I’m sad. After years of NBA fandom and specifically season ticket memberships with the Minnesota Timberwolves, I’m just about done. I have experience with the NBA and with season tickets. I’ve had the distinction of being a season ticket holder for some of the very worst teams in NBA history. For you youngsters out there was a time when the Golden State Warriors were absolutely terrible, I know, I was there. (See Ralph Sampson years)
I’ve sat through 5 season of wretched Timberwolves basketball, and this season, the trend continues as we hurl towards a 25 win year.
But at the end of the day, I’m a fan. I’m a fan of basketball, I’m a fan of the NBA, and yes I’m a fan of the Timberwolves. Season tickets ain’t cheap. I pluck down about $1500 for my seats, that’s a lot for entertainment in my world. And that’s a cheap seat in the Timberwolves world. But I enjoy it because over the years or so I’ve had a great relationship with the club. Despite a horrible product on the floor, and in the David Kahn years, some of the very worst personnel decisions in the history of pro sports.
Exhibit A: Kevin Love contract fiasco that sent him packing
Exhibit B: The Jonny Flyn fiasco where we drafted Mr. Flyn (last seen in the Aussie League) ahead of Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, and Ty Lawson (a good but not great player who has mastered the salt in the wound play by consistently putting up all star quality games every time the comes to Minnesota.
Exhibit C: The Wes Johnson draft fiasco. Wesley was picked ahead of DeMarcus Cousins (I’m willing to concede that might have been a bad pick for us as DeMarcus seems to be unworkable) and Paul George
Exhibit D: the entire fiasco that was Darko Milicic..
Exhibit E: The litany of excuses as to why every one of those moves the right thing to do at the time.
OK, my therapist says I need to let some stuff go, and frankly I have been willing to because this team has always gone out of it’s way to take care of it’s fans. I’ve had fantastic interactions with the ticket reps I’ve worked with who every year have basically been able to establish a value for me to make me feel good about renewing my season tickets. Like what?
- Value: One of the good things about a crappy team is tickets are inexpensive. And while I’m a big fan, I’m a fan at the $15 to $20 a seat range. Do the math for two tickets that’s about $1500 a year in basketball.
- Special events: The Timberwolves are great about special events. Lots of things to attend and get closer to the players and team. Helps to build a relationship with the team when you feel like you know some of the fellows, even it was just a quick handshake.
- Upgraded tickets: I buy cheap seat tickets, I’m a settler as the ad would indicate. Mrs. S hates the cheap seats and won’t got to games with me unless I upgrade. Which in the past was as simple as calling my ticket rep, telling him I’d like to move up and simply paying the difference between my seats and the upgraded seats. And if I wanted 5 additional seats, no problem, same deal. As a matter of fact, on more than one occasion the upgrades were provided free of charge. And since at most Timberwolves games the fans in the upper deck could easily relocate to the lower bowl and still have seats left over (Read chronically empty arena) not a big deal for team.
- Paper copies of tickets. While I like electronic copies of tickets, it is handy to have ducats in hand to pass out or donate when I can’t go to games.
I emotionally invested enough in the between fandom and good will from the front office that I swallowed a pretty big price hike two years ago to fun Timberwolves Arena improvements. Which by the way, have yet to happen.
This year that’s all changed. The Timberwolves announced late in the summer that that they had singed on with Flash Seats, an electronic ticket provider. Flash Seats is the invention of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert who apparently was tired of seeing his Cavaliers tickets being sold on the secondary market with his getting a cut.
Some changes that have been implemented with the Timberwolves as a result of Flash Seats-
- There are no more paper tickets. Admittance to the arena is now done with a credit card, drivers license or mobile phone app. This has actually come in handy when I’ve forgotten my wallet and was able to go to Will Call and get in with a simple password.
- NO MORE PAPER TICKETS. So, you’re a friend of mine and want to use my tickets? I’ll send them to you electronically (super easy for me to do) and you can use them. After you setup a Flash Seats account of course, and give them your credit card. Leaving tickets at the office front desk for the old first come first serve basis? Not happening anymore. Giving the tickets to neighbors? Nope, not interested in the whole online account thing.
- Transfer Fees: I have some friends and colleagues who actually want to pay for their tickets, which is nice. In this case I have two options, I can sell them through the site, or I can transfer the tickets to them for free and collect outside of the system.
- Option 1- selling through the site comes with a whopping 23% “connection” fee charged to the buyer. In sports terms that’s the “vig” for doing business with Flash Seats syndacate. That’s the cut that Dan Gilbert wanted to make sure he got from the ticket brokers.
- Option 2- Might put me in violation of my Flash Seats agreement that I had to agree too to even get my seats to begin with. The language says if they catch me selling outside their ecosystem they will void the transfer and charge me the “vig” on the tickets.
- Sell the tickets online in the Flash Seats marketplace. So.. I have a bunch of tickets I can’t use, my friends don’t want them, what can I do? I can sell them in the Flash Seats Marketplace. With restrictions. Remember that service fee, aka the “vig”, is in play. The other restriction I learned is that I can only discount the tickets 25%. 25% off for a Timberwolves game doesn’t turn heads. At ALL- to date I’ve put 5 games for sale on the marketplace and only sold one.
- Change to upgrade policy. In the past, as I’ve mentioned, the Timberwolves have allowed upgrades and I’ve paid the difference. The benefit for the team is a bit more revenue, seats are filled, and fans are happy. This year I’ve tried to upgrade a couple times. I’ve been told that they’re happy to upgrade my seats, but I have to sell my existing seats myself. (See previous point, on why my seats are unsaleable)
I was told by my account rep that really “ we don’t do the upgrades and that the best way to upgrade is to use Flash Seats”.. I pushed it a bit, went to the director of the season ticket support team and asked if this upgrade policy had changed, after all the wolves are getting more of my money on a given night, seems like a bit of a win. “We’ve always had that policy Mr. Sankary, we don’t buy out your existing seats.
Complete BS. I’ve probably done this upgrade thing 20 times in three years with no problem, and a very nice thank you for your business after the transaction. This morning I realized what had changed, by upgrading me and absorbing the $25 or so my tickets, the Wolves are missing out on over $5.75 in ticket transfer fees. Not to mention what I’d pay for my lower bowl tickets.
At the end of the day, Flash Seats has seriously changed the value equation for me with regard to the Timberwolves. Where I used to be able to counter crummy team play with a great fan experience, thanks to the ticket change I now have seriously negative experiences as fan, and with the horrible coaching on the floor I’m struggling to justify renewals. Mrs. S is, for the first time, seriously lobbying against it.
In two weeks the son and the here-to-fore unmet girlfriend are coming to visit from Israel for the first time in a year. For me the natural thing to do would be call the Timberwolves, upgrade and add seats and make this a nice family outing with my favorite local team. The result of my call to upgrade and the frustration associated with it, this article. And now our family event while he’s here will be Golden Gopher Hockey. Which reminds me, I have Wolves Knicks tickets that I can’t use, let me know if you want them. No charge.