It’s been a long seven-year playoff drought for the New York Knicks. On April 3, basketball fans finally breathed a sigh of relief as their beloved Knickerbockers clinched their first postseason berth since 2004. But those faithful to the orange and blue aren’t the only ones thrilled with the team extending their season—local businesses are rejoicing as well. As New York reignites its rivalry with first round challenger, the Boston Celtics, fans both new and old are flocking to purchase team apparel, snag tickets for games three and four at Madison Square Garden and grab drinks at local sports bars. So who exactly is cashing in on this financial surge? BlackEnterprise.com decodes the numbers to see how a winning home team can be good for business.
With the recent additions of all-stars Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, along with a sixth seed in the playoffs, customer demand for Knicks paraphernalia skyrocketed. A far cry from years past when shops, like the one at Madison Square Garden, scheduled fire sales to sell off surplus merchandise during the Knicks’ postseason dry spell. Modell’s, the East Coast sporting goods store with 10 locations in New York City, saw sales for Knicks licensed merchandise soar 300-percent since the start of this year’s NBA season. Although precise sales figures haven’t been released since the team clinched a playoff spot, company reps confirmed an uptick in revenue for Knicks gear. “Fans are headed to the bars and playoff parties and want to show their team pride with Knicks jerseys and T-shirts, so there’s definitely been an increase in sales,” says Rich Lampmann, Modell’s director of marketing and public relations. “We haven’t seen an increase like this in a very long time. Maybe even before the Knicks’ last playoff run.”
TOASTING SUCCESS AT SPORTS BARS/RESTAURANTS:
Tir Na Nog, a sports bar located a block away from MSG, was bustling with business when the Knicks consistently made the playoffs in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. By 2008, when the team failed to reach the postseason, the bar saw a 60-percent decline in clientele during a five-year stretch. Now, with the home team back in the spotlight, Tir Na Nog is experiencing a slight rise in business for the first two Knicks playoff games. “Sales for food and drinks went up about eight to ten percent,” says Helen Woods, a manager at Tir Na Nog. “We’re still nowhere near the numbers we had 10-12 years ago. Back then the bar was always packed with people watching games. Business was double what it is now.” Uptown also had a spike in sales. Revenue at Harlem Lanes, a Black-owned bowling alley where customers can watch sporting events on 24 flat screen televisions throughout the two-floor facility, jumped 13 percent during the Knicks’ April 17th game.
TALLYING UP TICKET SALES:
Knicks fans (and their wallets) are ready to partake in playoff action as games three and four at the Garden are officially sold out, with only a limited amount of tickets released on game day(s), according to a team spokesperson. With ticket prices ranging from $14 (the nosebleed mezzanine level) to $3,800 (courtside with Spike Lee) on Ticketmaster.com, it’s estimated the Knicks will pull in $4 million in revenue during the first round of the playoffs, according to Albert Fried & Co. analyst Richard Tullo, who also notes the team didn’t have trouble filling the arena in previous years. “The Garden has sold out games even when the team wasn’t doing well, so this is the cherry on top,” says Tullo. All this despite the fact that Knicks fans are paying the highest prices in the NBA for tickets through the secondary market, shelling out an average $430 per ticket via StubHub for tonight’s game—more than double the current $152 average for all first round playoff tickets.
THE ADVANTAGES OF HOME COURT COMMERCIALS & CONCESSIONS:
The MSG Network could potentially make $2.8 million in television commercials and revenue from arena advertising each round the Knicks advance, according to Tullo. MSG Sports President Scott O’Neil says the station’s ratings are up—great news for the network, which hasn’t extended its Knicks coverage beyond April in seven years. The arena also relies on brands like J.P. Morgan Chase, Delta, Coke and Anheuser-Busch—all of which continue to invest in the team. And don’t forget your hotdogs and beer—Tullo predicts MSG-owned concessions will rake in $750,000 in the two home games of the first round. Although New York dropped its first two playoff games, one thing is certain: the longer the Knicks extend their season, the longer the citywide spending surge will continue. “There’s a buzz around the team,” Lampmann says. “The playoffs have returned to the basketball Mecca, which is great for sales.”