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Volume 21 No. 2
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Short time frame makes life hard for arena bookers

The NBA’s decision to cancel the first two weeks of the regular season left arena managers with no time to fill those vacated dates.

Canceling games on such short notice, three weeks ahead of their scheduled season openers, makes it virtually impossible for teams and buildings to plug those holes with a concert or a family show, according to several operators.

Exacerbating the issue is the NBA’s plan to release dates back to arenas two weeks at a time. Canceling games in such small chunks provides fewer opportunities to pick up an event, said Ron Little, Oracle Arena’s interim general manager in Oakland.

The good news for some teams, such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, is as few as two regular-season games were initially wiped out.

To fill the open dates, some teams and buildings are being as proactive as possible to create events to accommodate their premium seat holders and arena partners.

In Boston, TD Garden officials were organizing an ice skating event for Celtics’ sponsors on the night of one of the three NBA games canceled to date. In a busy arena, it is a rare opportunity for “open ice,” said John Wentzell, president of Delaware North Cos. Boston.

“We are trying to make lemonade out of lemons,” Wentzell said. “It is one of the things we have looked at, given the short turnaround.”

In Los Angeles, Staples Center owner/operator AEG lost nine games between the Lakers and Clippers. To fill those dates, arena officials were talking to talent agencies and artist managers about booking a night of tribute bands at a cheap ticket price of $15 to $25, plus discounted concessions, said Lee Zeidman, Staples Center’s senior vice president and general manager.

Indoor beach volleyball and roller derby were other possibilities.

“We have a tremendous marketing database to work with,” Zeidman said. “We’re mining everything.”