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Sonics Trial Blog

Seattle Times reporters Percy Allen, Jim Brunner and Danny O'Neil are filing updates from the courthouse throughout the day.

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June 18, 2008 2:50 PM

Surprise! Sonics are having a hard time selling tickets

Posted by Percy Allen

During re-direct from Sonics attorney Brad Keller, interim CEO Danny Barth said the Sonics have had "some significant challenges in the ticket sales area."

"Fan apathy and our brand recognition has been very difficult," he said. "Ticket sales we've had indicate that there is no interest. After the [NBA] Board of Governors voted to relocate to Oklahoma City we received no phone calls."

Barth said after the Sonics received the No. 4 pick in the draft, the team didn't field any calls from fans looking to buy tickets.

"It's normally a large event," Barth said. "We received phone calls when we [drafted] Mouhamed Sene. Some negative and some positive. ... This time nothing."

When asked to explain the apathy, Barth said: "Individuals have a problem with our ownership group and some of them being from Oklahoma."

Keller asked Barth what he predicted business in Seattle would be if the team is forced to stay.

"There's another indicator that we look at, it's called no-show rate," Barth said. "Individuals who pay for tickets and don't show up. That number is 28 percent. ... I anticipate our ticket sales will be significantly down."

Barth said 23 of the team's 125 employees have left in the past six months. Recently, a high level executive left the company.

Barth said he expects more employees to leave and said it would be difficult to replace them during a "lame-duck" period. He said keeping up morale has been difficult.

Barth said the city determines the price and the contract of the KeyArena suites. He said in one instance a potential suite buyer wanted a three-year contract that included an out-clause if the team left, but the city declined to provide the provision.

Keller introduced Exhibit 509, which detailed the KeyArena suite sales. Barth said only 5 1/2 of KeyArena's 48 suites are sold for next season. Last season, the team sold 19 1/2 suites and 24 1/2 suites in the 2006-07 season.

Keller introduced Exhibit 507, season-ticket holder attrition rate from the 2002-03 season. Back then there were 190 club seats ticket holders out of 1,100. At the end of last season, only 72 club seat ticket holders remained.

Barth said there were 3,992 season-ticket holders last season. He said the real capacity of KeyArena is closer to 16,400 and not 17,072, which is widely regarded.

Keller introduced Exhibit 510, which was the average regular-season net gate receipts and average paid attendance between 2000 and 2008. The Sonics ranked 17th in average gate receipts in 2000-01. Last season, the team ranked 27th in both average regular-season net gate receipts and average paid attendance.

Barth said he doesn't anticipate the team will improve its net gate receipts or paid attendance and said the team could rank last in the NBA in both categories.

Keller introduced Exhibit 504 and Barth said the Sonics have paid the city more than $94 million in lease payments since 1994. Including the 2007-08 projections, the Sonics will have paid $114 million in lease payments since 1994.

Judge Marsha Pechman called for recess at 2:45 p.m.

When the trial resumes, Barth will attempt to quantify the team's payments for the next two years.

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July 2008

June 2008

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Trial coverage from | Hope (still) springs in Seattle