Portland Trail Blazers president Chris McGowan took business-related questions during Media Day at the "Moda Center" on Monday. Topics included: season ticket renewal rates, the replacement for the Chalupa promotion, new food at the "Moda Center," and more.
Here's a full transcript.
Are you embraced by city of Portland yet?
"That's a tough question. I hope so. I feel like I am. Fans have been great. I had a good opportunity to meet a lot of sponsors. My family is important, making sure they transfer here smoothly -- they love it here, my wife, my kids like it here. I feel like even though it's only been 11 months I feel great here."
"Renewal was good. We're right at the 90 percent mark which is always the barometer in professional sports. New sales are doing really well, we had our best September in franchise history, which is good. I'm all about selling as much as you can early and accelerating the sales cycle. We've done a good job of that. We're going to hit our full season ticket equivalent goal, I don't think there's going to be any issues there. We expect the arena is going to be very full every night.
"We probably won't sell out every game but I'm OK with that if we're selling things the right way, which is what I talked to you guys about. Making sure we're preserving our season ticket holder value, not doing anything that provides options that are better than the people who are supporting us on a nightly basis. So when you do that, there are chances you'll sell a little fewer tickets, but I'm OK with that because I know the arena is going to be full every night."
Will "Moda Center's" new food options be available in media room?
"I'll personally deliver them down to you. The interesting thing when you bring in a new food provider, it's not just the front of the house, it's the back of the house as well. We're really happy with Levy [Restaurants] and expect that every area that they're providing food to is going to be better. Hopefully you guys will keep me in tune with that. I'd like your feedback."
Pleased with franchise from business standpoint
"Any time you go through a transition that we went through, you have a new person coming in with a different philosophy about how we're trying to run things, you're able to do the things we've been able to do the last eleven months, I'm pretty pleased with it. That being said, I'm looking to improve constantly, we still have a lot of improvement, a lot more improvement that's out there for us to get. Mainly, I'm just excited we have the staff all headed in the right direction, working hard, in the offseason we really focused on fan experience. Made a lot of improvements in a short amount of time."
What else for fans besides new food?
"A whole new approach to our game presentation. You'll see a different flavor with what we're doing in-game. It's not that it was bad, I think it might have gotten stuck in the way of doing things over and over. You're going to see some new stuff from a game presentation perspective. We're listening to our fans. A lot of focus groups, a lot of surveying. A lot of times if you sit down with fans, they'll tell you what you want.
"Food is a great example -- I can't tell you how many people told me, 'Portland's got such a great local food scene, why don't you put local restaurants in there?' It's not a hard thing to do if you're listening to people, you just have to reach out to some of these great restaurants and see if they are able to do it in the arena, and we were able to do it in a pretty quick fashion."
When will "Moda Center" signage be in place?
"It's taking place now. The first process is auditing all the signs we have in this place, which is thousands, and getting on a production schedule to replace the signs, and that will take several months. You'll see some of the main signage on the outside of the building, which currently says the old arena name, will have 'Moda Center' on it on opening night. You'll see a lot of that opening night."
Reaction to name change has evolved?
"I think good. It was obviously a topic of conversation for two or three days after the announcement of the deal. I'm really pleased with where we're at with the amount of people that are calling it 'Moda Center.' The conversations I've had with people -- once you get to have conversations with them, the reasons why we're doing it, it usually turns out to be fairly positive. Certainly there was a lot of stuff on social media, that was perceived as negative, right when we made the announcement, but really it was three days and everyone kind of moves on and understands that it's 'Moda Center' now and it's going to be great for our franchise."
Replacement for Chalupa chosen?
"We have and we'll announce it this week. I'll take guesses, but we'll announce it this week. But I think it's something our fans will obviously appreciate. It's going to be along the same lines of the previous promotion [100 points]."
New in-game presentation, what do you mean?
"I don't want to give away a bunch of things that we're doing, but that's part of the fun, when people come and experience it and you get real feedback. We're definitely going to be more focused on different types of music, I'm going to potentially look at bringing in live music as an element to our games. I want to use our games to promote the unique personalities behind our players. I don't think we do enough of that. I think it's not as interactive as I would like. It feels like every other arena -- I want it to feel a little more like Portland. Not just when you're in the arena, but when you're on the Rose Quarter, or walking into the arena, I don't want it to feel like every arena I've been in. I know I'm not giving you a lot of information there but you'll see a lot on opening night."
Some softer music?
"Yes. Actually, that's an unbelievable piece of feedback you just gave there and I heard that a lot when we talked to people. In certain areas of the arena, it's really, really loud. We're looking at how we can change that so we're not blowing people's eardrums out when they come to our games. Some parts of the arena, it's not loud. We're working through that now."
Using a hockey organ?
"That would be good. We might be the only basketball team that does something like that."
[ed: playing along with a dumb joke]
New businesses around "Moda Center"
"Our first order of business is just to make it more lively on game nights and event nights. We're going to do a new concept in The Game, which is right out here. There's going to be a new food and beverage concept which is going to be open January 1. That will be a place where people can come before and afterwards. Right now, it's a pretty dead space, a banquet hall that's not used a lot, but when you walk into that, it's got a great view of the city and it can be something a lot better.
"With Levy, we're going through and going to put a nice food and beverage experience that will be open on all event nights and all game nights, so people can come early and stay after and let traffic die down a little. That will be a nice option for fans that they don't currently have. That's the first thing we're going to do."
Making the playoffs, how important from business standpoint?
"Team success drives a lot of different things that you do. We're fortunate here because we have such great fan support that it matters, but it doesn't matter as much as it matters in some other cities out there. If your team doesn't make the playoffs, your building is going to be empty, sponsors aren't going to talk to you. Here, as long as you're playing the right way, your fans generally are going to support you. Clearly, when you're more successful on the floor it's going to be a platform for improving all areas of your business."
Will you wear sleeved jerseys this year?
"We are not."
Single-game ticket sales
"Good. We're ahead of where we were at at this point last year. We've made a lot of improvements to the way people buy online. Stuff I'm focused on, it's not necessarily some of the sexier stuff you do when you work for a professional sports team but if you go on and try to buy a ticket, we've worked hard in the offseason to make it really easy for customers to seamlessly be able to purchase tickets, the way you can view seats, the way you transact, it's one or two steps versus six steps last year. That's been a good improvement this offseason as well."
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