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Sports Executive: Rays Should Give Away Entire Season of Tickets

When the Tampa Bay Rays gave away 20,000 free ticketsto their regular season home finale, many in the sports world were confused. No matter what your attendance is, how could you ever give away your product?

Al Messerschmidt | Getty Images

Well, one sports executive, whose organization actually gives away all its tickets, thinks that the Rays should give away tickets to every game next year if it wants to increase revenues.

“The Rays averaged 23,000 fans per game this year,” said Kenny Nowling, president and CEO of the American Drag Racing League, which averaged 68,000 fans to each of its first 10 races this year by giving away its tickets away for free. “If I took over the ticketing department and we gave away all the tickets, I’d easily have standing room for at least 50 percent of the games and no game would draw less than 35,000.”

After multiplying the revenue from parking, concessions and souvenirs, Nowling said the Rays revenue will soar.

“The business is about the bottom line,” Nowling said. “I have a great deal of confidence that their bottom line would go up and it would be a more viable franchise financially. We’ve learned how much more valuable our sponsorships have become because with a bigger crowd a company knows that they’ll be getting more impressions.”

Technically speaking, the Rays could forgo ticket revenue as it won’t affect their opponents. Home teams in Major League Baseball collect 100 percent of the ticket revenue and don’t share.

The ADRL was recently acquired by a holding company based in London and that company will soon launch the Arabian Drag Racing League in the Middle East, which will operate under the same free ticket model.

Nowling stresses that the formula is not only about giving away the tickets. It’s also being about data collection, which the Rays didn't seem particularly interested in when they gave away the 20,000 tickets. Those who accept tickets to ADRL events have to opt-in to receive information from the ADRL and its sponsors and must write their name and mailing address on the back of the ticket, which they hand in at the gate.

“When companies do this, they usually get less than five percent of consumer data that turns out to be good,” Nowling said. “Because we give our tickets away for free, people feel incentivized to give accurate information. Our hit rate is better than 50 percent.”

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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