SBJ/20100308/Facilities

At Bakersfield D-League club’s new home, it’s all courtside seats, suites and clubs

The owners of the NBA Development League’s Bakersfield Jam say they are headed in the right direction financially after moving the club’s home games to its practice facility, where every seat is a premium seat.

It’s a new business model that other D-League teams are watching closely, league President Dan Reed said.

After three years as a tenant at Rabobank Arena, the city’s 10,063-seat venue where the team had to pay $200,000 in rent annually and said it lost a few million dollars, Jam officials temporarily shut down operations in April.

In June, the club started up again with a plan to cut costs by playing all but one of 24 home games at its 420-seat practice facility, Jam Events Center, which the team owns and operates.

The Jam’s owners say the setup makes
business sense.

The $2 million venue in Oildale, a north Bakersfield suburb, has three seating packages: 120 courtside seats, 14 open-air suites built on risers along the sidelines and four enclosed lofts at the south end on the second floor. There is one concession stand, a lounge and a cigar room, plus a fitness center open to season-ticket holders and team locker rooms.

The team distributes 100 tickets to the visiting team and local community groups. Those ticket-holders watch the game from inside the lounge.

The Jam played its first game at the facility Dec. 3., and every game has been a sellout, team officials said.

The club has sold 10 of the 14 suites for $20,000 and two of the four lofts for $40,000, all in one-year deals, said team co-owner David Higdon. The suites seat six to eight people, and the lofts accommodate 12. Season tickets for about 80 of 120 courtside seats have been sold, with a minimum buy of two seats for $7,000.

The Jam markets the courtside seats and skyboxes to local companies tied to the region’s petroleum and agricultural industries, providing valuable network opportunities among those businesses, Higdon said.

All season-ticket holders are allowed to play golf at the Riviera Country Club, host of the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open. They also have access to tickets for select NBA, MLB and Chivas USA games as well as use of their seats for special events at the practice facility.

That piece of business at Jam Events Center is a key part of the overall plan, Higdon said. The Jam’s goal is to generate up to $100,000 annually in revenue from concerts, mixed martial arts and corporate meetings. Nestlé, whose Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream brand is based in Bakersfield, held an international conference there in late February.

Moving to a much smaller venue and streamlining the front office has helped cut the Jam’s operating budget in half, from between $1.2 million and $1.4 million to between $700,000 and $750,000. “We’re pretty close to breaking even for the first time,” Higdon said.

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