SBJ/20100329/This Week's News

Half-price season-ticket offer produces results for Wolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ eye-opening strategy to slash next year’s season-ticket prices by 50 percent during the month of March has jump-started sales for the hapless franchise.

The team has surpassed last year’s paltry 825 total for new full-season-ticket sales and expects to sell more than 1,000 new full-season packages when the discount promotion ends on Wednesday. The team this year has a season-ticket base of 6,000, a number that also includes full-season equivalent packages.

The team also has increased its expected season-ticket renewal rate to more than 80 percent, up from a 65 percent projected renewal rate before the team implemented its drastic season-ticket discount.

Minnesota expects to sell more than 1,000 new
full-season tickets with its half-price promotion.

“The body play has worked,” said Timberwolves President Chris Wright. “We realize that we have to build back [fans in] our lower level and move the market.”

The Timberwolves’ decision to halve the price of season tickets comes against daunting competition. As of March 24, the team had a woeful 14-47 record and must market itself against the Minnesota Twins as they open their new downtown ballpark this spring, the NFL’s Vikings, and the University of Minnesota, which last fall opened a new football stadium.

“With all the competition, we had to find a value proposition,” Wright said.

The discount strategy also comes as the NBA looks to boost the league’s paid gate next year after most teams cut or held prices this season.

“It is a real bold move, but it makes sense because the Timberwolves are trying to become relevant to a new group of buyers,” said Bill Sutton, president of Bill Sutton & Associates, a sports consultancy that counts NBA teams as clients. “The team is trying to find fans who have never gone to a game before. But they are going to have to work hard to make fans out of them.”

Wright would not disclose how much the team will raise season-ticket prices on April 1. “The increase will be substantial enough that people who committed to us in March will be pleased that they have when they see the price increase,” Wright said.

The Timberwolves, through March 23, had an average attendance of 14,785, up 3.7 percent compared with last season. The team ranked 25th out of the NBA’s 30 teams in average attendance.

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