Jazz fans are still packing EnergySolutions Arena. Just not all the way.
Despite Utah’s 9-4 record and a near-perfect 7-1 home mark, the Jazz have only sold out one game at the arena this year — a 102-99 home opener victory against Philadelphia on Dec. 30.
Utah’s come close to filling its 19,911-seat capacity building five times, including three games that featured more than 19,500 fans. But the Jazz have drawn less than 17,900 twice and didn’t sell out recent home contests against the Los Angeles Lakers and New Jersey Nets, which featured the return of former face-of-the-franchise star Deron Williams.
Jazz president Randy Rigby sees promise in the near-sellouts, though.
He said many fans initially took a wait-and-see approach with a young team that was expected to slowly make progress this season.
Utah’s now ahead of schedule. And while season-ticket sales are down 10 percent, walk-up sales are improving.
“This is a fun team to come and watch,” Rigby said. “The crowd and the community [are] starting to hear that buzz and see the results of it. And the [ticket sales] are starting to follow.”
The Jazz rank eighth out of 30 teams in average attendance (19,094) after finishing seventh last season. Overall 2011-12 sales are down more than 400 compared to last year.
However, Utah is faring better than it did during 2005-06, when attendance dropped to 18,332 following a 26-56 season in 2004-05.
Rigby said the Jazz have a good chance to sell out a home game Thursday against Dallas. And he’s interested to see how many walk-up sales a surging Utah team receives.
“I’m very happy with what we’re getting,” Rigby said. “It’s telling me that people are liking our product. People are starting to come back. … They’re very pleasantly surprised at how well this team is coming together and how hard they’re working.”
Out and in
Jazz forward Josh Howard (strained left quad) and guard Jamaal Tinsley (dermatitis) didn’t practice Wednesday. Forward Derrick Favors (sprained right ankle) resumed action and plans to play against Dallas.
“I’m going to try to get a [workout] in today and I’ll see how it feels,” Favors said. “Give it a go.”
Howard doesn’t think he’ll be able to take the court against the Mavs, since he can’t risk further injury.
“It’s a day-to-day thing. … I’ll continue to do my rehab,” Howard said. “I’ll strengthen it as much as I can ’til it feels better.”