In an interview Tuesday morning, Nets and BSE Global CEO John Abbamondi told CNBC that the NBA will face huge losses without fans in the stands this season, but he’s hopeful that as things return to normal with COVID vaccines, arenas will be full again by the post-season.
Abbamondi added he’s also hopeful that the NBA season will survive “bumps along this road” as the play resumes while the pandemic continues to rage across the country. The concern, he said, begins with players testing positive for the coronavirus.
“Nobody has an illusion that you’re going to stop cases from occurring,” Abbamondi told Joe Kernan on the network’s “Squawk Box” program. “I think the key is how you handle it, and we have robust protocols in place to isolate those individuals, get them treatment, and prevent a larger outbreak.”
Fans are not permitted at Nets games, of course, with New York state and city regulations among the most restrictive in the nation. In fact, only six of the league’s 30 teams will permit any fans in the stands, half them in Florida where there are few restrictions on large gatherings.
Financially, Abbamondi noted that teams derive 40 percent of their revenues from game day transactions in the arena, including ticket and gear sales as well as concessions.
“The revenues that require [the Barclays Center] to be full, and it’s not going to be full for some time,” said Abbamondi. “So, we’re definitely going to be impacted, but we have an opportunity in front of us, and we think it’s a great opportunity to entertain our fans through television and other media.”
Abbamondi told CNBC that NBA teams hope they’ll be able to welcome fans back in time for the postseason, when gate revenues —and team profits— are usually at their highest. In the meantime, the league has raised $900 million and will provide teams with $30 million each to stay afloat for the year.
“We are optimistic that before this season is over, which will be in the summer of next year, things are going to look very different,” Abbamondi said. “There is a lot of caution, but there’s also a sense of optimism, and I think all Americans share that.”
The question of course is how many Americans will be inoculated with the various COVID-19 vaccines and when. There are various estimates as to when the general public will get their shots which can be a month-long process. The most optimistic scenario has the general public getting on line for shots in late spring. The playoffs are scheduled to begin around the same time, on May 22.