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OKC Thunder: Games continue to sell out at Chesapeake Energy Arena

Thunder is on verge of selling out 35th straight game.
BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: March 12, 2012
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/articleid/3657141/1/pictures/1666771">Photo - FANS / CROWD / OVERVIEW: Basketball returns for the season opener as the Oklahoma City Thunder play the Orlando Magic in NBA basketball at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011, in Oklahoma City, Okla.  Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
FANS / CROWD / OVERVIEW: Basketball returns for the season opener as the Oklahoma City Thunder play the Orlando Magic in NBA basketball at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011, in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

Last fall, despite the NBA being in the midst of a 149-day lockout, the Thunder sold out of its season-ticket allotment (14,000) and started a waiting list. At the time, the Lakers, Celtics, Bulls and Knicks reportedly were the only franchises to have sold out of season tickets for 2011-12.

Comparatively speaking, OKC ticket prices are more than reasonable.

According to the 2012 Team Marketing Report, the Thunder's average ticket price of $47.15 ranked 14th among NBA teams and is below the league's average ticket price of $48.48.

OKC also has an impact with ticket brokers. According to ticket search engine SeatGeek, the average price for Thunder tickets purchased through an online broker was $93.26 this past week, which ranked sixth behind New York ($299.98), the Los Angeles Lakers ($182.59), Chicago ($142.05), Miami ($106.52) and Dallas ($95.29).

Since the 1999-2000 season, the NBA has required every team to offer at least 500 tickets at $10 apiece for each home game. The Thunder offered 3,400 such seats in Loud City this season.

“I don't know if there is a bad seat in the building,” a fan named Leah posted last week in a NewsOK.com survey, adding she purchases only the $10 ticket. “No matter what, Thunder games are fun. It's a great atmosphere. It's fun just to be there.”

Thunder games immediately became a gathering spot for people to see and be seen, and it remains a hot ticket. The Thunder arrived from Seattle with the league's youngest roster and a budding star in Kevin Durant.

OKC now has the league's sixth-youngest roster and the team has grown along with fan interest.

“We have grown with this team,” fan Mike Matos said. “Just the way the franchise landed here with KD in place and the draft picks. Youth, it's what this town adores.”

Spectacular plays from the 23-and-under quartet of Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka continually brings the crowd to its feet, but sometimes the crowd reaction comes first.

“(The Thunder) seems to have at least one really ugly stretch in every game, but the fans never give up,” said Eric Pennell, 27, of Norman. “For example, during an opponent's run there will be a little dip in the action as Russ slowly brings the ball up the floor and you can hear the crowd start to build, trying to push the guys through the tough stretch. You don't see that in many — any? — arenas. Also, the ‘Rus-sell' chant early in the year at the tail end of his horrific shooting slump was something out of a movie. I'll never forget that moment. Still sends chills.”

The Thunder's statewide appeal has been surpassed by its national attention.

“We'll see what happens over time, but I'm still in awe that there is a major league sports team in our state,” said Dale Prevett, 51, a fan from Owasso. “The Tulsa area has been slower to embrace Thunder fever, but it's growing. The Thunder are Oklahoma's team, and it's fun to have a single team to rally around. Even OU and OSU fans can find common ground with OKC.”

It's almost a certainty this entire season will be sold out. A limited number of tickets can be found for some of the 13 remaining home games, and the Thunder holds back 200 tickets every game as part of its Rewards Zone offer, with registration beginning three hours before tipoff.

Opened in 2002 and built for the bargain-basement price of roughly $89 million, the former Ford Center has undergone numerous renovations. Its current $91.9-million face-lift is scheduled to be completed in May.


Thunder vs. Houston Rockets

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena

TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD Ch. 722)

Mobile: newsok.com/gameday

Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM

Three things to know

* This is the fourth and final meeting between the Thunder and Rockets this season. Oklahoma City is 2-1 against Houston. The Rockets won the last meeting, 96-95, inside the Toyota Center.

* Rockets starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out two to four weeks with a bacterial infection. Lowry is averaging 15.9 points, 7.2 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals this year.

* This is the final game of a five-game homestand for the Thunder. Oklahoma City is 3-1 on the current stand and 18-2 overall inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. After playing the Rockets, the Thunder will have five of its next seven at home as well.

Projected starters

Thunder (32-9)

Pos.;Player;Ht.;Pts.;Reb.;Ast.

G;Russell Westbrook;6-3;23.7;4.7;5.5

G;Daequan Cook;6-5;5.7;2.5;0.3

F;Kevin Durant;6-9;27.9;7.9;3.4

F;Serge Ibaka;6-10;8.5;7.7;0.4

C;Kendrick Perkins;6-10;4.4;6.4;1.1

Rockets (22-20)

Pos.;Player;Ht.;Pts.;Reb.;Ast.

G;Goran Dragic;6-3;8.2;2.0;3.6

G;Kevin Martin;6-7;17.1;2.7;2.8

F;Chandler Parsons;6-9;8.3;4.5;1.9

F;Luis Scola;6-9;15.4;6.5;1.6

C;Samuel Dalembert;6-11;8.1;7.6;0.7

HOME ATTENDANCE

So far this season, the Thunder has operated at full capacity at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Here is a season-by-season breakdown of Thunder home attendance.

SEASON; NO. SELLOUTS; PCT. CAPACITY

2008-09; 18; 97.7

2009-10; 28; 98.9

2010-11; 35; 99.7

2011-12; 20; 100.0

Note: Capacity at Ford Center in 2008-09 was 19,136; capacity at Chesapeake Energy Arena is 18,203.

Source: NBA and Thunder

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