The first-division teams of the inaugural B. League season raised their average attendance numbers in the regular season by 32 percent from last year (based on figures from bj-league and NBL, which merged to form the B. League), the top men’s basketball circuit revealed on Wednesday, a few days before the postseason tips off this weekend.
The first division had 2,777 fans per game in the inaugural season, which kicked off last fall and wrapped up last Sunday.
The Chiba Jets led the entire 18-team division with an average of 4,503 fans per game, up 126 percent from last season, when the club played in the now-defunct NBL. The Tochigi Brex and Ryukyu Golden Kings followed with 3,356 and 3,322, respectively.
The Kyoto Hannaryz had the lowest figure with 1,944, which was still 154.3 percent more than they had last year.
The Kawasaki Brave Thunders made the biggest leap as their average attendance improved by 244 percent to 2,449 from the 2015-16 season, in which they captured the NBL championship.
Overall, the league’s attendance was 1,499,352 — double from last year (with the numbers of the current B1 clubs coming from their final NBL and bj-league seasons. The NBL season was 54 games, while bj-league teams played 52. Teams play 60 in the B. League.
Speaking at a news conference at the league office, chairman Masaaki Okawa did not seem very excited, deeming the gains “acceptable.”
“The attendance number could have improved more,” he said. “It would have been better had it reached 3,000.”
In the attendance chart, Chiba dominated the others, being the only club that went north of the 4,000 mark. But Okawa said teams like Tochigi and Ryukyu could have come closer to the Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture-based club, had they had bigger arenas, which they will eventually have.
“Ryukyu will have a 10,000-seat arena and they could potentially have more than Chiba there,” Okawa said.
The new arenas for both clubs are expected to be completed around 2020.
The Jets drew 7,327 fans to a home game at Chiba Port Arena on May 3, the biggest crowd of the year, excluding the league’s opening series between the Alvark Tokyo and Golden Kings at Yoyogi National Gymnasium, which was hosted by the league last September.
During the news conference, Okawa often regarded the Chiba as a successful example and encouraged other clubs to follow the team’s lead.
The second division, which also consists of 18 clubs, averaged 1,198 per game, up about five percent, while it racked up 646,791 overall from the 2016-17 season.
The Kumamoto Volters had the highest average with 2,109 per game (up 136 percent from last year), followed by the Hiroshima Dragonflies and Aomori Wat’s.
The improvement in average attendance for the second division seems a bit too little (seven clubs had the lower figures than last year), but Okawa explained that some the teams counted non-fans like cheerleaders and vendors last year, and it is deceptive. He added that the clubs’ actual ticket sales went up this year.
“We can’t be extremely happy,” Okawa said of the situation in the second division. “But we are hopeful that it’s moving upward going forward.”
Meanwhile, the league announced that the Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka and Kanazawa Samuraiz, who finished first and second in the third division, have been promoted to the second division for the 2017-18 campaign.
The league also said that the Kagoshima Rebnise, who had been told that they would not be issued a license to play in the second division next season because they did not meet the financial criteria, have avoided receiving financial aid from the league. It added that they are working to enter the third division.