The Cleveland Cavaliers did not announce plans to play a regular season game in Akron next year, but I think they should. One regular season game a year, starting in 2010-11, on December 30th…which just happens to the birthday of a certain somebody. No, not Tiger Woods. While this game in and of itself may not inspire LeBron to pick up the contract offer that has sat on the table since July 18th - and sign on the dotted line - it would certainly catch his attention. And that game, ‘LeBron’s Birthday Game Live from Akron, Ohio’ would be quite an event. Even if only 5,500 people could be there to witness it.
I started thinking about this possibility when the Cavs announced plans to play their intrasquad scrimmage in Akron on October 3rd. Sure I know, its just a scrimmage, not a real game, but could a regular season game from the JAR be possible? With the LeBron sweepstakes underway, the Cavaliers would be wise to take advantage of anything and everything that the city of Cleveland offers LBJ- that other cities can’t – specifically Cleveland’s exciting nightlife, its bustling urban center, Tower City, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the fact that it is only 45 minutes north of his hometown.
The Cavaliers are scheduled to play the Atlanta Hawks at home on December 30th of this year, and if this year’s game were in Akron, its not like you’d be asking the Hawks to go and play somewhere crazy…like say London (which Stern has plays to do in 2012 during the regular season). The opposing team could fly into Akron Canton Airport in the same amount of time. If they felt better flying into Cleveland and staying there, they could do that too, and drive 45 minutes south on 77 to get to the JAR. That’s a non-issue.
Quicken Loans Arena seats a capacity crowd of 20,652 and Akron’s James A. Rhodes Arena holds 5,500.
Lost revenue questions:
The average ticket price in 2007-08 was $56.10 at the Q. Call the average ticket price in 2010-11 $70, so say on this night the Q would be scheduled to generate $1,439,340 at the gate. At the concession stands, lets just say that, on average, the capacity crowd purchases four (4) $6 beers ($24) and on that end they generate another $495,648. So call the gate, plus the concessions, a gross number of $2 million for Dan Gilbert’s Cavaliers that night. Compare that then to the gate at the JAR. All equal, that 5,500 capacity crowd would generate (at $70 per) approximately $385,000 at the gate, and say they generate $350,000 on the concessions – for whatever reason. That total is $735,000, and say Gilbert breaks the JAR off $235,000 to rent the facility…he’s down $1.5 million – all else equal – playing away from the Q.
Making Up the Lost Gate…
Now there are a number of ways for Dan Gilbert to look at this proposed $1.5 loss of revenue, and I am sure he could think of everything I am about to suggest, and then probably five additional better ideas as well. But off the top of my head – which has not yet devised a plan to become a billionaire and somehow thrive as a residential mortgage based company in the worst housing market of the last 50 years – here are a few:
1. Chalk the total loss in dollars up as a birthday present for LeBron, as the King returns home to the arena he once filled as a prep star - all grown up and doing the NBA.
2. Double – or even triple - the average ticket price. I could see the likes of Jay-Z in the house that night, Beyonce, Usher, and maybe even Drew Carey.
3. Schedule some other event at the Q that same night, say a Christina Aguilera concert, Muppets on Ice, or a WWE event (worked for Denver). Gilbert might even come out on top for the evening if one of those shows generates that $1.5 million or better.
I’m not really sure if the NBA has a rule against something like this but I don’t see why they would. There can’t be too many teams that have wanted to go play a home game in some other arena they are not affiliated with, that holds twenty five percent the capacity of their arena. Why would they? This might be the first and only time any NBA team would have a reason to do something like this, and if they did, I think it would be a must see affair. Even if this night ended up being a total financial loss for Gilbert, he could play one game a year in Akron ($2 million loss per game) for the next 399 years and still not spend the $800 million that Bruce Ratner’s sinking into Atlantic Yards Arena: the future Brooklyn home of the New Jersey Nets. And LeBron just might like this venue better, even if it was just for a night.