The Nets in Newark: How this Impacts the Devils and Prudential Center (Part 1)

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 10: The Nets will play at Prudential Center next season. How will this impact the Devils, the arena, and the city? (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Newark is going nostalgic next season. Can you guess why? It’s not because of John MacLean or Jason Arnott. The Devils are pairing up with an old roommate from East Rutherford:  The New Jersey Nets. For the first time, Prudential Center will be the home for a NHL and NBA franchise. The Nets and Devils become the 11th  set (22nd and 23rd team) of NHL and NBA franchises that play in the same arena. How does the Devils and Nets relationship compare to the other ten pairs? What are the overall impacts from the hockey perspective on having an NBA team play in the same arena?

For three seasons now, the Nets and Devils have played in different arenas, and before that shared the IZOD Center since the early 1980s. The Nets announced the move in February 2010 to leave the IZOD Center in the Meadowlands for the 3 year old arena in Newark, NJ. A deal was reached between the NJSEA, the Nets, and Newark officials which began the end of a feud between both arenas. This is a 2-year temporary move for the Nets, before they move to the currently under construction Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY. The Devils have a fellow professional sports team in their building, how will this affect them?  Will attendance change? Will the schedule be odd because another 41 home games are on The Rock’s schedule? Other factors like population, success, marketing, and age of the franchise will be addressed. The owners of franchises and the owner/operators of the arenas will also be looked into.

In Part 1, I will conclude if attendance numbers are impacting NHL teams that share an arena with a NBA franchise. Are attendance numbers better for NHL teams that share an arena than ones that don’t? I will pay close attention to the Devils numbers, and mention any relationships found. There are many parameters involved (e.g. metropolitan area population and arena age), and they will be compared with attendance averages to find any past affiliation. This is the statistical post on the entire piece. They are a few charts, and they will be addressed in future parts.

The Devils and Nets were were separated for the last three seasons, but did share the Northern New Jersey area. This is a chart of the past three seasons average attendance of:  NHL teams that share arenas with an NBA team "Share Arena (10)"; NHL teams that do not share with an NBA team "NHL Only Arena w/ Metro (20)"; NHL teams that do not share arenas but are located in the same area "Share Metro Not Arena (6)"; and NHL teams that share no relationship with an NBA team "NHL Only No Metro (14)." I have acquired annual average attendance for NHL teams at Andrew’s Dallas Stars page. I’ve also included the NHL and the Devils average attendance.

 

3_year_average_medium

The "NHL Only (20)" and "Share Metro (6)" averages includes the Devils averages. For the last two seasons, NHL teams that share an arena see larger attendance than any other category. For teams that shared a city or area with an NBA team but not an arena, attendance was the worst out of each category for all three seasons. Will the Devils see numbers rise next year because of the Nets? The 14 teams with no relation to a NBA team are close to the NHL average for each season. The Nets moving would certainly help the Devils attendance then from this chart.  

Prior to these seasons, the Devils and Nets played together in the Meadowlands. Maybe information from this era could help predict attendance for the future. Here is the chart from 2001-2002 to 2006-2007. The Devils averages move to "Share Arena (11)":

5_year_average_medium

NHL teams that share with a NBA team averaged more than teams that don’t share an arena during the pre-lockout time. It seems the return of hockey after the lockout impacted the NHL teams with no relationship with a NBA team with an 832 average attendee increase. On the contrary, NHL teams that share arenas saw the average decrease 24 attendees, and were less than the NHL average in 2005-2006. The NBA hurt NHL teams that shared arenas during the NHL lockout. This certainly didn’t help the Devils average either, seeing the average decrease 201 people between the 2003-2004 and 2005-2006 seasons. Was it because the Nets were there? From the charts, it had an impact.

There’s no ongoing advantage the NHL teams that share arenas have over other teams from a numbers standpoint. However, the lockout had a positive impact on NHL teams with no NBA franchise in the area. In past three seasons, the averages for NHL teams that share arenas were greater than NHL teams that just shared metro-areas. In five out of the eight seasons, shared arena attendance was greater than arenas with an NHL team. This means the Devils can certainly benefit with an NBA team at the Rock. Is there deeper relationship to prove this, like population, or success involved?

