NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The New Orleans Hornets are promising season ticket holders who are concerned about the NBA lockout that they can get their money back - with interest - if the work stoppage wipes out any games next season.
The lockout comes at an inopportune time for the franchise, which currently is owned by the league and is in the midst of a season ticket drive seen as a key step toward attracting new owners who would keep the Hornets in Louisiana.
So team officials hope they can assuage fans' concerns about tying up money this summer in season tickets with no way of knowing when the NBA might start playing games again.
"It is our goal to continue to reward season ticketholders for their dedication and loyalty to the team and our community," Hornets president Hugh Weber said Wednesday.
The NBA's owners began locking out players on July 1, the day after the league's collective bargaining agreement expired.
The new Hornets initiative essentially offers varying rates of interest on top of refunds for cancelled games, with fans who commit to keeping money in their Hornets accounts long-term getting a substantially higher return.
One option is for fans to get cash refunds, plus 1 percent, on tickets for any cancelled games.
However, if fans choose to take refunds in the form of credit toward purchases of tickets for the playoffs or future seasons, they can receive an additional 10 percent, plus another 5 percent toward the purchase of tickets for charities.
Weber stressed that those who choose refunds in the form of credit on their accounts "will also help send thousands of underprivileged children from throughout the region to Hornets games."
On June 8, the Hornets announced a drive to hold 100 social gatherings in 100 days in the homes of New Orleans-area business and community leaders, with the goal of increasing their season ticket base to 10,000 - a figure generally seen by the NBA as an indication of a financially healthy franchise. Jac Sperling, the NBA's appointed governor of the Hornets - and a New Orleans native - has said the hope is to provide confidence to prospective buyers that the NBA franchise can at the very least stay afloat, if not thrive, on the bayou.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Hornets had sold 8,424 season tickets for 2011-12.
Meanwhile, because team officials are currently unable to have contact with players, they have started organizing a series of community service and charity events that will feature members of the coaching and front office staff.
Between the ticket drive and community relations events, it appeared unlikely the Hornets would consider furloughs or other types of staffing cuts during the early stages of the lockout.
Weber said team policy forbids discussing publicly how the lockout would affect the team's operations or roster plans. However, speaking generally, Weber said that the Hornets are not diminishing any resources they've dedicated to meeting previously stated season ticket sales goals.
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