Blazer tickets in demand at Rose Garden, and prices increase

The Portland Trail Blazers have recorded 106 consecutive sellouts at the Rose Garden, and chief marketing officer Sarah Mensah said Tuesday she does not expect the streak to end anytime soon.

Moreover, a season in which the Blazers have answered injuries and setbacks with resilient, inspiring victories appears to have done nothing but strengthen a devoted fanbase that was already contributing to the triumphant return of Rip City, despite the fact that the team has not won a playoff series since 2000.

Mensah said fans “feel” the team, creating a symbiotic relationship that produces a frenzied atmosphere, and providing the Blazers with one of the best home-court advantages in the NBA.

“I think it’s a two-way street. I think the team feels that way about the fans as well,” Mensah said. “And I think that’s why we’re going to continue to sell this building out. I think that fans really believe that they’ve been part of this. And the truth is, they have.”

Nowhere is fan support more evident than in the organization’s season-ticket renewal rate. Tuesday marked the cutoff date for 2010-11 renewals, and Mensah said she expected return buyers to pass the 90-percent rate. In addition, Mensah stated that the Blazers could sell out the Rose Garden with season-ticket sales alone, but the franchise prefers to give casual fans access to home games.

“We really do believe that we have the best fans in the league,” Mensah said. “And they’ve proved that by coming, game in and game out. It’s really our season-ticket holders and their attendance at games which has really driven the sellout ratio.”

The bond between the Blazers and the team’s fan base is a major asset to an organization that is based in one of the smallest economic markets in the league. The contrast is evident when Portland’s average home attendance numbers are compared to the team’s road draw. The Blazers rank third out of 30 teams in home-crowd numbers (20,477) but are just 25th in road attendance (16,396).

The regional devotion to the black and red splits both ways at the Rose Garden, too. While selling season tickets – a major source of income for professional sports franchises – has not been an issue in recent years, Mensah said the Blazers raised ticket prices for next season due to factors such as scarcity, demand and previous renewal rates.

“It’s more of a science rather than a gut feeling,” Mensah said. “And it’s a segmented yet complex technical equation.”

A similar equation has been transferred to individual ticket pricing. Many games this season have been valued with a variable-pricing model, which allowed the franchise to raise or lower prices based off factors such as opponents, winning streaks and injuries.

Mensah said the organization was pleased with initial results, but added that this season’s efforts only represent the tip of the iceberg.

Right now, the Blazers are operating within a 48-hour window. But in the near future, the team will run a system comparable to the airline industry, using computer software that prices tickets based off complex logarithmic equations.

Secondary markets such as Craigslist and StubHub have forever changed the ticket market, Mensah said. As a result, the Blazers are attempting to stay ahead of the curve – allows fans to resell tickets on the internet – while also maximizing profit and giving fans as much entertainment value as possible in the process.

“The markets will really drive the value of the ticket much more than they have in the past,” Mensah said. “It was much more of a gut decision around what the value of a price was. And now, we can be much more definitive.”

Interview: Check the Blazer Banter blog at for the full transcript of an interview with Mensah.

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