Basketball / B. League

B. League's steady growth continues

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

The B. League continued its steady growth in its third season that concluded on May 11.

The overall attendance in the first and second divisions in the 2018-19 campaign was 2,593,217 (including the All-Star Game and postseason contests), up 3.6 percent from the year before.

In the top division, the total number of visitors was 1,662,119, which was nearly 10,000 more than the previous season. In the meantime, the second division saw a slight decline and drew 821,993, which was fewer by 1.8 percent.

The average attendance in the top division was 3,078 and the April 21 game between the Osaka Evessa and Kyoto Hannaryz at Ookini Arena Maishima marked a single-game attendance record for the season (6,760), except for the championship game at Yokohama Arena (12,972).

The Chiba Jets Funabashi topped the chart in average home attendance again (5,204 per contest), far ahead of the runner-up Tochigi Brex (4,004). Kyoto had the lowest home attendance in B1 (1,890).

The league defines “full house” as when 85 percent of seats are occupied, and 45.3 percent of the games (324 games) met the criteria this past season; it was 40.8 percent last year.

This past season, the league increased the number of weekday games to 108 from 36 in 2017-18. Those weekday contests averaged 2,815 while the weekend and holiday games racked up 3,286.

B. League chairman Masaaki Okawa said that the weekday figure was more successful than his league had expected. The 60-year-old chief cited Nippon Professional Baseball, which he said draws fewer spectators by roughly 30 percent for its weekday games thanweekend and holiday contests.

“If we can develop the culture to watch sports on weekdays more, maybe we can tap more fans out there,” Okawa said.

The league showed notable growth in other areas as well. According to league figures, the combined revenue of the circuit, its clubs and Japan Basketball Association reached ¥3.3 million for the 2018-19 season. In the 2015-16 season, a year before the B. League was launched, the combined figure for the JBA, NBL and bj-league was ¥1.05 million.

Okawa said that the league had originally set a goal to reach the ¥3 million mark in the 2020-21 season.

On the other hand, the league is concerned about arena capacities and urged the clubs to compete at bigger houses. This past season, about 75 percent of the seats were sold and if the growth continues, there would eventually not be many seats available for the fans.

“So unless we will have arenas with bigger capacities going forward, we will not be able to expand our fan base,” Okawa said.

Construction for a new arena for the Ryukyu Golden Kings is currently underway, while the Jets and Kawasaki Brave Thunders have recently announced that they will build new arenas.

The league will soon require the B1 clubs to have arenas with capacities of at least 5,000. But the new venues for these teams are estimated to be able to hold between 8,000 and 10,000 spectators.