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The Curious Case of the Sixers’ Upper Deck

Jan 16, 2012, 5:21 PM EDT

The Sixers drew an announced attendance of 17,281 on Martin Luther King Day and sold out the upper bowl of the Wells Fargo Center. So why then could fans have had a entire rows to themselves?

As Enrico and Roob Frank pointed out earlier this morning, the Sixers are still having trouble getting people physically in the building. Although the TV numbers are up, an encouraging sign about the wider interest level across the Delaware Valley, the increase in viewership might only be sending the the Sixers even further down attendance rankings. Even the promise of an improved “in-game experience” might not be enough to convince fans to part with the extra cash necessary to take in a game when they could watch the game for far cheaper at home.

With all these factors in play, consider the following question: If no one is coming, and attendance is really hurting, why couldn’t I score three seats in the upper bowl today?

I ended up heading down to the game this afternoon with two buddies, looking to cash in on the team’s deeply discounted ticket prices throughout the month of January. Much to my surprise, I was informed by a ticket representative at the box office that the entire upper bowl had been sold out, and the cheapest available tickets could be purchased for $49.95 each.

This…was rather perplexing, but not totally unthinkable. After all, $15 tickets for a winning basketball team are a steal, especially in this economy. And with hot dogs on sale for a buck, again, it was totally possible that they really had sold out the upper bowl.

And I suppose it is still possible that that’s actually what happened; but if they did sell out upstairs, then a lot of people just failed to show. There were multiple rows in the mezzanine that sat completely vacant throughout the game. There were anywhere from 15-20 consecutive rows without patrons across almost every section downstairs.

Unable to focus on the exploits of Andrew Bogut and Carlos Delfino, I started wondering what was actually going on with the sales department.

The announced attendance for today’s game came out to 17,281. There were, maybe, if we’re ball-parking it, 13,000 in the building. But like I said, I couldn’t get three together in the mez without finding a well-meaning gentleman in the parking lot who charged other than the face value.

There are plenty of tickets in that building that are bought and paid for. There would have to be to announce a number like 17,281. But the Sixers are now encountering a problem beyond a lack of interest.

Even if the team still has plenty of cheap seats available for those who buy in advance — or purchase from the ticket brokers, scalpers and others who have bought up seats in bulk — the lower bowl might just be pricing fans out of the building. After all, whether the fans are coming or not, the upper bowl has been taken care of and will continue to sell out, in way or another, each night. But the lower level, the one you see when you watch the game at home, that might be the real problem moving forward.

We asked you earlier, “What’s keeping you away?” Now we’re asking, “What happened to all those allegedly sold tickets?”