The Columbus Blue Jackets saw their best attendance in six years at Nationwide Arena during the past season, even as the team fell out of playoff contention amid a rash of injuries.
In 41 home games, the team averaged 15,511 fans, according to ESPN.com, up 5.5 percent from 14,698 in the previous season and the most since 15,543 per game during the 2008-09 campaign.
Attendance still was far from the historic peak achieved in the club’s second season, 2001-02, when 18,136 seats were filled per game at Nationwide Arena, which has a capacity of about 18,500. It also fell below the 16,000 fans that President Mike Priest said is one ingredient needed to make the team profitable. There were other highs when Nationwide Arena unveiled the National Hockey League’s All-Star Game logo. There were also surges during the open houses Nationwide Arena held to make the players more accessible to the Columbus community.
Larry Hoepfner, the team’s executive vice president of business operations, told me the organization did well to overcome the injuries and keep the fan base engaged through Friday’s home finale against the Buffalo Sabres.
“I think the message for us is we continue to make strides,” Hoepfner said. “This team fought through a great deal of adversity this year. This was another step along the way.”
Heading into the season, momentum from a Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance and hype leading up to hosting the NHL All-Star Game helped the Blue Jackets sell more than 10,000 season tickets for the first time since 2009 as well has helping downtown Columbus restaurants get their money’s worth.
Through 24 home games before the All-Star break, the Blue Jackets drew 15,649 fans per game, but that sagged over the final 17 home contests as the team fell out of the playoff hunt. Still, a 13-game point streak to finish off the season helped the team draw about 16,000 per game over the final five home games, Hoepfner said.
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