JAZZ: Utah fans bring the noise

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Posted: 10:49 AM- It wasn't built to be a posh palace for entertainment and concerts, and it wasn't really built with many sports in mind. It was built for basketball. That is why the building on the western edge of Salt Lake City's downtown may have gone through a name change from the Delta Center to EnergySolutions Arena, but its true purpose hasn't changed - it was made for the Utah Jazz.

The reasons for its making, combined with the vigor and focus of its fans, give the Jazz one of the toughest arenas in the NBA. All teams like to tout their home-court advantage, and the Jazz are no different. Utah's fans are a boisterous, loyal and knowledgeable bunch who give their team an added boost, players say.

Looking at Utah's successes at home, it's believable that Utah's fans give the Jazz a little something extra.

Utah was tied for third in the league for fewest home losses in the 2006-07 season, with Utah going 31-10 at home, the same as San Antonio and Chicago. Only Dallas (36-5) and Phoenix (33-8) were better at home.

Utah is 76-30 in home playoff games, the fourth-best winning percentage (71.7) in playoff history, and a stark contrast to a 26-73 (26.3) playoff road record.

The Jazz are 14-8 in playoff series with home-court advantage and just 6-12 without. In conference finals games, Utah is 10-3 at home and 4-12 on the road, counting Sunday's loss at San Antonio.

"Our fans are supportive, loud and give us great energy, so it's a very tough place to play," center Jarron Collins said. "They are just as hungry as we are."

There might be a feeling out there that the NBA doesn't want Utah and its small market to reach the NBA Finals because of the limited national popularity of the Jazz, but at least regionally, the Jazz enjoy strong support. They are the largest pro team in the region, stretching their fan base from southern Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and into Idaho.

And when the Jazz win, fans come to support them. Of its 41 home games in the regular season, Utah had 30 sellouts and sold out all six playoff games, filling the building to its 19,911 capacity. Those numbers are up from just five sellouts last year, when Utah went 41-41 and failed to make the postseason, perhaps proving Utah's fans are as willing to jump on the bandwagon as they are off it.

"We don't have any other pro sports around, so people come out there and support us," center Mehmet Okur said. "People everywhere, they're just crazy about Jazz."

The configuration of ES Arena accentuates Utah's crowd. Unlike many arenas that have dampeners or other devices in the rafters designed to absorb some of the noise to enhance concerts and other entertainment events, ES Arena has nothing but metal joists above the floor. The construction gives Utah's venue a horrible reputation on the concert circuit for acoustics, but the cacophony that is produced is perfect to make it a hostile environment for Jazz opponents.

In addition, Utah's arena was also built in a more round shape to make it more basketball friendly than the rectangular shape many arenas have in order to be more versatile, making the sound even more concentrated onto the floor.

Jazz players feel their arena is loud; Randy Rigby, the team's senior vice president of broadcasting, sales and marketing, knows it is.

Curious to know how intense the sound gets in arenas, Rigby went to a store while in Houston during the first round of the playoffs and bought a sound meter. Houston was loud, but not nearly as eruptive as ES Arena, he said.

When Utah's fans were cheering their mightiest, such as near the end of the third quarter of Game 5 when Golden State's players lost their cool, the meter read into the 105- to 110-decibel range.

The numbers were in line with the sound range at Golden State, which earned a reputation as being the loudest arena in the league this year, as the Bay area fans supported the team with fervor.

That range is comparable to standing 2,000 feet away from a jet when it takes off or the sound of a car horn from three feet away.

Hearing damage begins at 85 decibels, and more than half an hour of exposure at 110 decibels can harm the inner ear. Ear pain often becomes noticeable at 120 decibels. Announcers, music and other artificial sound effects can't go beyond 85 decibels.

"When our crowd gets going, it can really be a challenge for our announcers to be heard," Rigby said. "A lot of times the noise is in the 100-decibel range."

All of which gives the Jazz a home-court advantage they embrace after enduring their own tests on the road in hostile atmospheres.

"In Houston, their were fans in red screaming their heads off, and in Golden State, they were all wearing yellow T-shirts and screaming their heads off," Collins said. "In both places, fans are yelling 'Utah sucks.' It's hard to block out 19,000 people screaming their heads off, 'Utah sucks,' so yeah, there is something to be said for home-court advantage."