The inaugural events at Golden 1 Center, a pair of Paul McCartney concerts, sold out within hours.
Filling Golden 1 for the first-ever regular season Sacramento Kings game has taken a good deal longer.
Thursday night’s opener against the San Antonio Spurs at the 17,500-seat downtown arena still wasn’t a sellout as of Tuesday afternoon. Around 260 seats were still available, according to Ticketmaster, including about 145 seats in the lower bowl.
Despite the unsold tickets, “we’re in great shape,” said a Kings official who declined to be identified because he’s not authorized to be quoted by name. “We anticipate a sellout.” More than 30 seats were sold in a four-hour stretch Tuesday.
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The remaining tickets aren’t cheap. Seats in the last row of the upper bowl were priced at $145 apiece, plus $28.10 in taxes and fees. Seats in the fourth row behind the baskets were for sale at $530 each, not counting $67.50 in taxes and fees.
Bay Area sports marketing specialist Bob Dorfman said he expects the Kings to sell out the opening night game by tip-off, as they learn to adjust prices according to demand.
“They will keep the tickets as high as they can as long as they can,” Dorfman said. “I don’t think they are going to have a problem with empty seats. They are probably hoping for a last-minute rush. You will always have walk-up (buyers).”
Dorfman, creative director at Baker Street advertising in San Francisco, pointed out that it is extremely difficult to get tickets for the Golden State Warriors, even though prices are very high. That team is a winner and plays an entertaining style. Moreover, Bay Area ticket buyers increasingly are well-off high-tech and Silicon Valley executives and workers.
But the Kings, he said, have been a losing team for many years and will need to improve their on-court product. “They did a good job getting the arena built, but building a team is another matter,” Dorfman said.
Daniel Durbin, director of the Institute of Sports, Media and Society at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said the Kings face a broader issue – fewer fans come to venues for high-priced events in general. That is something the San Francisco 49ers have dealt with at their 3-year-old Levi’s Stadium.
“It is an ongoing trend of diminishing audiences at sports venues,” Durbin said, due in part to continued jumps in ticket prices. As teams add higher-end, higher-cost amenities, they tend to increase the prices of what once were relatively inexpensive upper-bowl seats.
“We are still in a down economy,” Durbin said. “The pricing has tended to price lower-end fans out. Many fans can stream the games online and watch games on cable, and they already are paying high prices for cable and DirecTV. It’s unreasonable to spend that much more money to be there in the arena.”
In addition to the seats still available from the Kings, several hundred tickets were being marketed on Ticketmaster by fans already holding tickets.