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Arena operators could lose $1 billion if lockout costs season

Aug 24, 2011, 11:34 AM EST

TD Boston Garden

It’s not just the owners and the players. It’s their fight, but in the end they are far from the only ones getting hurt by an extended lockout.

For example, lets talk about the companies that own the arenas where NBA teams play their games — those companies could lose $1 billion if the lockout costs the entire season, Bloomberg reports.

Stuck in the middle are arena operators who have blacked- out exhibition, regular-season and playoff dates for their NBA tenants. Because securing big-name talent like Lady Gaga and Jay-Z requires so much lead time, it would be “impossible” to replace each team’s 40-plus basketball dates with other events, said John Wentzell, president of TD Garden in Boston, home of basketball’s Celtics and hockey’s Bruins, who own the building.

“As much as we would like to have the ability to repurpose those dates, it’s just impossible,” Wentzell said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think anyone would attempt to spin this — that it’s not a painful hit to their business.”

It’s more than just the regular season dates — arenas are required to keep open dates into the spring for potential playoff games.

In some cases, the owner of the team also owns the building (Mark Cuban with the Mavericks, Madison Square Garden Company with the Knicks) but in other cases the ownership is a separate entity.

Still, even with the losses, those corporations will get by.

Who really gets hurt are the people making minimum wage to serve the hot dogs, pour the beer, take your tickets, sell you that Ricky Rubio jersey and then clean up after you leave. Those are the people least able to afford 41 nights or more where the building is dark because the owners and players can’t figure out how to divide up the money the fans give them. Those are the people who are going to have to make serious cutbacks in their lives — their children are not going to have a good Christmas — because some very wealthy owners and players can’t figure out their differences.

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