SBJ/December 19-25, 2011/Facilities

Returning NBA teams target ticket fees, concession prices

Don Muret
The NBA’s strategy to fill arenas after the five-month lockout has led some teams to slash prices on tickets and concessions.

The Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks are two examples. The Hawks caught the attention of the sports world by eliminating all ticket fees for home-game seat purchases. At Philips Arena, those fees can range from 6.5 percent to 46 percent of the ticket price for NBA games depending on location, said Tracy White, the Hawks’ senior vice president of sales and marketing and chief sales officer.

White refused to say how much money the Hawks, whose ticketing deal is with Ticketmaster, stand to lose by initiating the no-fee policy.

For single-game ticket sales alone, the loss could be up to $200,000, according to an industry source with expertise in NBA ticket sales. Sports consultant Bernie Mullin estimated the loss at closer to $100,000 based on his ticket-sales experience with the Hawks, MLB Pirates and Rockies, and with the NBA league office.

“It’s tough to draw even on revenues [without the fees], but I applaud the decision,” Mullin said. “They are satisfying the customer by removing an obstacle to sale. It’s about getting more people into the building to spend the money they save on food and merchandise.”

The Hawks did not raise ticket prices this year to make up the difference. In fact, the team reduced its lowest-tier prices for 17 games to an average of $39 a seat, down from $47 last season, a 17 percent savings, White said.

Dynamic pricing will affect those average prices closer to game day. The Hawks committed to using Qcue’s software system again this season — which, depending on demand, could trigger ticket prices to move up or down.

Elsewhere, the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes have eliminated ticket fees this season, said Jared Smith, Ticketmaster’s chief operating officer. “Others have an interest,” Smith said.

The Bobcats, meanwhile, will chop food and drink prices by 50 percent for their Dec. 26 regular-season opener against Milwaukee. For that game only, the cheapest hot dog is $2.25 and the least-expensive draft beer is $3.25. Wine is covered in the half-off promotion but hard liquor is not, said Pete Guelli, the team’s executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer.

The Bobcats are covering the loss in concessions revenue incurred by Levy Restaurants, their food provider at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Bobcats and Levy could extend the promotion to more NBA games this season if it proves to be a success on opening night, Guelli said.

PPL Park played host to Villanova football and is looking to land the College Cup.
Photo by: COURTESY OF COMCAST-SPECTACOR
RAISE THE CUP:
Three days before this year’s College Cup in Hoover, Ala., earlier this month, the NCAA officially announced the final four of men’s soccer would return to the same minor league ballpark in 2012.

After next year, it could return to an MLS facility for the first time since 2008.

PPL Park and Livestrong Sporting Park both submitted bids to play host to the College Cup for next year and 2013, confirmed Mike Scanlon, regional vice president for Global Spectrum, the operator of both stadiums.“We still have our fingers crossed for 2013,” Scanlon said.

For those thinking Philadelphia is too cold in December for the event, officials preparing PPL Park’s bid sent historical data that showed temperatures in the 40s for that time of year. “It’s actually quite nice,” Scanlon said.

Separately, Global Spectrum is in talks with Villanova to book more football games at the stadium, which is the home of the Philadelphia Union. Villanova played the first football game at PPL Park in November, losing to Delaware. Villanova Stadium, the Wildcats’ home field, was built in 1927 and has 12,500 seats.

“There is talk of Villanova going to the Big East for football, and if so, we would become their home stadium,” Scanlon said. “We could potentially expand to 30,000 to accommodate them.”

PPL Park holds 18,500 for soccer.

Villanova, a football member of the Colonial Athletic Association at the Football Championship Subdivision level, is still in the mix for moving up to the Big East, according to local media reports.



















Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.



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