SBJ/April 9-15, 2012/Franchises

Thunder sells out '12-13 season tickets, starts wait list

Just six weeks into its 2012-13 season-ticket renewal campaign, the Oklahoma City Thunder already has sold out its full-season-ticket allotment for next year, the earliest the small-market franchise has sold out of its inventory.

“We are at our self-imposed limit at 14,000 season tickets and we just wrapped it up with renewing at 98 percent,” said Brian Byrnes, senior vice president of ticket sales and marketing for the Thunder. “Virtually every season-ticket holder has an active deposit for next season and it is the fastest we have sold out of our season tickets.”

While the Thunder’s Western Conference leading 40-13 record has helped fuel ticket sales for next year, the team did not raise season-ticket prices despite its success and is now one of the few NBA teams boasting a season-ticket waiting list along with big market brethren the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and New York Knicks.

To date, the Thunder has 1,700 people who paid $50 to join the waiting list called “Team Blue.”

The team will reserve the remaining 4,000 seats in its newly refurbished 18,203-seat Chesapeake Energy Arena for group and individual ticket sales.

“Next year will be year No. 5 in Oklahoma City and we still feel we are building a brand,” Byrnes said. “We were very aggressive [in ticket pricing] early and we didn’t feel an increase was warranted.”

While the Thunder ranks among the top five NBA teams in season-ticket sales, it ranks in the upper third of the 30-team league in ticket revenue, Byrnes said, though he did not give specific revenue figures.

“We are not New York or Los Angeles, and we try to make [revenue] up in volume,” Byrnes said.

Through April 3, the Thunder was averaging 18,203 fans per game, up slightly from the 18,144 fans per game to date from last season. The team has sold out every home game this season and has a consecutive sellout streak of 40 home games dating to last season.

The team ranked 13th in average attendance among the NBA’s teams through April 3. The league’s average attendance this year through April 3 stood at 17,273 fans per game.

“It’s rare that a team sells [season tickets] so fast,” said Bernie Mullin, chief executive officer of the sports marketing consultant Aspire Group. “It’s a great product on the court, but they have been in the market now for a while and this is a time when you could have some dissolution of interest. But [holding season-ticket prices] is a smart strategy and will hold them in great stead should the team see its on-court performance decline.”

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