Horizon League ‘encouraged’ by LCA ticket sales

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

In what, without question, is a huge year for the potential future of the Horizon League tournament maintaining a home in Detroit, league officials say they are optimistic about ticket-sale trends two weeks out from the start of “Motor City Madness.”

Julie Roe Lach, assistant commissioner of the Horizon League, told The News on Monday that ticket revenue is up 34 percent when compared to a year ago this day.

“All indicators are positive,” Lach said. “We are very encouraged by these numbers.”

The Horizon League tournament announced ticket sales of around 30,000 last year, the second year of the tournament in Detroit — and the final year at Joe Louis Arena.

That was up from about 21,000 the first year. The first year featured only the men’s tournament, and nine games. The second year featured the men’s and women’s tournaments, and thus double the games, 18.

The Horizon League men’s tournament is in Year 3 of a five-year contract with Olympia Entertainment, but there is an opt-out after this year — the first at Little Caesars Arena. The women’s tournament is on a year-to-year basis. There have been no hard commitments beyond this year.

And in conversations with The News, Tom Wilson, president and CEO of Olympia, has said seeing continued progress is key for the partnership to be extended. The event must prove a money-maker for Olympia, given it has to give up nearly a week’s worth of dates at LCA, a logistical headache in making sure the Red Wings and Pistons both are on the road for the same extended period. That also has to be a concert-blackout stretch.

Helping matters, for once, would be an extended run by local teams Oakland and Detroit Mercy. Oakland, with the largest of the two fan bases, has been one-and-done — upset both times — in the first two Horizon League men’s tournaments in Detroit, no doubt putting a significant dent in ticket sales for later days.

Still, Lach is encouraged by presales, attributing some of that success to special events throughout “Motor City Madness” week that include a ticket to games, including the Motor City Madness Esports Championship online tournaments, a yoga day, a senior skip day, a painting night, a youth basketball clinic, and a Horizon League Champions Brunch, which features several ex-Pistons as speakers.

A complete list of events and details can be found at 313presents.com.

“The other big factor is that our fans from our campus communities are committing early to be part of the madness,” Lach said. “Our campus have done a terrific job of promoting the tourney to their fans and helping all to see that Detroit is an international destination.”

Ticket prices range from $10 (student section, single session) to $120 (floor level reserved, all sessions), and can be purchased at horizonleague.org.

The tournament runs five days, from March 2-6. There are four games each of the first four days, and the two championship games on the final day. Each session is one day.

Under current standings, the Detroit Mercy men’s and women’s teams and Oakland’s women’s team are projected to play the opening day.

The Oakland men, as the almost-certain No. 4 seed, would open on Day 3.