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Fan Experience Study Reflects Work to Be Done for Islanders, Barclays Center

In which Nets fans are happier...with the off-ice/court experience at least.

Anaheim Ducks v New York Islanders
It’s a different view of things.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As far as gaining traction in the New York sports scene, the Islanders’ move to Brooklyn hasn’t been a magic fix, and it’s created some new — and they hope, temporary — issues, but signs are there that being closer to the center of the galaxy is having an impact.

JD Power released its first "Fan Experience Study" today in an attempt to measure customer satisfaction of major pro sports teams in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston across seven factors relating to the actual experience of going to a game. Results of these surveys show an Islanders team still dealing with a split fanbase over the move from Nassau County, but one whose team performance and superstar John Tavares are moving the needle.

In addition to seven specific game experience areas, the survey also asked fans to rank the top five "face of professional sports" in their cities. Tavares ranked 10th in New York by that count, second among hockey players behind Henrik Lundqvist (3rd). Eli Manning and David Wright topped that ranking in New York.

The seven factors JD Power’s study assessed were, in order of importance:

  • seating area and game experience;
  • security and ushers;
  • leaving the game;
  • arriving at the game;
  • food and beverage;
  • ticket purchase;
  • souvenirs and merchandise.

Satisfaction is measured on a 1,000-point scale.

For the Islanders at Barclays Center, the relocation effect lingers. Though the [insurance of some sort] Stadium co-tenants Giants and Jets ended up with identical overall scores, the Isles ranked fifth while their Barclays roommates Nets ranked second overall in the study.

Though Barcalys is roomier and has more food than the Isles' former obsolete home, tickets are naturally more expensive, the commute in and out is completely different, the odd angles and obstructed views are problematic for those affected, and fans reported some issues with ushers and security last year (including, memorably, the initial policy that kept people without lower bowl tickets from going down to the glass for warmups, a hockey tradition).

Most notable among Isles scores, and where they differed markedly from the Nets, was in the ticket purchase (743) and leaving the game (752) categories, the Isles’ two lowest scores. (Good scores in the study were usually around 800.) In comparison, the Nets scored 788 for leaving the game, perhaps an indication that their fans have had longer to adjust to a completely different post-game commute.

Larger Context

In New York, the MLS Red Bulls were first overall. (Remember, this is fan experience/satisfaction, not gross popularity/size of brand. Overall, MLS did very well in the four markets surveyed, topping New York and Chicago and ranking second in Houston and L.A.)

Other findings of note: The Ducks, not the Kings, topped the Los Angeles market overall (not just hockey), while its baseball teams fared poorly (Angels: 4th; Dodgers: last).

New York FC was not ranked for its expansion year, an interesting decision, and one that makes you wonder how the Isles will do as the effects of their own move wear off.

What’s clear from the study is that the so-called lesser major sports of hockey and soccer can make a real impact — indeed, that may be a competitive necessity against the more entrenched major sports which explains their scores — by providing excellent fan experiences to go with their on-ice/field product.

We know that’s a priority for the Islanders new majority owners as they inherit the peculiar arrangement at Barclays Center. We’ll see what immediate impact they’ve made this time next year.

More about the Survey

JD Power touts this survey as more indicative than internal team surveys since it is not limited to season ticket holders and single-game ticket buyers. Rather, the survey population includes those ticket buyers as well as secondary-market ticket buyers, plus friends, relatives and colleagues who did not buy a ticket but attended with someone who did.

So it's not just one of those random pundit lists you'll see sports publications produce (e.g. "The Best fanbases, ranked" or "the most tortured sports towns, ranked by championships."). There was actual engagement with ticket and non-ticket buying game attendees across the spectrum in these sports and markets.