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EXPANSION: A SPORT BUSINESS DAILY STUDY ON THE NBA IN CANADA
Published December 9, 1994
The NBA's venture into Canada was supposed the be the league's bold first step into the international realm, laying the precedent for a more ambitious move into Mexico and Europe. But the two expansion franchises, awarded to Toronto and Vancouver in late '93 and early '94, are yet to reach the season-ticket sales goals set by the league. In an exclusive three-part series, THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY examines the start up franchises and their quest to reach the NBA-mandated 12,500 season-ticket minimum by December 31. The league has warned both franchises that the 12,500 number is real, and if either the Vancouver Grizzlies or the Toronto Raptors fail to reach that number, they will lose the franchise. Today, NBA Dir of Public Relations Jan Hubbard discusses the league's role north of the border. THE DAILY: How does the league feel as each team enters its strech drive? Are you optimistic they will met your minimum? HUBBARD: We feel that both teams are picking up speed. The Raptors just announced a new program to sell tickets that we think will be successful, and the Grizzlies have really reached out into the corporate community and those sponsors are buying tickets. We feel that momentum is building for both franchises. THE DAILY: Why the difficulty in selling season ticket plans? HUBBARD: There is a lot going on in Canada. First, Canada is a hockey country, and with no hockey, fans are depressed right now and they are not excited about spending money on basketball. Secondly, we are new up there. They don't really know us, but the excitement will grow once we get going. But, with all of this, there still has been tremendous excitement in Canada with both new teams. THE DAILY: Was the 12,500 season ticket-minimum fair? Not many established teams in the league have that many. HUBBARD: There are some trade-offs to that. They were very, very aggressive in trying to gain an expansion franchise. At that point, the NBA had no plans to expand, but they guaranteed support and with that number, we basically asked them to show us that excitement in ticket sales. We want two healthy members in the league, we have some teams struggling to sell tickets now, we don't want any more, and with that 12,500 number we asked them to demonstrate their health. THE DAILY: Has the league been working with the teams, and, if so, what will happen if they fail to meet the quota? HUBBARD: We won't even speculate on what will happen because we think they are both going to make it. The league and the franchiese are in constant contact. They coordinate with us and we treat them as full partners even though we haven't done the final papers. NEXT WEEK: An inside look at the operations of the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies from media members and team execs in both cities.