In a season that began with so many expectations, the injury-ravaged Timberwolves are on their way to missing the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year.
Only 70 percent of their 10,000 season-ticket base has renewed for next year when the team is increasing prices after slashing them to bargain prices three years ago. And that’s with offering 10 percent back next year if the team doesn’t make this spring’s playoffs.
The Wolves recently began a “Get Closer” campaign to sell new season tickets with a series of off-beat television commercials featuring Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko and Greg Stiemsma as well as a promise to make those buyers more a part of the family through a five-level membership program that will offer everything from viewing parties and town-hall meetings to road trips and dinner with owner Glen Taylor, based upon the buyers’ level of commitment.
Wolves President Chris Wright last week discussed the challenges of selling tickets for a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2004.
Q: Having a third of your season ticket holders not renew seems like a lot. Is it?
A: Our research said it’d be about that, given we’re increasing prices. We’re right where we thought we’d be. A lot of the seats we’re losing are in the upper level. We sold so many of those $5 seats three years ago and they went to $14.
Q: This question is from a guy in a newspaper industry that has given its product away for free on the Internet for years: How do you wean fans off ticket prices you cut in some cases to cheaper than a movie ticket?
A: It’s hard, but we still have 1,000 seats in the lower level for next season that are $20. There’s a piece of me that says that’s still a great buy for consumers. It’s probably one of the cheapest seats in the lower level for any NBA arena, but it is very, very difficult once you have lowered prices to take them back up to average NBA levels.
Q: Will you be back in the ballpark with these price increases?
A: I still think we’ll be below NBA average. This is the 15th-largest marketplace in the country and with 30 teams in our league, we should be at average. And we’re not there yet.
Q: You say you’re raising prices by an average of 20 percent. Do people believe that getting 10 percent back next season is a good deal?
A: In the end, it was a smart move for everybody to be in this together. The fans really believed this was a team capable of reaching the playoffs and our players and we believed we were capable. It goes back to the campaign: Get Closer means we all have a little bit of skin in the game, and we’re prepared to go down that path together.