The Cleveland Cavaliers have agreed a partnership with SeatGeek that will see the technology platform take over as ticketing provider for all future events at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, with the NBA basketball team stating the company’s commitment to putting the fan experience first was key as it seeks to return spectators to the arena for the new season.

As the new ticketing provider for the FieldHouse, SeatGeek will take over ticketing all Cavaliers games, along with those featuring American Hockey League (AHL) team the Cleveland Monsters and NBA 2K outfit Cavs Legion, as well as concerts and other events that come through the venue.

In addition, SeatGeek will ticket all games of the Canton Charge, the Cavaliers’ NBA G League affiliate, at the Canton Civic Center. The Cavaliers and FieldHouse deal marks the mobile-focused ticketing platform’s first major arena partnership in the US, and the company’s second NBA team partner after the New Orleans Pelicans.

The deal also marks a distinct change in strategy for the Cavaliers, renowned as pioneers of new advances in ticketing in the US. SeatGeek replaces AXS as the Cavaliers’ ticketing partner, while a deal signed by the team and AXS in April 2018, making StubHub an official marketplace of the Cavaliers and its arena also expired recently, with a mutual decision not to renew.

The Cavaliers had historic ties to AXS, with team owner Dan Gilbert previously the founder and owner of Veritix. In September 2019, AEG fully acquired AXS from majority co-owners TPG Capital and Gilbert’s Rockbridge Growth Equity.

AEG already held a 38 per cent stake in the ticketing firm, which had been its official North American ticketing partner since September 2018. In 2015, AXS merged with Veritix, which meant TPG and Rockbridge together held 62 per cent of the company while AEG held 38 per cent.

Reflecting on the overriding reasons behind the change from AXS to SeatGeek, and the main benefits for the switch, Ron Velazquez, vice-president of venue experiences and ticket operations for the Cavaliers, told TheTicketingBusiness.com: “We had multiple quality options to consider, but decided SeatGeek was the best fit and the right partner at the right time for us.

“Just speaking about SeatGeek and what led us to select them, though, we are excited in terms of their innovation and cultural spirit towards putting the fan experience first. Their technology, combined with their mentality towards the partnership and our fans was key for us.”

Velazquez said that some of the features the two parties are most aligned on are in relation to SeatGeek’s commitment to ‘ticketing made simple’ and a consistent ticketing experience across any device or platform.

Velazquez also cited the two-tap selling function, allowing fans to instantly post their tickets to SeatGeek for resale, as key, along with the Rally service which provides gameday information like event policies, directions, weather and more.

However, with the NBA now moving towards its 2020-21 season, Velazquez said SeatGeek’s ability to be “COVID-19 Conscious” will be crucial. He stated: “If an event is being held at reduced capacity, fans can feel assured about their safety. Only a full pod of tickets can be purchased, resale will be blocked unless the full pod is posted and COVID Event Policies can be displayed on the digital ticket.”

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) this week reached an agreement in principle on the start of the 2020-21 season, which is set to commence on a shortened basis on December 22.

The 2020-21 season will feature each team playing a 72-game schedule, down from the traditional 82 games, with the full regular-season and broadcast schedules to be released at a future date. The NBA will need to focus on addressing multiple challenges as the league emerges from the bubble it was forced to end the 2019-20 season in, and teams return to playing in their home arenas.

In June, the NBA’s Board of Governors approved a restart plan for its suspended 2019-20 season that saw the North American league resume on July 31 with all remaining games played at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex near Orlando, Florida.

With the Cavaliers now set to return to the FieldHouse, SeatGeek’s suite of COVID-19 response solutions – SeatGeek Adapt – will help fans safely return to games with tools that help maintain social distancing throughout the venue, understand COVID-19 attendance protocols, and more.

Commenting on the Cavaliers’ current thinking on fan attendance, Velazquez said: “We’re working through plans for limited capacity access to start. Those plans are being reviewed by the city, the state and health authorities.

“At the same time, we’re working closely with the NBA and processing their input and continuing and evolving guidelines and protocols. This is a very fluid situation and we remain prepared and nimble to be able to activate access as we are able to, when the time comes.

“We continue to invest in our systems and process to support the healthiest and safest environment possible for anyone inside the venue. Technology, and partners like SeatGeek, will play a large part in that, no matter what the circumstances become.”

Images: Cleveland Cavaliers/Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse