Thunder Insider: OKC ranks high in ticket sales, lower in filled seats

by Michael Baldwin Published: August 10, 2009

/> Atlanta handed out a league-high 5,616 complimentary tickets, a strategy most teams use, hoping fans will spend money on food, souvenirs and parking.

The Thunder actually was on the low end in comp tickets (less than 2,000).

The bottom line: Oklahoma City team chairman Clay Bennett and his ownership group flourished where it counted most — money generated.

The Sonics produced only $18.8 million in ticket revenue their final season in Seattle. Last season, the Thunder generated $46.0 million, an average of $1.12 million per game.

"I wouldn’t call them a savior,” Jim Grinstead, publisher of Revenues from Sports Values magazine, was quoted by "But I would say (Oklahoma City) made this (past) year a lot better for the league than it would have been otherwise.”

OKC’s league-best $27.2 million increase at the gate offset huge ticket revenue losses in Toronto (down $9.1 million), Detroit ($7.7 million), the Los Angeles Clippers ($6.8 million) and Miami ($5.3 million).

Fans, for some reason, are enamored by attendance figures. That’s why two months before the 2009-10 season begins, Thunder fans need to be forewarned that Oklahoma City is guaranteed to fall in most attendance categories.

With loge seating added on both ends, Ford Center capacity will be reduced to 18,203, nearly 1,000 less seats than last season.

Even if the Thunder sold out all 41 home games, it can’t match last year’s attendance total.

It will be impossible for Oklahoma City to rank in the top 15 in the customary "overall” attendance charts.

But with more weekend games, and an expected improvement in the standings, one attendance stat should improve — percentage of seats filled.

by Michael Baldwin
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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