PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL will welcome its 50 millionth regular season fan this week.
Beginning with 164,071 fans in its inaugural season in 1988-89, the ECHL has drawn 49,986,381 fans for 11,141 regular season games and needs 13,619 fans to reach 50 million.
The ECHL has drawn over two million fans per year for 12 consecutive seasons and has surpassed three million at the gate each of the past 10 years. The ECHL has drawn over four million fans five times in its history and at its current average will draw 4,263,120 in 2003-04. The league went over the four million mark four consecutive years from 1996-97 to 1999-2000 when it had a league-high 4,678,087 in 1999-2000.
The ECHL is averaging 3,820 fans for 926 games in 2003-04 and is looking to increase its average attendance for the first time since 1996-97. The ECHL has averaged over 5,000 fans three times, including a league-high 5,312 in 1994-95.
There have been 33 sellout crowds in the ECHL in 2003-04 and 14 of the 31 teams have had at least one sellout. Idaho, which had three sellouts in a row in December and January, has the most sellout crowds with nine followed by Florida with six and Johnstown with four. The ECHL record for sellouts in a season is 32 games by the Columbus Chill, who accomplished the feat in 1992-93 and repeated it in 1993-94 on the way to a minor league hockey record of 83 consecutive sellouts.
Florida had the largest crowd in its six-year history with 7,386 on January 17 against Roanoke and surpassed the record with 7,581 on January 31 against South Carolina. Johnstown drew the biggest crowd in its 16-year history with a standing room only crowd of 4,191 for its game against Wheeling on November 14. Dayton drew the largest crowd in its 13-year history with 10,057 for its game against Peoria on January 23, one of five crowds over 10,000 in the league in 2003-04. Idaho had a record crowd of 5,431 for its game on February 28 against Alaska and Pensacola drew 8,144 on February 28, the first sellout for the Ice Pilots since the season opener in 1998-99.
Fresno drew the largest crowd of the season with 12,462 for its season opener at the Save Mart Center. The crowd of 12,462 is the second-largest opening night crowd in ECHL history surpassing the 12,247 by the New Orleans Brass for the opener at the New Orleans Arena in 1999-2000. The largest opening night crowd is 14,108 by Greenville when the Grrrowl opened the BI-LO Center in 1998-99. The largest crowd in ECHL history is 20,911 by the Greensboro Monarchs at the Greensboro Coliseum for a 7-1 win over Charlotte on January 15, 1994.
Six ECHL teams (Florida, Greenville, Johnstown, Reading, Texas and Toledo) had sellout crowds and five others (Columbia, Fresno, Idaho, Las Vegas and Trenton) were over 90 percent of capacity for opening night as the ECHL drew 187,934 and averaged 6,062 fans for 31 home openers. The season opening sellout by Reading marked the 15th time in three years that the Sovereign Center has been sold out.