Indianapolis, Kansas City, and the changing arena economy

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What do you look at to tell if a team is doing well? Attendance, right? After all, the way to tell how good a team is if they have fans coming to games.  Low attendance means you’re not making money. Sure, the Clippers are the exception, but it’s L.A. Everything’s overpriced. But attendance is still the real determining factor in success.

Right?

In the words of Dwight Schrute, “False.”

The real key to a franchise’s success is a more complicated algorithm that factors in sponsorships, partnerships, and attendance. But the attendance piece isn’t built on sheer numbers, but in quality.

The Dallas Morning News’ Mark Francescutti has an excellent article today outlining the success teams are having by doing something counter-intuitive. Slashing prices. The Mavs are obviously the centerpiece, with this money quote from Mark Cuban:

“Bottom line is that the upper bowl is becoming a smaller and smaller
part of our total revenue,” owner Mark Cuban
wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “So we would rather
have a full house than make a couple dollars more. More fans means a
better home-court advantage, it means a better fan experience, which in
turn means more sales.”

The reason that the Mavs can make those kind of cuts is because the modern arena economy is now dependent on corporate suites and club seating. By focusing on those tickets, it allows the teams to fill out the big house.

This is why so many owners are requesting new arenas (outside of sheer greed). The modern economy has shifted to a sleeker, more efficient model and many older arenas are simply not fitted to that model.

Which brings us to the case of Indianapolis versus Kansas City. We told you yesterday about the Pacers potentially being sold for dirt cheap (that’s right, $230 million is cheap in what we’re talking about). One of the reasons a potential owner may want to relocate the team is because of the way the arena is configured.

Conseco Fieldhouse has 69 luxury suites. To put that in perspective, American Airlines Center in Dallas has 144 suites. Geez. Even smaller markets like the Rose Garden in Portland has 70 suites. Arco Arenas is severely behind with only 30 suites, one of the reason a new arena is a major issue in Sacramento. The Toyota Center in Houston has 80 suites.

Now, market size is going to be a huge factor, but so is how new the arena is, as well as what kind of club level seats are available. Kansas City has been a place discussed as a potential arena location for years, because they have a brand new arena, the Sprint Center, with no tenant. Huge building, no tenant. The arena also features 72 suites and a higher capacity for club seats than Conseco. So you’d have a similar overhead structure in a cheap city, with a building that maximizes profit, if you can fill it.

The arena itself is beautiful. When I spoke with Hornets’ guard Chris Paul at a preseason game in KC, he remarked that he “couldn’t believe how nice the arena was.” Everyone that attends an event there is stunned it’s so nice and even more amazed it has not regular tenant, outside of whatever Miley Cyrus/Jonas Brothers/Nickelback merchandise-fest is in town.

The public funding issue is going to be a problem anywhere in this country during the recession, but somewhere like Indiana with traditional Midwestern values is going to be even less likely to pony up for some new owner to build an arena he can charge more for to see a team that won’t be good for some time.

The Pacers are an institution. But this situation become representative of the changes going on in modern arena structuring.

UPDATE: Some interesting numbers on a few other arenas. The new Amway Center for the Magic will only feature 56 suites with 10 specialty suites. Similarly Charlotte features 67 suites, but does feature another 60 “lodge boxes.”

Additionally, a commenter points out that Conseco features two hosptiality suites, making for a total of 71 suites in Conseco to 72 at Sprint Center. It’s easy to argue that moving from Indiana to KC would be a lateral move, and a costly one at that.

Minnesota’s Gersson Rosas says Andrew Wiggins must be “main contributor” to T-wolves

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Last season in Minnesota — with Jimmy Butler torpedoing the team and ending the Tom Thibodeau era — was pretty much the figurative definition of a train wreck.

Out of that wreckage, the Timberwolves think they found some positives. Ryan Sunders was thrown into the fire as a young coach but bonded with Karl-Anthony Towns. Robert Covington sparked the defense before his injury. Josh Okogie emerged as a player. This summer the team drafted a player with a lot of potential in Jarrett Culver.

Minnesota also brought in the aggressive Gersson Rosas out of Houston to take over as team president and start reshaping the franchise into one that can live up to the promise of Towns’ potential. For that to start to happen, meaning a return to the playoffs, Rosas pointed to a couple of things needing to go right this season. First and foremost, they need more — and more consistency — out of Andrew Wiggins. Via Timberwolves writer/podcaster Dane Moore.

Most Timberwolves fans, and the rest of the league, have moved on from Wiggins, who has four years, $122 million left on his max contract. While he averaged 18.1 points per game last season, he doesn’t get those buckets efficiently nor consistently, and the result is an average/slightly below-average wing whose contract is an anchor on the franchise. We’ve learned no contract is untradable in the NBA, but this is as close to that line as it gets — the sweeteners Minnesota would have to throw in right now make a deal are prohibitive.

The only thing Minnesota can hope for is that in year six Wiggins takes some steps forward he did not take in the last five. Maybe continuity helps, but we’re all going to need to see it before we believe it.

The other thing Rosas said Minnesota needs: More consistent defense from Towns.

Saunders seemed to connect with Towns and got him to defend, and Covington played MIC linebacker calling out coverages and getting guys in position before his injury. Rosas said Covington would be good to go at the start of the season, if so that gives the Timberwolves real hope that the defense will improve.

Whether all of that will be enough to get them into the playoffs in a deep West is another question, but at least Minnesota seems to be moving in the right direction now.

President Donald Trump awarding Medal of Freedom to NBA star Bob Cousy

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WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump is set to present basketball legend Bob Cousy (KOO’-zee) with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The award is being handed out Thursday. It celebrates individuals with a wide range of achievements and is the nation’s highest civilian honor.

The 91-year-old Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame member played for the Boston Celtics from 1950 to 1963. He won six league championships and the 1957 MVP title.

Cousy is also known for speaking out against racism. He was an ardent supporter of black teammates who faced discrimination during the civil rights movement.

Cousy will be the second person to receive the award this year from Trump. Golfer Tiger Woods received the honor in May.

Report: Shelly Sterling, members of Clippers organization heard Donald Sterling audio in advance and didn’t act

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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In 2014, published audio of a racist rant by then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling rocked the country.

It shouldn’t have. Sterling’s racism and sexism were well-established by then. But few cared. The audio poured gasoline on the fire and moved people to act. I wish it didn’t require that. But it did.

What if the audio didn’t become public through TMZ? Apparently, there might have been opportunity for another outcome.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The fact is Shelly and several people in the Clippers organization heard the recording and decided not to act on it or weren’t appalled enough to act on it. Maybe they didn’t understand how big a splash this tape could make.

It’s unclear when Shelly Sterling (Donald’s wife) and other members of the Clippers organization heard the audio. Maybe it was while TMZ was doing due diligence. If so, it was probably too late to change the course of history.

But perhaps it was when V. Stiviano – Donald’s girlfriend who made the original recording and was being sued by Shelly – was still the only one in possession of it. Stiviano was clearly upset with how things were going financially between her and the Sterlings. For the right price, maybe the audio would have gone away before becoming public.

I’m glad it didn’t happen that way. The world is better off knowing exactly who Donald Sterling is.

Yet, this leads to an incredible “what if?” What if the people who heard the audio in advance understood the magnitude, acted in Sterling’s best interest and paid to have the audio kept secret? Would Sterling still own the Clippers today?

Kyle Kuzma scores on own basket in Team USA-Australia game (video)

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The Lakers are desperate at center. They might even need Kyle Kuzma to play the position. He’ll have to work on, among other things, rebounding.

At least it usually won’t go as poorly as this play in Team USA’s exhibition win over Australia.