently outdrew Seattle during the 23 years both cities had an NBA team, winning the attendance battle in 20 of those 23 seasons.  One of those three years came in 1987-88, when the Kings played at ARCO Arena I, their temporary home before Sleep Train Arena opened in 1988.  In that season, the Kings sold out every game, but due to ARCO I’s 10,333 seating capacity, they came up approximately 70,000 short of Seattle’s attendance that season.

While Sacramento was winning at the box office during that 23-year stretch, they were mostly struggling on the court.  The Kings had just seven-winning seasons, compared to 16 for the Sonics.  And during all of those losing years for the Kings, they had an incredible 97.6-percent attendance rate.

The report goes on to detail the marketshare for each team.  If Seattle is successful in bringing back the Sonics, they will have to share with three and possibly four other professional franchises.  The Kings are the only game in town, giving them 100 percent of Sacramento’s marketshare.

When market size is adjusted for 100-percent share, Sacramento comes just second to Orlando at 3.4 million households, according to the report.  When considering the presence of other major pro sports teams, Seattle would be ranked as the 25th largest NBA TV market.

While the raw numbers aren’t exactly the same, Chris Hansen’s Sonics Arena website concluded that Sacramento was the No. 2 adjusted sports-media market in its own separate study.

Think Big uses the same measurements to adjust radio markets and each city’s corporate base.  And each time, Sacramento comes out ahead of Seattle.

It’s difficult to delve too heavily in the report.  What is completely clear is that Sacramento’s attendance during the 23 seasons both cities had NBA franchises was superior to that of Seattle’s.  As far as TV marketshare, radio and corporate dollars, there is plenty that could be debated.  But the report lays out a fairly solid argument that Sacramento should remain an NBA city.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also provides game day coverage for NBA.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart".