Posted by: Ethan Johnson | August 24, 2010

WNBA: 2010 Regular Season Attendance Analysis

Here is my detailed analysis of the WNBA 2010 regular season attendance data. Who drew the biggest crowds? Who might be fueling a dispersal draft?

Before I present the numbers, I want to run down a quick list of assumptions/expectations/hypotheses that drove my data collection efforts:

  • WNBA teams are alleged to be profitable if they can draw at least 7000 fans per game. I don’t know if this is absolute truth, as I have heard adjusted figures like “8500” bandied about. In any event, any team that averaged 7000+ fans per game was deemed “profitable” for the purposes of this exercise.
  • One of the “haters” claimed (elsewhere, I refuse to go dig up the supporting citation) that no sport/team is “legit” until they draw at least 10,000 fans per game. This is an arbitrary goalpost that can shift without notice or reason, so for fun, teams are deemed “legit” if they averaged 10,000+ fans per game.
  • Another benchmark for WNBA league/team health that I use is % Capacity per Venue. I have done my best to research/extrapolate what each WNBA venue officially holds, but if anyone has contrary information as to venue capacity please pass it along.

And now, the numbers:

Atlanta Dream
Venue Capacity: 18729
2010 Average Attendance: 6529
Average Capacity: 35% full
7K Profitability Average: 93.28% (sad trombone)
10K Legitimacy Average: 65.29%
2010 Total Attendance: 104468
2009 Total Attendance: 120737
2008 Total Attendance: 138252
Verdict: I’d be worried, except the Dream owner seems pretty “invested” in the WNBA.
NOTE: Attendance figures are not available for 6/4. Missing data have been factored out of the above totals.

Chicago Sky
Venue Capacity: 7000
2010 Average Attendance: 4292
Average Capacity: 61% full
7K Profitability Average: 61.31% (Facepalm)
10K Legitimacy Average: N/A
2010 Total Attendance: 72959
2009 Total Attendance: 63521
2008 Total Attendance: 62146
Verdict: If they survived the Chicago market all those years at the UIC Pavilion, they’re probably not folding their tent one year into their Rosemont Horizon Allstate Arena stint. Plus, attendance was up thanks to the venue change, which bodes well for 2011.

Connecticut Sun
Venue Capacity: 9518
2010 Average Attendance: 7486
Average Capacity: 79% full
7K Profitability Average: 106.95% (Jackpot!)
10K Legitimacy Average: N/A
2010 Total Attendance: 127268
2009 Total Attendance: 115496
2008 Total Attendance: 143196
Verdict: Safe.

Indiana Fever
Venue Capacity: 18345
2010 Average Attendance: 8265
Average Capacity: 45% full
7K Profitability Average: 118.07% (cha ching!)
10K Legitimacy Average: 82.65%
2010 Total Attendance: 140504
2009 Total Attendance: 134964
2008 Total Attendance: 130941
Verdict: Safe.

Los Angeles Sparks
Venue Capacity: 18997
2010 Average Attendance: 9468
Average Capacity: 50% full
7K Profitability Average: 135.25% (cha ching!)
10K Legitimacy Average: 94.68%
2010 Total Attendance: 160951
2009 Total Attendance: 176507
2008 Total Attendance: 161639
Verdict: Ca-mon, Lisa Leslie retired, Candace Parker had shoulder surgery, and the season officially stunk, and they still sold tickets. Safe as safe can be.

Minnesota Lynx
Venue Capacity: 19006 (Verification needed)
2010 Average Attendance: 7622
Average Capacity: 40% full
7K Profitability Average: 108.89% (cha ching!)
10K Legitimacy Average: 76.22%
2010 Total Attendance: 129582
2009 Total Attendance: 128127
2008 Total Attendance: 119972
Verdict: “Safe” but I always worry about the Lynx folding. Nice to see attendance creeping up to assuage my fears.

New York Liberty
Venue Capacity: 19763
2010 Average Attendance: 11069
Average Capacity: 56% full
7K Profitability Average: 158.13% (cha ching!)
10K Legitimacy Average: 110.69%
2010 Total Attendance: 188173
2009 Total Attendance: 166604
2008 Total Attendance: 134379
Verdict: Safe, safe, safe. They’re moving to a new venue next season while MSG gets renovated, but hearts and minds seem to have been won in earnest.

Phoenix Mercury
Venue Capacity: 18422
2010 Average Attendance: 8979
Average Capacity: 49% full
7K Profitability Average: 128.27% (cha ching!)
10K Legitimacy Average: 89.79%
2010 Total Attendance: 152636
2009 Total Attendance: 144884
2008 Total Attendance: 144767
Verdict: Very safe indeed.

San Antonio Silver Stars
Venue Capacity: 18787
2010 Average Attendance: 8042
Average Capacity: 43% full
7K Profitability Average: 114.88% (cha ching!)
10K Legitimacy Average: 80.42%
2010 Total Attendance: 136706
2009 Total Attendance: 127957
2008 Total Attendance: 135722
Verdict: Should be safe.

Seattle Storm
Venue Capacity: 10833
2010 Average Attendance: 8322
Average Capacity: 77% full
7K Profitability Average: 118.88% (cha ching!)
10K Legitimacy Average: 83.22%
2010 Total Attendance: 141472
2009 Total Attendance: 133858
2008 Total Attendance: 140503
Verdict: Safe-a-do-la!

Tulsa Shock
Venue Capacity: 7479
2010 Average Attendance: 4812
Average Capacity: 64% full
7K Profitability Average: 68.75% (headdesk)
10K Legitimacy Average: N/A
2010 Total Attendance: 81811
Verdict: Safe, for now.

Washington Mystics
Venue Capacity: 20173
2010 Average Attendance: 9357
Average Capacity: 46% full
7K Profitability Average: 133.67% (cha ching!)
10K Legitimacy Average: 93.57%
2010 Total Attendance: 159065
2009 Total Attendance: 192747
2008 Total Attendance: 154637
Verdict: Should be safe, but a significant drop in attendance this season is cause for concern. Maybe not as it is up over 2008, and 2009 could be seen as an anomaly.

Now: I will close by noting that this statistical exercise is something of a labor of love, but one I do not wish to continue if no benefit is derived from it. I am leaning toward retiring this exercise but will relent if I receive enough encouragement. Thus: Please let me know if you find this information of value. I’m not asking for money. I just want simple feedback as to your interest in the material. Please leave a comment below or if you wish to email me privately you may click the “about” link for my email address. Of course, linking from your own site is another way to show me your interest.

Thanks, and now it’s time to put the spreadsheets away and enjoy the playoffs!



  1. This is great stuff … even though the numbers are inflated, the info is valuable.

    And I do think that 7,000 is a good number for profitability, but there’s a definite gap between the reported and actual attendance.

  2. Thanks, Ethan. I hope you continue doing these calculations.


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