Why do they show up late? Blame the New York subways (sorta)

Jisset Pena

Monday night's start is 8 p.m., just like Saturday, but this being Brooklyn, expect some late arrivals, primarily downstairs. Upstairs seems to fill faster. So why? We searched our archives and found a story from two months ago that's right on point. The Nets CFO explains easy access to mass transit leads fans to time their arrival to the tip-off, or later.

Ever wonder why Barclays Center often looks empty a half hour of so before the game, then quickly fills up? Everyone in the NBA apparently does! In Toronto, they viewed it as a close to a crime against humanity.

In a feature for CFO Studio Magazine two months ago, Charles Mierswa, the Nets chief financial officer, talked about how the team uses analytics to improve the flow of fans into Barclays Center ... including why they show up late.

CFO Studio's Julie Barker described how the arena' s access to mass transit has led to some unique challenges as well as opportunity.. A survey of typical weekday games last season showed more than half the fans took the subway, a quarter arrived by private car; The third most popular mode of travel was walking (6.9 percent), which outpaced the Long Island Rail Road (6 percent), taxis or car services (5.7 percent) and city buses (1.1 percent).  The use of mass transit was even greater than anticipated by the team ... or local residents who feared the worst, a traffic nightmare at Atlantic and Flatbush..

That, reported CFO Studio, led to a need for new thinking about crowd control.

The arena uses time tracking to predict and improve the flow of people arriving (by subway). The fact that subway riders can time their arrival pretty accurately (the Nets website provides some handy data on travel times) means "patrons seem to come at the last minute - close to tip for a basketball game," says Mierswa and that's a different rhythm from the patterns of those who come by car and have to worry about traffic tie-ups and finding parking. "We'll get this surge about 15 minutes before the tip and the crowd just hits us."

The number of ticket-takers, the roles of security personnel, the amount of hot food available from concessionaires are all affected. Instead of controlling the entering crowds by channeling them toward the nearest doors, one adjustment Mierswa and the operation people have made is to let the wisdom of the crowds prevail to find paths of least resistance. A few feet inside, walk through electronic metal detectors took the place of security staff using wands because walk-through is faster than wanding.

Once inside, things get even more interesting, says Mierswa.

Mierswa says 65 to 70 percent of the people entering Barclays Center go to the left. When he noticed that stat, he saw the way to even out traffic flow would be to create marketing activations on the right side, such as appearances by the BrooklyKnight, the super-hero, or Brooklynettes dancers to create interest there.

All of this, he says, has improved traffic flow so that the arena can handle up to 1,000 more fans per 15 minutes than at the beginning of last season. But that doesn't matter much to national TV audiences.

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