In a season where the Pacers have sold out just four games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Monday is one of the toughest nights to draw a crowd for the Indiana Pacers. Plenty of seats are available all over the arena as the Pacers host the Brooklyn Nets tonight at 7:00 p.m. That's despite a matchup of two winning teams battling for playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers (31-20) lead the Central Division and have won 15 of their last 16 home games.
"It is a little frustrating at times to see a lot of empty seats," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel at shoot around Monday morning, "because we've got a really good team, a fun team, a likeable team. But I understand weeknights. I have young children, so it's tougher for families in particular to come to games. But certainly we want to get to the point where it doesn't matter if it's a weeknight, weekend, big opponent, not big opponent – we see packed houses every night."
The Pacers rank 5th worst in NBA attendance, 26th out of the 30 teams, with an average attendance of 14,662.
WTHR asked on Facebook why more people are not coming to Pacers games. The question received hundreds of responses. Many people still appear to have a bad perception of the team based on incidents several seasons ago involving players that are no longer with the team. The Pacers organization has worked hard to put a winning team on the court fans can be proud of off the court as well. But a significant portion of people seem unwilling or slow to forgive.
Diane Stothard posted: "I know the current team has really cleaned up their act, but I just can't get past the idea of supporting a bunch of over-paid criminals."
Michael Wyrick added: "Social stigma from the "thug years" a few years back. Takes time to prove to people the atmosphere and attitude has changed. Success isn't all that sells tickets. It takes class too!"
Bradford Moulton responded: "Because of all the years we hired a bunch of Thugs!"
Comments like those were frequent. Many others complained about tickets prices and the affordability of a night out.
Larry Silver posted: "I watch it on TV. That way I don't have to pay the ticket service fees to the city!"
Tracy Puckett Newman added: "Ticket cost and the price of food or snacks makes it very unfriendly for families...not an affordable evening."
But a quick internet search found tickets on Stub Hub going for $5.00 or less in the balcony for tonight's game. The Colts sold out every home game at much higher prices, though far fewer games per season.
Pacers center Roy Hibbert has been proactive in trying to win fan support. This is the third season for Area 55. Fifty-five fans chosen by Hibbert through auditions are provided Pacers season tickets. George Hill and Paul George sponsor a similar section at the Fieldhouse.
"We want to give back and give away free tickets and have a welcoming family atmosphere," said Hibbert. "Whether it takes two years, five years, ten years to get it packed again, we're patient and we're just going to keep winning."
Pacers attendance is the topic of the JAM Session tonight on Eyewitness News at 5:30 p.m.
The Pacers are also home Wednesday against Charlotte at 7:00 p.m. You guessed it. Plenty of good seats available.