For the past month, Portland Trail Blazers games have been hard to watch. That’s bad news for people who already purchased their tickets.
In December, the Blazers lost eight of nine home games by an average of 12.3 points and can’t even bother to pretend to try to play defense in the opening minutes on any given night. Franchise cornerstone Damian Lillard has struggled to play through an abdominal injury and adjust to new rules aimed at limiting fouls. Much of the rest of the roster is injured, sick with COVID, or 6-foot-3.
Increasingly, it appears those season ticket holders aren’t making it to their Moda Center seats. Official ticket sales in Portland have dipped below 90% of capacity for the first time since the 2006-07 season—Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge’s rookie season. On many nights, the number of actual seats filled appears to dip far below 90%.
Poor attendance isn’t just a sports story: It’s a troubling business indicator for a franchise that already faces an uncertain future. We spoke to three season ticket holders—and one fan who chose not to renew this season—to gauge the arena’s vibes.
Michael Mickanen, a fan since the 1990s and current season ticket holder:
“It’s disappointing. I think the fans that show up are supportive. But it’s 50% capacity at times, maybe 60%? The energy is not the same with all those people missing. COVID is probably a big thing for people not being there. You couldn’t bring your young kids until recently, since they can get vaccinated.
“I was very disappointed when they hired [head coach Chauncey Billups]. I really questioned keeping my season tickets at that point, but I decided that I would continue, in the hopes that this was going to be a very nice season. And now I really do regret that I did continue.
“I very likely will not renew the tickets. Here’s the deal: I could buy [single game] tickets all I want. If I wanted to go to 20 games a year, I can buy them on the market for cheaper than what the season tickets cost.”
Catherine Stelzer, a lifelong fan who chose to pause her season tickets this year:
“I was angry with how [general manager Neil] Olshey conducted business over the summer, and it left me feeling less than excited to support the organization. Between the GM fiasco and the pandemic, the decision was easy but also disappointing. Considering Omicron and everything else that has happened this season, I’m glad I made that decision.
“Dame scoring 55 points, in a playoff loss, was the most dejected I’ve ever felt leaving Moda Center. I hate trading any of our guys, because we love them as people, but it was clear that the roster needed an overhaul this summer. Olshey failed, and we are where we are.
“The Blazers aren’t just losing games, but night after night of blowouts feels more demoralizing. It feels like there is a cloud of doom over this team right now.”
Justin Hintze, owner of local food truck Jojo, who has attended about half the home games this season:
“This season has been abysmal. The vibes are fucked and the team’s effort has been lacking. It’s just uninspired basketball and very dumb roster construction, thanks to (thankfully) fired Neil Olshey.
“You have to start with trades. I love [CJ] McCollum as a player, and he’s been good to the city, but it’s been long past due to move him and rebalance the roster. They need perimeter defense more than anything else. I would love to start tanking if they can’t pull it together soon.”
Ty Delbridge, season ticket holder:
“The mood definitely isn’t the same. It’s not as loud all the time, and you don’t feel as much energy. That’s also probably because of COVID and the stadium just not being full like in the past because of restrictions.
“The Blazers team just seems so small on both ends, confused on how to play with each other, and bored. They don’t have energy, and I don’t think that pairs well with how Billups wants to play.
“Obviously, I’d love for them to make a homerun trade and make a deep playoff run, but if I’m being realistic, that probably doesn’t happen. I really would just love for them to be fun to watch again and play hard even if that doesn’t mean wins so I at least feel like going to the games to see them is worth my time. I was ready for [former coach Terry] Stotts to go, but damn, at least his teams were fun to watch every night.”