I made the trip home to Oklahoma for my alma mater's, Langston University, homecoming this past weekend. Attending my school's homecoming festivities usually entails falling prey to plenty of shenanigans and tomfoolery with my fraternity brothers, gallivanting around with women I used to have a crush on and reliving my glory days of college student's past. I succeeded in all three.
Similarly, when coming home, its also good touch base with the local supporters of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Living all the way out here in California now can make for a jaded experience with the Thunder franchise (although it does allow me to be objective about things) and hearing it from the die-hards helps provide balance in the grand scheme of putting quality thoughts together on the Western Conference champions.
Going to Thunder games is now going to cost an arm and a leg. One thing that caught my eye after I rented my car at the airport was the gas prices at the 7-11.
I almost choked on my soy grande caramel macchiato from Starbucks when I saw that. You've got to understand, here in California, I just paid $4.87/gallon to fill up my truck. Which is the equivalent of said soy grande caramel macchiato that I almost choked on.
Unlike gas prices, which change drastically depending on the region, the ticket prices for the Oklahoma City Thunder apparently have sky-rocketed to epic proportions. With the waiting list for season tickets allegedly thousands upon thousands of names long, the demand to sit in "Loud City" aka Chesapeake Energy Arena is now higher than ever.
Its not like this is a shock, but the prices that are now being charged feel like Hollywood prices...not Great Plains prices.
When the team is winning, price will never be an issue. If the Thunder win a championship, prices will continue to rise. Yet, I hope that the Thunder don't price out their fans who can only afford to come to a few games a year, or travel from Indiahoma or Idabel to watch the Thunder do work. Price elasticity is in the administration's favor right now, and maybe some fans will feel some sort of obligation to pay higher prices to ensure that players like James Harden stay. (Sidenote: if you feel this way, I will personally talk you out of this. God help you.)
If the Thunder brass do whatever it takes to try and run this team in the black in the coming years, with salaries rising exponentially, there could be a huge shift in who's making Loud City oh so loud.
You know how the New York Yankees games look when the game starts? You see those seats that are empty behind the plate? Or how about the Los Angeles Lakers, whose fans have been notoriously known to not get settled in until midway through the first quarter if the game isn't deemed big enough?
I'm not trying to overreact here, but you can hear it in the narrative from general manager Sam Presti. Bill Simmons summed it up quite well last week. "Presti's public rhetoric has been particularly pointed: We love James, we'd love to bring him back, but we're a small-market team and it would be really hard for us to pay the luxury tax."
So after your first four years of living in the black in profits as a franchise, you're so concerned about $30 million in luxury tax? Ok. So if you're concerned about dwindling profits, maybe you should find a way to generate more income right? So I guess that's the reason why the Thunder will wear not one, but two new uniforms (Christmas edition leaked, again by NBA 2K13...greatest video game ever) that will be worn this season. Along with increases in television appearances, increased online/social media exposure and a new television deal on the horizon in 2016 (which will be massive) the opportunity to make money for this team isn't that far out of reach.
Raising of ticket prices is inevitable when a team continues to succeed, but what made "Loud City" so special is that the fanbase looked like the Oklahoma I grew up with. From farm boys, college kids, soccer moms and members of the armed forces were all in The Peake going crazy for their team. I just fear a day where the suits are writing off their tickets and looking for an excuse to take their clients out to the game. I fear the day when chunks of seats in the lower bowl are empty because folks are running fashionably late. I fear the day when seats in the upper bowl cost as much as it does to fill my gas tank up here in California.
Maybe this is just an inevitably that I'm deliberately being naive about, but taking for granted what "Loud City" is all about in the hunt to scrape a little more off the top of your loyal fan base will ultimately dry out. Hopefully it doesn't turn the fan base into "6-inch voice City" in the process.