SBJ/March 26-April 1, 2012/Franchises

Will incentives work magic for Wizards ticket sales?

The Washington Wizards have rolled out a season-ticket renewal campaign laden with incentives as the team looks to boost business during a year of futility on the court.

The team has created a DC 12 Club marketing platform that gives new and renewing full-season-ticket buyers access to some 30 events hosted by the team outside of Wizards games, all included in the price of the ticket. The “12” in the program’s label is a nod to participants having access to events all 12 months of the year.

It’s an offering similar to what the Charlotte Bobcats unveiled last month, with their Cats 365 plan that provides season-ticket buyers a series of events outside of the games.

“We are creating more value,” said Jim Van Stone, senior vice president of ticket sales and services for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the Ted Leonsis-owned organization that operates the Wizards, the NHL Capitals and the WNBA Mystics. “We are looking at this as a way for fans to be part of a membership and we are trying to create deeper relationships.”

The DC 12 Club is offered at no cost to season-ticket buyers, who can pick and choose from a slate of offerings ranging from open gym at the team’s practice facility to movie nights in the Verizon Center. Another incentive is priority to purchase seats to the men’s and women’s Olympic basketball exhibitions against Brazil to be held at the Verizon Center on July 16, the last games the Olympic squads will play in the United States before the London Games begin.

In addition, the Wizards are holding flat season-ticket prices for renewing customers as part of the team’s price-guarantee pledge made last year. Next year’s season-ticket prices range between $9.50 and $1,500 per game. The Wizards also are giving season-ticket buyers authentic player warm-up jackets and, like other NBA teams, they are implementing a 12-month payment plan for season-ticket buyers.

It is a menu of incentives team officials hope will boost the season-ticket base, which stands in excess of 7,000. Last year, the Wizards sold 2,500 new full-season-ticket plans, a number Van Stone would like to duplicate despite the team’s struggles on the court.

“We will be at 80 percent plus,” Van Stone said of the team’s expected renewal rate. “We have tried to add as much value as we can in terms of [season-ticket-holder] investment.”

As of last Thursday, the Wizards had an 11-34 record on the court, third-worst in the 30-team league. At the gate, the team ranked 17th leaguewide, with an average attendance of 16,783 fans a game, up 1.3 percent to date from last year.

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