SBJ/June 9 - 15, 2003/Other News

Bulls hold line on season tickets

The Chicago Bulls are freezing season-ticket prices for next season, the fifth consecutive year of sustained prices for a team that has been rebuilding since Michael Jordan left in 1998.

"Team performance, player payroll, inflation, the general health of the economy, issues related to team profit and loss; all are considered and a decision is made as to what is deemed to be in both the best long- and short-term interests of the franchise," said Steve Schanwald, executive vice president of business operations for the Bulls.

The cost of a full-season Bulls ticket plan ranges from $990 to $3,825. Unlike a growing number of NBA teams that sell mini-plans to drive attendance, the Bulls sell just one partial-season plan: an 11-game package.

The price-freeze strategy is a departure from the 1990s, when the Jordan-led Bulls were busy racking up six NBA championships — and increasing the price of tickets, luxury suites and sponsorships nearly ever year.

"There were years in the 1990s where we raised ticket prices, but not nearly as much as we could have," Schanwald said, "because while it would have generated more revenue in the short term, it might not have been the best strategic decision in the long term."

After Jordan left the Bulls, interest in the team steadily waned. In 2001, the Bulls said they would not raise prices for season-ticket renewals for the next three years. Holding prices steady for new season-ticket purchases, too, has been aimed at helping the Bulls maintain robust attendance despite the club's on-court struggles.

The franchise has not won more than 30 games in a season since 1998-99.

The strategy has paid off. The Bulls this season posted an average attendance of 19,617 in the 21,711-seat United Center, up nearly 4 percent from 2001-02 and ranking as the fifth-highest attendance in the NBA, despite the team's 30-52 record, the seventh-worst record in the league.

Bullish attendance
The Chicago Bulls have maintained a strong average attendance in recent years despite a decline on the court.
Season Avg. per-game
2002-03 19,617 30-52
2001-02 18,934 21-61
2000-01 21,674 15-67
1999-2000 22,124 17-65
1998-99 22,400 13-37
1997-98 23,988 62-20
1996-97 23,865 69-13
1995-96 23,638 72-10
Source: Chicago Bulls


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