Here is a list of the 11 NHL franchises that share an arena with an NBA franchise ranked by percent filled capacity. Other information included the metropolitan populations, and how long have the two franchises been playing in the current arena. I obtained the 2009 metropolitan area population estimates from the US Census Bureau. I calculated the average percent filled since being in the current arenas (as far as 1989-90 season).

Metro_area_population_medium

I’ve added the Devils and Nets sharing statistics at IZOD Center. The 79.42% filled capacity was the Devils average from 1989-1990 to 2006-2007. The metro-area population is a hybrid of Newark-Union-New Brunswick, NJ and this map thanks to Cherno77.

The Devils did not benefit having the Nets in East Rutherford, having the lowest percent filled capacity out of NHL teams sharing an arena. The IZOD Center was the 2nd oldest building behind Madison Square Garden. The metro-area population for the Devils and Nets is also 2nd lowest (Denver 2.5 million people). The average NHL franchise metro-area population in the United States is around 4.5 million people, in which New Jersey falls just under.  These relationships with attendance do coincide with the Devils numbers, and it seems the relationships can only hurt you. From the other ten arenas, it seems these parameters can hurt you more than benefit you. Surely a new arena will change these numbers for the Devils, when putting the capacity decrease into affect.

Overall, there isn’t one significant relationship between percent filled and population or arena age. The top ranked franchises have metro-area populations of 5.6 million or more. Four of the top six teams play in arenas built since 1999-2000. There are many exemptions if there is a linear connection.

The next chart considers success and also contains the NBA franchises percent filled averages.  I calculated averages from DatabaseBasketball.com. I will again try to establish a relationship between NHL teams that share their arena with an NBA franchise.

Success_medium

Both the Nets and Devils had the lowest percent averages at 75.58% and 79.42% respectively. The Devils rank 3rd in percentage of seasons the team wins the Stanley Cup, and 5th in percentage of seasons the team makes the playoffs. Success does not always mean filled seats. Yet, the Devils are a fairly young franchise when compared to most other teams on the list (7 older franchises). The Nets aren’t as successful as the Devils either, thus the Devils are not gaining the benefit like other NHL teams are. But that may change in the next two years.

The Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, and Boston Celtics are successful NBA franchises, whereas each of their respected NHL counterparts has had less success, but show very strong percentages around 90%. Is this due to the NBA team success somehow? NHL team success doesn’t help NBA team attendance (Devils/Nets and Colorado Avalanche/Denver Nuggets. There are five pairs where both teams average over 90% percent capacity: Toronto, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Boston. Three of those NHL teams are a part of the Original 6. Perhaps the age of the franchise is the best relationship. The slight correlations found conclude the Devils and Nets situation handicaps them greatly.   

There is still no definite connection on how attendance impacts NHL teams that share their arena with a NBA team, at least from an attendance statistical standpoint. But there were some interesting finds. The lockout benefitted NHL teams with no relationship with a NBA team against teams that do share a relationship.  Parameters like population, franchise success, and franchise age contain no special relationship with increasing attendance. However, it seems most of these parameters can explain reasons why attendance isn’t favorable instead of why is it favorable. Compared to the other franchises, the Devils and Nets were younger franchises, who played in an older arena, with a low metro area population. These do not help attendance regardless of how many other professional teams play in the arena.

Comparing it to the IZOD Center, Prudential Center would only fix one of these aspects:  arena age. Yet, the Devils move to Prudential Center increased attendance for a number of reasons. Why wouldn’t the reasons be the same for the Nets? The Nets played two preseason games at The Rock in October 2009, and had good crowds. Further analysis must be done.

How do you feel about the Nets moving to The Rock? What implications are you foreseeing for the Devils and Prudential Center's attendance? Was there something in the charts I did not see? Part 2 will cover the one-ice implications hockey teams see with an NBA team in the same arena. Is the regular season schedule tainted with another tenant? What about the quality of the ice?  

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