The Indiana Pacers released some fantastic news on Tuesday when they announced their season ticket sales had climbed almost 30 percent from this time last year. They wouldn’t cite an exact number of season ticket holders — which includes full, half and 11-game ticket holders — but did say the 30 percent was around 1,200 new ticket holders.
I was a first-year Pacers season ticket holder last year and I remember talking about the Colin Cowherd controversy with my ticket representative. The subject of how many season ticket holders the Pacers came up and he said it was somewhere around 5,000. The Pacers said on Tuesday that more than 90 percent of last year’s season ticket holders renewed, so if we take a base of 5,000 ticket holders and a base of 90 percent, we get 4,500 people who renewed. Now add in the new 1,200 and the Pacers are looking at a total increase of 700 season ticket holders.
One thing we have to factor in is whether or not the Pacers count each season ticket as an individual holder or if we are looking at 5,700 individuals who could have more than one ticket. If we go with the former, that leaves roughly 12,465 available seats at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but having 31 percent of your seats already sold is still an impressive feat for the Indiana Pacers.
The rise in season ticket sales should show everyone in Indianapolis that Cowherd’s assumption of race being the main factor behind the Pacers lackluster ticket sales for the past eight seasons was completely off base. Cowherd used Facebook comments, from so-called Pacers fans, that stated the Malice in the Palace and subsequent “thuggish” news headlines turned them off from the Pacers. Now those folks had a point, but that point doesn’t make sense any longer. Those “thuggish” players haven’t been part of the Pacers since those incidents.
Cowherd forgot to mention how bad the Pacers performance on the court was during those years. While a lot of fans probably gave up on the team in the immediate years following the Brawl, the rest fell off because it wasn’t worth paying to watch an underperforming team every night. But that has all changed now thanks to Larry Bird.
Bird got rid of the troubled players and began the rebuilding process. He approached the process in a methodical fashion by not overspending on free agents or trading future draft picks to move up — something he could have done since the Pacers only had one top 10 draft pick the entire time. Instead, Bird used his ability to find the best talent in the middle of the draft and with the help of head coach Frank Vogel has turned the Pacers into an actual team.
Now the Pacers are championship contenders — something they haven’t been since 2003-04 — and the fans are beginning to come back. The public and media has to remember that regaining the trust of a fan base takes time and even though the Pacers have been a solid team for the past two seasons, that doesn’t make up for the other seven quite yet. The Pacers just need to live by one motto now; “If you win, they will come.”