- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

The oft-maligned NBA yesterday gained a significant feather for its cap: the first major sports league in more than a decade to lower its average ticket cost.
Team Marketing Report, a Chicago sports industry newsletter that has tracked sports ticket costs since 1991, said the typical price to see an NBA game in the 2001-02 season is $50.10, down 2.3 percent from last year's $51.27. The decrease represents the first aggregate fall by a league in the history of TMR's surveys. Sixteen teams, including Washington, lowered their prices while only two, Dallas and Sacramento, boosted prices by more than 10 percent.
The NBA last year became the first major sports league to cross the $50 threshold in average price. But a series of discount promotions, an enlargement of the leaguewide $10 seat program implemented by commissioner David Stern following the 1998-99 lockout and a general response to the declining U.S. economy led the league to buck a longtime trend within sports. Since 1991, average ticket prices in the NBA, NFL, and Major League Baseball have each soared at least 100 percent, posting at least some increase in every year.
"This is really startling news. A fan makes contact with a team now and the first thing the club says is, 'Things are going to be different,'" said Kurt Hunzeker, TMR editor. "You go from team to team and many of them are now selling those $10 seats on a season basis, and just about every team is pushing very, very hard on 10- and 20-game plans and rewarding fans for making that commitment through lower prices."
The Wizards ranked ninth highest in average cost at $52.06, 13.9 percent lower than last year. The New York Knicks, who have sold out 391 straight games entering tonight's season opener against Washington, posted the league's highest average price for the fourth straight year at $89.80. The survey is based on full- and partial-season ticket prices and includes club seats.
But the most startling revelation of the TMR survey concerns the Seattle SuperSonics, Portland Trail Blazers and Detroit Pistons, each of which slashed prices more than 20 percent to help lure back a more disaffected fan base.
"Just about every team is now offering some type of family package that packages together tickets, parking, food and merchandise," said league spokesman Michael Bass. "It's a segment of the fan base teams felt a need to reach out to more."
The Knicks also ranked first in TMR's Fan Cost Index, which compiles the total cost of four average-priced tickets, four small sodas, two beers, four hot dogs, two programs, two caps and parking. New York's total came to $460.70. Washington's total was $300.24; the league average was $277.19.
Because of the NBA's price drops, the NFL remains the most expensive ticket in major team sports with an average cost of $53.64.


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