Florida Panthers improving poor attendance numbers with tarps

Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

The struggling franchise is manipulating capacity at BB&T Center.

As many teams can attest, a new owner does not mean attendance issues will suddenly go away. The Florida Panthers are learning that lesson this season and have even been adjusting seating at BB&T Center to manipulate attendance numbers.

Despite being bought by Vinny Viola in the offseason, ESPN reports the Panthers are operating at 86 percent capacity. The BB&T holds 19,250 fans, so that doesn't really make sense when pictures like this get tweeted from Panthers games every week.

A report from the Miami Herald on Thursday explains the discrepancy. The Panthers have reduced arena capacity by placing tarps over seats in the upper deck during certain games. So the Panthers are actually operating at 76 percent of the BB&T Center's total capacity, good for 29th in the NHL.

The Panthers' poor performances last season and early this season combined with the loss of franchise player Stephen Weiss have contributed to the downswing in attendance. The Herald says the team is announcing 2,334 fewer fans per game than in 24 home games last season.

The team tried to create excitement in a market that yawned. The Panthers slashed prices on season tickets - some were going as low as $7 per game - with a number of perks to those who signed on.

Perks the Panthers offered season-ticket holders include free parking (they now charge $20 per car), a free home jersey and tickets to select concerts (which turned out to include Barry Manilow and comedian Jeff Dunham) and other home games.

Time will tell if these new strategies will work in the long term.

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