As the inaugural season for the Grand Rapids Drive nears, excitement is ramping up.
The National Basketball Association D-League team’s home season opens Nov. 26, the night before Thanksgiving, and team president Steve Jbara said there’s only about 150 tickets left until the game is sold out. The Drive will play the Los Angeles Lakers’ D-League squad.
The Drive’s home, DeltaPlex Arena, holds approximately 5,000 when arranged for basketball.
“People seem to be buzzing about it,” Jbara said. “Ticket sales are moving along nicely.”
Jbara said the team’s second home game, the Saturday following Thanksgiving, also is selling at a nice pace. The team has a lot of home games around holidays, making for enticing ticket sale opportunities, Jbara said.
The team opens the season with a four-game road trip beginning Nov. 15 in Bakersfield, Calif.
The Nov. 26 opening home game will benefit Van Andel Institute’s Purple Community.
The team has 24 home games, giving the sales team a less grueling pace than the NBA’s 82-game schedule. With fewer games, sales and marketing have more time to design an individual plan for each game, showcasing who the opponents are and allowing for better events and promotions.
Fans are no longer able to reserve suites, however. Detroit Pistons head coach and president of baseball operations Stan Van Gundy bought the last $5,000 suite. The suites include four seats and are located behind the courtside seats.
There are some season tickets remaining for courtside seats, which cost $1,500. Those tickets could be released on a single game basis in the near future, Jbara said.
The premium seats were the first to go, as planned by the Drive staff, Jbara said. Businesses, including several area law firms, were quick to buy up most of those seats. The premium seats come with a package that allows access to a VIP lounge that will function as a “great business networking place” and will help fans feel more connected to the team.
Jbara said about 30 minutes before tip-off, one of the coaches from the Drive will come to the lounge and give the fans a little run down of what to look for in the game.
“It’s a way to engage the fans,” Jbara said. “(Head coach) Otis Smith and his staff are really on board with helping make fans feel a part of the game.”
With most of the premium tickets sold, Jbara said the sales focus has shifted to families, college students and young professionals. Various promotions include $1 Beer/College Nights, Family Nights and Charitable Jersey nights. Individual tickets run from $10-$30.
Businesses from across West Michigan also have been buying group packages, including Perrigo Co., which is holding an early-season employee recognition night.
“If a company comes in and buys a 500-ticket group package, that is a huge chunk of the arena,” Jbara said. “After that, the rest of the tickets will start moving quickly.”