Will Minneapolis ever be a ‘basketball town’?

This was supposed to be the season when things finally blossomed for the Minnesota Timberwolves. But the team will miss the playoffs again. In many ways, this team is more frustrating than the 15- and 17-win teams of recent seasons past. Those had no talent; this one did.

But the team will be among the leaders in the National Basketball Association in one category: empty seats.

Bob Collins / MPR News

This was the view several minutes into last night’s game with the Atlanta Hawks at Target Center, with an announced crowd of about 11,000. As usual, the actual number of people who bothered to show up was a fraction of that.

Wednesday nights have been weak draws all season for the Timberwolves, but Minnesota fans abandoned the team in large numbers this year.

Minnesota ranks 26th in the 30-team NBA, averaging 14,768 fans this year. The team paid a stiff price for raising ticket prices before the season on the promise of brighter days. Last year, the Timberwolves averaged 16,340. A year earlier, the team drew an average of nearly 18,000, thanks to deeply discounted ticket prices. That’s a nearly 18 percent drop in fan support over a period when the team was winning more games.

Meanwhile, across town, the Minnesota Wild are averaging 102 percent of capacity at Xcel Energy Center to watch a team that’s just as underachieving and disappointing as their Minneapolis brethren.

Nobody will ever be calling this the state of basketball.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    The bad news for the Wolves here is that their fans went from hope to frustration and back to apathy without experiencing a streak of winning or contention. The Twins are nearly back to apathy, but had a 10 year stretch of being competitive.

  • John

    The Wolves haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years. They had great attendance when Garnett was here. State of hockey is a marketing slogan.

    • Sort of. The Timberwolves actually drew more fans in the last two seasons prior to this one than they did in the final seasons of Garnett. They were 25th in attendance. They reached as high as 11th in attendance in ’04 and ’01, I think. But in ’03 they drew fewer than 16,000 fans a night.

      This, of course, all has to be factored into the coming decision regarding Kevin Love, who may be in his last few games with the team. It’s hard to imagine the Wolves being able to do ANYTHING involving moving Love that results in more people wanting to see the team.

      Glen Taylor is no spring chicken. He was unable to sell the team last year. There could be some interesting transition problems in the coming years.

      • I thought Taylor refused to sell the team to Chris Hansen’s Seattle group last year? Glen Taylor is unwilling to sell the team, not unable.

        • He wanted to sell it to local ownership. There wasn’t any/enough local ownership interest.

  • MrE85

    “Nobody will ever be calling this the state of basketball”
    There seems to be fair interest in high school ball here, but nothing like in Indiana.

  • Kassie

    Do they keep track of how many people actually show up, or is it only tickets sold? I ask because I’m wondering if the Lynx get more butts in the seats at games. Maybe we aren’t a basketball state, but a Woman’s Basketball State? The Lynx averaged 9381 seats sold in the last 3 seasons (second in the league.) If they have more people at the games than the Timberwolves, that would suggest to me that we may be a basketball state, just not a men’s basketball state.

    • The Lynx do not draw better than the Timberwolves. But, from I can deserve, the fans are much more excited at the Lynx games than Timberwolves game.s

  • Jim G

    Will Minneapolis ever be a ‘basketball town’? No. There are two reasons.
    1. Wednesdays are church night in Minnesota, not basketball night.
    2. I blame it on Minneapolis’s location. A hypothesis: We are exactly half-way between the Equator and the North Pole. The 45th parallel of latitude makes a basketball bounce funny. The round ball just doesn’t give the Timberwolves and the Gopher basketball teams a true bounce. It always bounces the opponents’ way. Same with the Twins… The round balls just jinx every home game. However, fortunately this doesn’t effect footballs as they are oblong in shape to start with. So, the Vikings and the Gopher football teams haven’t got this 45th parallel excuse. Now that this question is settled, we should ask the next ones: Will Minneapolis ever win a football championship? Did you know that the Crimean peninsula is also located on the 45th parallel of latitude? The invasion didn’t bounce their way either.
    http://www.mnmuseumofthems.org/45th/Mpls.html