After patiently and astutely pulling off a great trade for Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggets organization deserves our loyal and continued support ... but not at the current ticket prices they're charging.
In the days leading up to Carmelo Anthony's eventual departure, the Nuggets tried to pull a fast-one on their season ticket holders: they sent out their annual renewal letters in early February - a least a full month to six weeks earlier than such letters typically go out - with a due date for deposits of this Friday, Feb. the 25th. If no deposit is made, the season ticket holder forgoes his or her priority number for next season's tickets and this year's playoff tickets.
As if that weren't insulting enough, the Nuggets kept their prices - already ridiculously overpriced thanks to pre-recession rates that somehow stayed in place - at the same number. Oh, and to top things off, there's no guarantee that there will be an NBA season next year, meaning that the Nuggets could conceivably hold our deposits, thousands of dollars mind you, with no or low interest for more than a year.
Don't think for a second that I'm the only season ticket holder to notice. Within the past week or so, I've received numerous requests from longtime season ticket holders - many of whom have had seats for more than 25 years - asking if I'd be interested in assuming their priority number or buying into their ticket plans. Like me, for years these fans begrudgingly overpaid by the thousands for season tickets in exchange for good seats and priority on playoff tickets, with the hopes that the Nuggets would make a championship run. We were also sold on the Nuggets' bloated payroll that was needed to get that championship trophy and thus, the money had to come from somewhere.
But at some point, enough is enough. After all, if it's okay for the Nuggets to slash payroll and expenses and as a result have an inferior team (even one worth rooting for), shouldn't the ticket prices be slashed, too?
Unfortunately for those longtime ticket holders in need of a financial lifeline, I'm not even renewing my own tickets. At least not now. You see, I'm going to approach renewing my tickets the same way Stan and Josh Kroenke are approaching their rebuilding process: show me what the new "rate card" is, and then I'll buy in.
I've spent months defending the Kroenkes' apparent decision to wait-and-see what the NBA's new "rate card" for player salaries will look like on the other side of the impending lockout before they again spend millions of their own dollars on re-signing players or signing free agents. As I've written here and said on the radio many times, I don't blame the Kroenkes whatsoever for not spending their money on a broken NBA revenue system that only favors the big market teams, costs small market teams millions in luxury tax payments and guarantees players too much money for too long. It's simply good business for the Kroenkes to rebuild the Nuggets under the new revenue sharing and collective bargaining rules rather than double down on stupid with the current rules. Anyone who disagrees with that has never run a business before.
But if that justifiable strategy is good enough for Stan and Josh, it should be good enough for fans like me who want to see what the "rate card" for season tickets looks like on the other side of the lockout, too.
Moreover, if the Kroenkes are saving millions in luxury tax money this year thanks to the Melo trade and millions more when player salaries are reduced in the future, shouldn't some of those savings be passed on to the ticket-paying fans? Aren't we all in this together?
So while Stan and Josh fight tirelessly (as I believe and hope they will) to completely overhaul the NBA's broken revenue sharing system and collective bargaining structure with its players, let's completely overhaul how season tickets are priced, too. We're overdue for tickets to be priced with some common sense.
Tickets are like real estate and should be priced according to their precise location, and not arbitrarily into large seating areas like they are now. For example, the season tickets I share - Section 122, Row 1 (which is really three rows up from courtside), Seats 11 and 12 - are priced exactly the same as the tickets that I sat in on Tuesday night - Section 102, Row AA (which really is the first row after courtside), Seats 17 and 18. And yet my Tuesday seats - by any objective measure - were substantially better than my Section 122 seats. I have damn good seats, but they're opposite the visitors' bench and are far removed from the center of the court, making it hard to see what's happening on the other end of the floor by the Nuggets' bench.
Comparatively, my Tuesday seats were closer to the center of the court, were two full rows closer to the floor (meaning more leg room) and were behind the visitors' bench which enabled me to closely see all the interactions between the head coach, the players and the referees. Point being, either my seats need to be less expensive or my friends' seats (sorry, guys!) need to be more expensive, but they certainly shouldn't be priced the same. It's like saying that two equally sized houses - one on the end of the block in front of a major traffic thoroughfare and the other set back in the neighborhood with a bigger yard - should always be valued the same. Simply put, seats closer to center court and closer to the floor should command a premium, whereas seats that put you closer to the baskets or farther from the floor should drop in price seat-by-seat and row-by-row.
While watching the Nuggets run the Grizzlies out of the Pepsi Center on Tuesday night, I couldn't help but notice something additionally interesting: the complete absence of trophy wives and girlfriends at the game. You know, the ones with the fake breasts, fake jewelry and 10-inch heels who spend the entire game looking at their mobile phones and couldn't name a Nugget not named "Melo" or "Chauncey" a week ago. For the first time in years, most of the fans in attendance - male and female - were there to watch basketball. Not to be seen. Not be taken on a date. Not to "say" they attended a Nuggets game. They were just there to watch basketball.
In speaking with many of the fans in my seating area on Tuesday night, none were season ticket holders. Instead, they had received the tickets from a friend or a boss, or had bought them just before tipoff at a substantial discount. Could this be the new face of the Pepsi Center audience? If so, I'm all for it. The problem for the Nuggets organization, however, is that these fans - the ones like me that will support a 30-win team just as much as they'll support a 60-win team - can't afford $12,000 season ticket packages. And those that can won't spend $12,000 on season tickets unless Pepsi Center is the place to be seen at again (I wish the Nuggets good luck trying to explain to those fair-weather fans the nuances of the collective bargaining agreement, what cap space means and why Danilo Gallinari could be the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki).
To be clear, I'm excited and enthusiastic to have Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri running our Nuggets and applaud how they put the Melodrama to bed. I've had the pleasure of getting to know them both since the season began and I can assure Nuggets fans everywhere that they are smart, classy, engaged and deeply passionate about turning the Nuggets into a longterm winning franchise.
But if Carmelo Anthony's departure signals a new era of financial austerity off the court and renewed respect for the game on it, then the Nuggets organization should use those same principles in dealing with their fans and season ticket holders. Because at the end of the day, I don't care how many games the Nuggets win. As long as the organization, the coaching staff and the players care more about the outcome of the game than I do, I'll be there to support them with my dollars and my voice no matter what.
I just don't have to go broke paying for it.