The Oklahoma City Thunder has again made a concerted effort to allow fans and families from almost any circumstance to afford to catch a game this season.
When half-season ticket packages go on sale at 10 a.m. on Monday, the Thunder will officially open the door to two more options for anyone attempting to attend a game.
With two 20-game plans that cost between $200 and $3,200 depending on seat location, the Thunder has made it easy for fans to still see plenty of NBA basketball without committing the time and money it takes to secure a full 41-game season ticket. The hard part is deciding which package to select.
The Thunder's "Package A," includes the Christmas game against Denver, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers' lone trip to town, both visits by Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns and the only appearance by No. 1 overall pick John Wall and the Washington Wizards.
In "Package B," fans would get to attend opening night against Chicago, as well as one-time trips by Eastern Conference heavyweights Boston, Orlando and Atlanta. Both plans include a game against former OU star Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers, Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets, Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks, Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets and Brandon Roy and the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Thunder has set aside the Jan. 30 meeting with Miami, which last month acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh to team up with Dwyane Wade, as an additional purchase option.
"We tried to make it a balance to where if you're making the commitment to go to half the games you're getting a good, quality set of NBA opponents, and the day of the week is pretty balanced, too," said Brian Byrnes, the Thunder's senior vice president or sales and marketing.
The demand for the half-season packages is expected to be great. Buoyed by a 50-win season and a Cinderella-like playoff appearance, Oklahoma City saw 93 percent of its season ticket holders from the 2009-10 season renew for this coming year. According to the NBA, that figure ranks in the top three leaguewide, Byrnes said. The Thunder also has sold nearly 3,000 new full season tickets this summer.
The Thunder has sold roughly 12,500 full season tickets, only 500 from its self-imposed limit. The team's philosophy, as has been the case in each of the past two seasons, is to set aside 5,000 tickets for partial plans, group packages and single game sales. About 1,500 tickets will be available for mini-packages.
"There is a sense of urgency," Byrnes said. "Because our season ticket base is so high, the inventory that we set aside for these half-season packages is pretty limited. And we think, based on the demand that we've seen all summer, they're going to sell pretty quickly. So if you're excited about the Thunder and owning a ticket and having a relationship with the team, you ought to act pretty quickly because these things are going to sell quickly."
The Thunder also will release another set of carefully-constructed eight-game packages around Labor Day. Five variations of eight-game plans will be available to help make attending a handful of games even more convenient. For example, one plan will consists of weekend games to make trips from cities like Tulsa, Lawton and Enid more practical. Demand for the eight-game plans is expected to be high as well based on last season's sales of 2,500 packages when the plans included 10 games.
Single game tickets then go on sale in October.
"We want the building full every night," Byrnes said. "We also want as many different people to experience Thunder basketball as possible so that for the long term we're building a really good, strong fan base."
The Thunder, however, isn't obligated to be so accommodating. The NBA only mandates its teams set aside 500 $10 seats for each game. OKC offers 3,400. Meanwhile, the only ticket prices that increased, according to Byrnes, are the per-game prices attached to the 20-game plans in the lower bowl ($5 more per seat) and everywhere in the upper deck except the $10 loft seats ($4 more per seat).
While pricing for the eight-game plans haven't yet been determined, it's possible those per seat prices could rise a minimal amount as well. But with two fewer games than last season's 10-game packages, the total price could still be lower. Full season ticket holders, thanks in large part to signing up for a 41-game commitment, saw their prices remain the same.
"We've had a great summer," Byrnes said. "The interest in the team continues to be really robust and really strong. We're excited about all the momentum."
OKC Thunder 2010 half-season ticket plans
October: 31 vs. Utah.
November: 10 vs. Philadelphia; 12 vs. Portland; 17 vs. Houston; 24 vs. Dallas; 29 vs. New Orleans.
December: 12 vs. Cleveland; 19 vs. Phoenix; 25 vs. Denver; 29 vs. New Jersey.
January: 8 vs. Memphis; 28 vs. Washington.
February: 15 vs. Sacramento; 22 vs. L.A. Clippers; 27 vs. L.A. Lakers.
March: 6 vs. Phoenix; 20 vs. Toronto; 25 vs. Minnesota; 29 vs. Golden State.
April: 13 vs. Milwaukee
October: 27 vs. Chicago.
November: 14 vs. San Antonio; 22 vs. Minnesota.
December: 5 vs. Golden State; 15 vs. Houston; 17 vs. Sacramento; 27 vs. Dallas; 31 vs. Atlanta.
January: 13 vs. Orlando; 22 vs. New York.
February: 2 vs. New Orleans; 8 vs. Memphis.
March: 2 vs. Indiana; 11 vs. Detroit; 18 vs. Charlotte; 23 vs. Utah; 27 vs. Portland.
April: 6 vs. L.A. Clippers; 8 vs. Denver.