The AT&T Center will serve as a "mega-vote center" to allow for social distancing during the November election.
Spurs Sports & Entertainment are seeking new naming rights for the AT&T Center when the partnership ends in 2022. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

With the NBA’s announcement of the season schedule Monday, the San Antonio Spurs organization is promoting a ticket sales membership program aimed primarily at corporate clients.

Spurs Sports & Entertainment (SS&E) is launching a subscription program called Spurs Passport, which gives subscribers access to premium seats, suites, and boxes at the AT&T Center with the purchase of a flat-rate membership.

The cost to join the Spurs Passport program is $16,000 a year. That’s comparable to the price for a pair of seats in the arena’s lower corner for all home games, said Meredith Collier, corporate communications manager at SS&E.

The program was created for individuals and business owners who have requested flexibility in game dates and seats during the season, she said.

“One game, they may have a client or family in town and need four great seats when another game they may want to entertain a group, such as employees, clients or vendors, in a suite,” Collier said. “This allows the client to pick the game and product that makes sense for them on an individual night basis versus a traditional season ticket they have the same number of seats and product for all home games.”

Businesses and individuals can apply their membership funds toward the purchase of reduced-price tickets from within a best-available ticket inventory throughout the season, including last-minute purchases. Account funds are limited to Spurs game tickets, but members get early access to events at the AT&T Center through venue pre-sales.

San Antonio’s convention and visitors bureau, Visit San Antonio (VSA), piloted the program during the most recent season and purchased tickets, suite access, and parking passes for 16 events. One such event was a March 7 Jennifer Lopez concert for which VSA paid $3,900 for a suite to entertain convention industry guests.

Some of those guests had already booked their upcoming meetings in San Antonio and others were making plans to bring their meetings to the city, said a VSA spokesman, adding that those meetings represent a combined $93.5 million in economic impact on the city.

“The Passport Program is a smarter and more flexible way for Visit San Antonio to do business,” said Casandra Matej, president and CEO of VSA. “As a sales and marketing organization, we’re often working with the ebb and flow of the schedules of our clients. The program enables us to take advantage of valuable opportunities to spend time with those business partners, sometimes at the last minute, while we are showcasing the city.”

The program also may give SS&E another way to boost ticket sales as the team rebuilds. The Spurs, who have made the playoffs in 22 consecutive seasons, have not won an NBA championship since 2014, and the retirements and departures of the team’s marquee players – most recently Kawhi Leonard, who led the Toronto Raptors to a league title in June – have given way to a roster of less-established players.

The Spurs’ average attendance was 18,307 over 41 homes games for the 2018-19 season, ranking 13th in the NBA, and has ticked down every year since averaging 18,606 in 2014-15.

In any case, some say the sports season-ticket model is going away, at least for the NBA where seasons are long and ticket buyers suddenly lose interest in losing teams.

While some fans remain emotionally attached to their season tickets, wrote Pat Evans, sports and business writer for Front Office Sports, “the factors that most often cause fans to detach — time and affordability — each can be surmounted with flexibility. By providing more flexible plans, a team also creates a funnel for future season ticket holders. With that in mind, everything from pricing to length to how tickets can be transferred should be able to be customized.”

It’s worked for baseball, according to a New York business report. Subscription ticketing in Major League Baseball has proved so successful that “more than two-thirds of MLB’s 30 teams have offered similar programs to drive attendance and to attract younger fans who prefer the mobile and flexible nature of the plans.” Those teams sold more than a million tickets within the subscription-based model in 2018.

The Spurs open the 2019-20 season Oct. 23 at home against the New York Knicks. Season ticket holders can purchase additional game tickets on Tuesday, Aug. 13, while single-game tickets go on sale to the general public Wednesday, Aug. 14, at noon.

Shari Biediger has been covering business and development for the San Antonio Report since 2017. A graduate of St. Mary’s University, she has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds in San Antonio...