Windy City Bulls’ plans for fans

SHARE Windy City Bulls’ plans for fans

Benny the Bull interacts with fans at the Windy City Bulls’ Fan Fest last weekend at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates. The NBA D-League team will begin play in November. | Oren Amzaleg

Windy City Bulls president Brad Seymour knows from experience that promoting a team without much name recognition forces him to conduct business differently.

The Bulls’ NBA Development League franchise will begin play in November at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates. Before then, Seymour — the former vice president and general manager of the Lake County Captains, the Cleveland Indians’ Class A affiliate in Eastlake, Ohio — knows much of his job will be educating fans on what to expect.

Initially, selling the D-League extends beyond basketball.

“We can’t rely on the product on the court,” Seymour said. “Our players aren’t necessarily going to be household names, and so we really have to rely on the off-the-court experience.”

About 6,200 fans got their first taste of the Windy City Bulls experience at an event last weekend at the arena. Seymour said that while the D-League team has direct ties to its NBA big brother downtown, making the Windy City Bulls unique to the family-driven fan base in the suburbs remains central to his message and marketing plan.

As in minor-league baseball, affordability will be a key component to the Windy City Bulls’ success. Tickets will start at $17, and Seymour said many of the entertainment aspects at Bulls games at the United Center will be staples in creating the right kind of environment in Hoffman Estates.

Although Seymour expects to draw a large contingent of non-basketball fans, he knows he can’t undersell the on-the-court product.

“This is world-class basketball,” Seymour said. “These guys are a step below the NBA, and in some cases they’re going to be going up to the NBA. So we have to impress upon people that, yes, it’s a minor-league environment, but the caliber of basketball you’re going to see on the court is second just to the NBA.”

Building block

After securing a point in a 1-1 draw with Orlando City on Friday, the Fire return home to face Columbus at

4 p.m. Saturday.

The Fire (0-1-1) will play four of their next five games at Toyota Park, looking to build on some of the positives coach Veljko Paunovic took away from a tie that snapped a 26-game road winless streak.

Paunovic said he celebrated the tie like he would a win, understanding the value in building confidence.

Midfielder David Accam, who scored the Fire’s goal, will leave after the game Saturday to play for Ghana’s national team in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches against Mozambique on March 24 and 27.     

Paunovic said that finishing scoring chances and shoring up the defense will be key. For now, it appears Matt Lampson will remain in goal ahead of Sean Johnson.

But that doesn’t mean the evaluation period is over.

“Everyone has to earn it,” Paunovic said. “The performance Matt had in the game against Orlando was, from the point of

view that he didn’t concede more than one goal, better.

“But the opportunity to win the spot is in every possession and in every training and every week.”

Follow me on Twitter @JeffArnold_.

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