Fan Loyalty Has A Price

Indiana Pacers v Toronto Raptors

The Raptors look destined to miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season for the first time in franchise history – a real “feat” considering the futility of past eras of Raptors basketball – but you wouldn’t know it by the nine sellouts they’ve had this season or the 18,182 fans they average per game.

That passion, dedication and general loyalty among the Raptors’ rabid fanbase has been well documented over the years despite the team’s lack of success, and now fans will pay for that loyalty, literally, as MLSE will increase Raptors (and Maple Leafs) ticket prices by 2.5 per cent in 2013-14.

To be fair, the organization did slash ticket prices in 2011 after the first post-Bosh season, kept the lower prices in effect for this season and look to floor one of the more costly rosters in franchise history next year, but does MLSE really expect fans to be understanding when Tom Anselmi talks about rising costs?

It’s one thing if the more expensive to operate team was in playoff contention right now, if fans were still watching meaningful games in mid-March or if they looked like a surefire playoff team for next year. Heck, if the Rudy Gay led Raptors are a pleasant surprise in 2013-14 and are a top-eight seed at this time next season, the organization probably could have gotten away with a price increase for 2014-15 even greater than 2.5 per cent.

But to do it now, when there are still as many questions about this team’s future as there are answers, just seems a bit cold. Then again, the only question MLSE needed to ask themselves was will the fans still come out at the new price level? And the answer will most likely remain a resounding yes.

Having said that, as tiny as 2.5 per cent is, if you thought there were unrealistic fan expectations this season, just wait until October, because no one’s going to listen to excuses for an under-achieving team they’re paying more to see.

***

If you’re interested, here’s the message to season seat holders that accompanies the notice to renew. Note the “franchise player” statement…

The addition of new franchise player Rudy Gay, as well as acquisitions Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields, and rookies Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross, have us all very excited about the future. Our President & General Manager Bryan Colangelo and Head Coach Dwane Casey are committed to bringing championship basketball to Toronto.”

In addition, the Raptors included “Jonas’ 17 reasons why you have to see the Raptors as a season seat holder live at Air Canada Centre,” of which very few have to do with winning basketball games.