March 2, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers as a Business

“Pro sports are just a business after all.” This is normally a platitude (albeit true) thrown around when a team has to let a fan favorite player walk, but in reality, it is the driving force behind… quite literally everything in the NBA. The focus on offense, TV deals, the lockout, contracts, buying tickets, etc. all stem from this simple fact. This is why it was fascinating to hear what both Blazers President Chris McGowan and Owner Paul Allen had to say on media day.

Much of the focus on the Blazers from media and fans is on the players and coaches, and rightly so. But there is no single person more important in the organization than Allen, who is the end all be all. McGowan’s job is in a way, then, to keep Allen’s little enterprise running smoothly and profitably. It was refreshing to hear from both of them, and I think there were several points worth mentioning from their interviews.

Both of them were asked about, and touched upon, the renaming of the Rose Garden to the Moda Center. It appeared to be an unpopular move if judging by fan reaction, but Allen put it all in perspective:

“Since I came up with the Rose Garden name it was a tiny bit painful, but these are the things you have to do to put your team on firm financial footing. The increased revenue we got there is equivalent to a significant player in terms of revenue”

There’s no arguing with that. We as fans want to see our team succeed, and if, such a relatively small change can help the team, then I’m all for it. McGowan mentioned this too, saying that once he actually talked with and explained to people the reasons for the switch, they were much more understanding. By and large the Blazers have an intelligent fan base, so I don’t see this being an issue in the long-term. This isn’t to gloss over the change, though. The name ‘Rose Garden’ was a huge part of the franchise’s identity, so I think fans would be happier if they know it can lead to tangible improvement.

Speaking of improvement and the on-court product, McGowan discussed this as well. He astutely pointed out that fans in Portland are pretty easy to work with in terms of attendance. “Here, as long as you’re playing the right way, your fans generally are going to support you,” he said, while comparing that to teams who face empty stadiums when they are not experiencing success. Portland fans should be proud of this; I think (know) that we actually take our rocking Rose.. I mean Moda Center for granted.

I have never attended a Blazer game that was not sold out (or incredibly close to it), and as anyone who has gone to a game knows, the atmosphere is incredible. There is a reason the Blazers have traditionally been excellent on their home court – they really feed off the fan energy. Something else struck me, though, last year, when I had to extensively use League Pass while living abroad. Grinding through games that were not marquee matchups or Blazers home games, I was astounded at the low attendance I saw in many games.

Often times the stadiums I could see were barely half-full, if that. In recent times, the only time the Blazers had a problem with attendance was during the zenith of the Jail Blazer years, which McGowan indirectly addressed in the quote above – “playing the right way.” He’s right – by and large the Blazers have a great fan base, and I am definitely proud to be a part of it.

The last bit that is absolutely worth mentioning from McGowan is regarding sleeved jerseys, or the lack thereof. In response to a question asking if the Blazers would wear sleeved jerseys this year, he succinctly answered, “We are not.” To respond succinctly in turn; thank God. Having teams wear those monstrosities screams “gimmick” that desperate teams turn towards to drum up any sort of interest. I’m glad McGowan is shying away from such tactics.

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Tags: Chris Mcgowan Paul Allen Portland Trail Blazers

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