by Kent Sterling
God bless the Indiana Pacers. When forced to choose between getting in line for either brains or balls, they must have decided to stand in the shorter line for balls – twice.
The Indiana Pacers have bumped season ticket prices 9% to just over $500 for balcony level seats almost $30K for courtside. Yes, the Pacers were last in the NBA in attendance. Yes, they lost a lost of money last season. No, Indianapolis ticket buyers don’t need another reason to turn their backs on the hometown team.
Prices for season tickets had been dropped by the Pacers over the course of the last five years, and these new prices are still lower than what they were five years ago, but when people are not exactly banging down the door to watch the Pacers – even in the two postseason games they hosted, raising the cost of tickets stands out as an odd choice.
There is also the small mitigating factor of the Pacers allowing fans who renewed early for two years not to pay the increase at all, along with other smaller increases for those who met a deadline.
But still the message remains, “Thanks for your loyalty through some tremendously mediocre times when because of our own stupidity, we allocated resources to players who were asked to sit at home, but now it’s time for you to pay because we achieved a little success.”
According to Mike Wells piece in this morning’s Indianapolis Star, the Pacers say the prices were set before the team went to the playoffs. That makes it appear less unseemly, but how many people are going to recognize that.
There is a persistent arrogance within the front office, or at least a willingness to blame fans for the poor attendance, that is more than a tad off-putting. The report in a Bob Kravitz column about Rick Fuson’s behavior on press row during the a home playoff game of the Pacers vs. Bulls series that is a wonderful snapshot of that attitude:
“During the first half, Pacers executive Rick Fuson angrily walked over to some reporters and, noting the sea of red, said, ‘I hope Indiana learns.” Please.
“You can’t field a lousy and thoroughly irrelevant team for four-plus years, then have a decent two months and expect the entire city to reach for its wallets. It’s like the Colts playoff game in 1999 when Tennessee Titans fans filled the RCA Dome, before the Colts really became the Colts. This is a small market, really a soft market, and you can’t undo years of mediocrity and worse overnight, especially during these harsh economic times.”
Teachers shouldn’t blame students for not learning. Party hosts shouldn’t blame guests for not laughing. And priests should blame congregates for not staying until the end of his mass.
People who fail hate the mirror.
And no matter how you slice it, or whether you like all the people in the Pacers front office or not, it’s hard to argue with dead last in attendance. Now the fans willing to pick up the phone to order tickets will get an additional 9% ding added to the bill.
It’s not all the fault of the business side of the Pacers front office, or the marketing staff. Getting people to embrace a team that wins in the 30s every year is impossible. The marketing staff of the Chicago Bulls walked the streets of Chicago like they were the smartest people on the planet from 1990-1993 and 1995-1998. Sellouts every night. Geniuses who were able to spin Michael Jordan and six championships in eight years into filled seats. My sofa could have been the Bulls VP of marketing in the 1990s and won awards.
But blaming fans in front of the media (imagine what they say behind closed doors) and jacking tickets prices seem strange strategies for a team that has won as many as 37 games just once in the last five seasons.
With an NBA labor stoppage looming that could define the word acrimonious, the Pacers need to generate all the goodwill it can.