New Concept In Pro Basketball Arenas: No Seats

I used to think there was only so much you could do in sports marketing, but the Bakersfield Jam proved me wrong. This season the NBDL franchise moved out of its spacious arena to play all of its home games at the club’s practice facility.

Bakersfield Jam Events Center Seats 400

(But the acoustics are stunnnnning. Helllooooo!)

No, that isn’t media courtside. That’s everyone the building.

Thankfully, a gentle soul at DleagueDigest.com is here to illuminate the, “unique business model of the Bakersfield Jam,” which apparently requires less fans per game than the local Home Depot clocks in for a shift.

The Jam sells a big percentage of the 420 seats exclusively as season ticket packages, and these packages come with far more than paid attendance to 24 basketball games (one of the team’s “home” games was played at the D-League Showcase in Boise). A wide variety of packages come with perks ranging from deals at local restaurants or businesses to LA Clippers tickets.

Okay, that was sounding reasonable until that last “perk” was thrown in.

I worked in minor league sports for many years, and I appreciate what the Jam is doing. Playing in a large arena was pointless, as NBDL crowds routinely draw well below four figures. And less than three figures at NBDL games I witnessed at Staples Center in L.A.

What’s really happening here is the local Chamber of Commerce and the people running the team are doing all they can to preserve a (so-called) source of pride in the city. From having done it myself, I can guarantee that the team went around town to all the local businesses and pleaded for season seat buys to sellout the tiny ticket allotment for home games.

With all those businesses buying seats/tables for the games, you have what amounts to a quasi-networking opportunity. It’s an interesting idea and if the numbers work, it could be the future of minor league sports. Especially minor league basketball, which is as tough a sell as Snooki’s skin will be in about three years.

It’s easy to joke about these situations, but for the folks in charge of the team and city leaders, it’s serious business. I worked in similar size markets for minor league teams in different sports and felt the pain those people go through daily.

I’d like to think the idea will work and the franchise will flourish. Though we are talking about an organization that considers giving free Clippers tickets to fans a “perk.”

UPDATE: Much more specific information about the situation here.