Tulsa 66ers’ Freddy Owens Looking Forward to Move

Contributing Editor

NEW VENUE: Freddy Owens, director of marketing for the Tulsa 66ers, is ready to welcome fans to the team’s new home. The 66ers will play the 2008-2009 season at the SpiritBank Event Center in Regal Plaza, East 106th Street and Memorial Drive.

DAVID JONES for GTR Newspapers

Freddy Owens looks at the empty box that will house the SpiritBank Event Center and sees wonderful possibilities. The team he works for, the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Development League, will move into the center next fall, and as the man responsible for marketing and public relations he sees all sorts of possibilities.

“Our offices will be over there,” he says pointing to a skeleton of an office outline, “and we’re going to try to establish a relationship with a lot of the local businesses in Regal Plaza (the shopping center at 106th Street and Memorial Drive where the SpiritBank Event Center is located).”

One thing he ruefully admits is that he will have to market the team on an extremely tight budget. This, he admits, is a far cry from his last job.

Last year Owens was working as a marketer for the Nederlander Producing Co., the second largest production company on Broadway. He had a promotional budget in the millions and a product that drew theater-loving audiences by the thousands if the show was a hit like “Wicked.”

He was working with an advertising budget of approximately $4 million. But, he says, New York had changed.

“Ever since Sept. 11, the city has been different. People are more closed, more suspicious. The whole atmosphere has changed.”

So Owens decided a move was in order. He took the advice of some friends who urged him to look at Tulsa and came down for the 2007 PGA. He liked what he saw. With no job in sight, he packed up and moved to Oklahoma.

“Through a mutual friend I was invited to the draft party of the Tulsa 66ers and met Charlie Seraphin, who at the time was the executive vice president of the club. We talked for awhile, he urged me to turn in my resume, and last December I was hired.”
Owens had no experience in sports but a lot of experience in entertainment.

“Marketing,” he shrugs, “is marketing.”

Working with a budget that can only be called minuscule, he is charged with filling the stands for the 2007-08 season. He feels the club has failed to articulate the quality of sports entertainment the 66ers offer.

“The 66ers have players who have played in the National Basketball Association, which is the premiere basketball league in the world. We have youngsters who are gaining the experience necessary to make it up to the big time. We have a marvelous product.”

Yet it has been largely ignored. Sources say the team needs to average approximately 3,000 fans a game to break even and, says Owens, currently they are bringing in about one-third that number.

But as he looks around the cavern that is the 66ers’ new home, he dreams of what the team can do to increase the crowds.
“Tulsa is a huge sports community for high school and college sports; we have to get Tulsans excited about professional basketball.

“The event center is going to be a huge help. Thanks to the lease agreement we signed, the team will get a portion of advertising, luxury suites and concessions. That will put some money in the bank.

“With that help we’ll be able to keep ticket prices affordable. We’ll probably average from $10 for the upper seats to $90 for courtside seats, pretty on-target for what we charge now.

“What the team is going to spend the next few months doing is establishing a relationship with the community. In Tulsa, trust and personal connections are important. It’s important in New York, too, but New Yorkers tend to be more suspicious.

“In New York I had a product with a built-in demand. There’s not such a demand for 66ers tickets.”

Owens says he wants to make the new businesses in Regal Plaza part of his marketing plan. He envisions such things as price discounts on game days in local restaurants for people holding a 66ers ticket. He wants to make going to the games affordable for families.

Working on such connections is going to take time. The first thing that has to happen is for Regal Plaza, which is about 70 percent leased, to fill up with working shops.

“But we have a new arena that I think people will flock to see. We are going to have a vastly improved scoreboard over the one we currently have at the Fairgrounds Pavilion.

We are going to have restaurants and shops within easy walking distance. We are going to be in the middle of a dynamic commercial area.
“We’re excited!”

Updated 03-31-2008

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