Bullets get a big rush for tickets


Two years ago, when Orlando drafted Shaquille O'Neal, Magic vice president of business operations Jack Swope called his friend, Washington Bullets president Susan O'Malley.

"Jack told me he was now the smartest ticket salesman in the league and offered me any advice I might need," O'Malley said.

Yesterday, Swope got a return call. "I left a message on his machine. 'This is Chris Webber -- have a nice day,' " O'Malley said with a laugh. "As salesmen, we're all as smart as our best player."

Callers to the Bullets' ticket office kept getting busy signals yesterday, less than 24 hours after the club added Webber and his former Michigan teammate, Juwan Howard, to its roster.

"I thought it was a great marketing day when we got Moses Malone in 1986, but this has been about three times as good in terms of sales," O'Malley said.

"I became a marketing genius as of 6:01 Thursday night," she said. "Since then, we've taken orders for over 1,000 ticket plans -- that's for the season package [41 games], 18- and 10-game plans."

Last year, the Bullets sold 6,000 season tickets and 8,000 plans overall while averaging a team-record 15,116 at home -- 15th best in the NBA.

"Before the season started, our sales were real flat," said O'Malley, "but all that's changed since we signed Webber and Howard." The Bullets raised ticket prices during the off-season, with increases ranging from $3.50 to $6.50 per seat.

As of yesterday, O'Malley had not increased her sales force, though she has considered getting help from the Capitals, whose ticket office has been quiet because of the NHL lockout.

"It's hard to train sales people in a day or so," she said. "We've had some lean times here, and the people selling Bullets tickets earned the right to make sales in good times."

O'Malley said the reaction to the trade by Bullets fans in Baltimore has been good, but not to the same frantic degree as in the Washington area. She did not have figures on how many tickets were sold yesterday for the four games at the Baltimore Arena -- next Friday vs. Cleveland, Jan. 20 vs. Philadelphia, Feb. 24 vs. Atlanta and March 10 vs. Milwaukee.

Tonight's game with the Boston Celtics at USAir Arena is sold out, but O'Malley said tickets remain for Friday night's game in Baltimore against the Cleveland Cavaliers and next Saturday's game in Landover against the Los Angeles Lakers.

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