SBD/March 22, 2011/Franchises

Raptors, Toronto FC Struggling At The Gates, Seeking To Lure Fans Back

Raptors are 18th out of 30 NBA teams in average home attendance
The Raptors are averaging 16,350 fans per game this season at Air Canada Centre, the "lowest in the franchise's 15-year history," according to Hayley Mick of the GLOBE & MAIL. The Raptors currently stand 18th out of 30 NBA clubs in attendance rankings; "not horrendous considering the team is faring better at selling tickets than 10 other franchises with superior win-loss records." But Toronto is a "much larger sports market than franchises saddled with the same attendance problems." Raptors President & GM Bryan Colangelo in an e-mail said, "The current trend is not entirely unexpected given our plan to rebuild and the volume of losses we are experiencing." But Mick noted, "Concerned officials at Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment now have the daunting task of luring fans back." One strategy is to "appeal to their budgets," as season-ticket prices "will drop by about" 10-15% across the board for the '11-12 season. The Raptors also are "increasing the number of price points to give buyers more options." MLSE Senior VP/Ticket Sales & Service Beth Robertson: "The best way that we can respond is through team performance and also offering value to our fans" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/19).

UNFAMILIAR SIGHT: In Toronto, Gareth Wheeler reports there are a "surprising number of tickets available" for MLS Toronto FC's home opener against the Timbers on Saturday, which "has to be alarming to a club coming off four consecutive years of announced sell-outs for their home opener." Sources said that ticket sales "have been a massive struggle for the 2011 season," and it "appears the inferior on-field product and steep ticket price increases have finally caught up with them." Toronto FC "has long bragged about having a substantial waiting list in the thousands for season tickets," yet it "appears the 'list' may have been more smoke and mirrors than anything else, or those waiting for tickets have also soured on the team and the price tag." For the "first time since its inception, there has been a real push by Toronto FC to sell tickets this off-season," as marketing dollars "have been spent advertising half-season and single-match tickets" (TORONTO SUN, 3/22).
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