Reno area businesses get boost from Nevada basketball team’s success
RENO, Nev. — Inside Silver and Blue Outfitters, the shop’s Nevada basketball gear typically starts to get plucked off the shelves in early November.
This year was different.
With the Nevada men’s basketball team on the heels of last season’s captivating Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament run, and boasting arguably its most talented lineup in program history, hoops gear was flying off Silver and Blue’s shelves months before the season tipped off.
“This year people were asking us (for basketball apparel) in September,” company co-owner Mark Glodowski told the NNBV. “It felt like the basketball season never stopped with as much press and pub there was following the team. We were definitely prepared for it this year. We went in with the mindset of ‘this is going to be different.’”
The uptick already started last March when the No. 7 seed Wolf Pack clawed its way to the Sweet 16 after a thrilling second-round overtime victory over 10th seeded Texas, followed by a staggering 22-point second-half comeback win over No. 2 seed Cincinnati.
“March typically is an offseason month for us,” Glodowski said. “So when you have a huge event and success by a team like that, it’s something that impacts us and boosts us in a time when we normally don’t see sales spike.”
Glodowski said the surge in attendance for Nevada men’s basketball games has translated to a rise in game-day sales, as well. This is especially true for the Silver and Blue Outfitters store located a stone’s throw from Lawlor Events Center at the corner of North Virginia and 15th streets (the company’s other location is inside Meadowood Mall).
To that end, Glodowski said he guesstimates that game-day sales over the past two years for basketball-related apparel is up 20 percent versus the previous two years.
“I think it’s good for everyone involved,” he said. “The whole thing is on an up-trend, which I’m sure is benefiting all the restaurants and bars around the area as well.”
Standing room only
It is. Just ask Bully’s Sports Bar and Grill, which has seven locations, along with four smoke-friendly bars, dotted around Reno, Sparks and Carson City.
“It’s been great for business,” Jo Sonner, owner of Bully’s Sports Bar and Grill, said of the Eric Musselman-helmed team’s growing success and popularity. “There’s definitely a spike in business — we’re busier, the atmosphere is great. And when you have people that are whooping and hollering and yelling at TVs, it’s a good thing.”
Showing every one of Nevada’s televised games on an array of flat screens, Bully’s has seen “an incredible boost” in business during Nevada’s away games, said Brian Clary, marketing director at Bully’s.
He noted that at each location, Bully’s, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, has a halftime giveaway in which it gives away a pair of tickets to the upcoming home game.
“With the home games, we’ve seen some lift on the weekday games, but a lot of fans obviously attend the games,” he explained. “But the away games, we’re at 100 percent capacity — in other words, all tables are full. We have people standing and watching the game.”
Raising the bar
Meanwhile, the number of fans packed inside Lawlor Events Center cheering for the Pack has reached record numbers, said Chad Hartley, Nevada Wolf Pack associate athletic director — which, in turn, is leading to increased business and revenues on campus and beyond.
Last season, Hartley said, men’s basketball home games set a school record with an average attendance of 9,048 per game. This season, with eight home games in the books, the average attendance has jumped to 10,633.
Not only has Nevada played in front of four sellout crowds as of Jan. 18, but six of the team’s last seven home games have already sold out, Hartley said (note — this story was published prior to the close of ticket sales for the Wolf Pack’s home game against Air Force, set for 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan 19).
Last season, the team played in front of just two sellout crowds at Lawlor.
“We’re averaging close to a sellout this year — that’s never been done before in any sport (at UNR),” said Hartley, noting that the arena holds roughly 11,500 fans. “It’s, frankly, unheard of in the history of our athletics. So we’re obviously seeing increased revenue through ticket sales.”
Further illustrating the point, the athletics department had to halt season-ticket sales in September to preserve availability for single-game sales, Hartley said — again, something the department has never done before.
In terms of revenue driven by the men’s basketball team, Hartley said he did not have any hard figures available, adding that the department will see those numbers toward the end of the season.
“We’re appreciative of all the support we’ve been given from the community and business community,” Hartley said. “This town and area has really stepped up to support this really special team that’s having a really special season this year.”
The success of the team has also led to an increase in corporate sponsorships from regional companies, according to Learfield’s Wolf Pack Sports Properties, Nevada Athletics’ exclusive multimedia rights holder.
“We’ve been up year-over-year almost 10 percent, and that’s a pretty good jump for a property of our size,” Mike Shayotovich, general manager at Wolf Pack Sports Properties, told the NNBV. “We’ve certainly felt the excitement in the community here at Wolf Pack Sports Properties and it has resulted in a better bottom line for us.”
Per the agreement, Caesars will continue to operate Harrah’s for the first half of 2020 before it’s redeveloped into a non-gaming hotel and mixed-use development.