Pitino to put wind in Celtics sales

May 8, 1997

Business in and around the FleetCenter is expected to rebound next season now that Rick Pitino will call the plays from the fabled parquet for the Boston Celtics.

The team's long slide to finish with the second-worst record in the National Basketball Association wasn't just a disappointment for fans.

It was a financial thorn in the side of the FleetCenter. Attendance and ticket sales drooped as the Celts lost game after game. Many club seat holders, who pay as much as $ 11,000 a year for the privilege, wondered about the value of their investment and talked of not renewing their contracts.

But the arrival of the former University of Kentucky coach promises to quiet those rumbles, according to FleetCenter president Richard Kreswick.

"I don't think there is a ticket holder out there who is not excited about the potential," said Kreswick. "This will absolutely change the mentality of the skeptics."

Kreswick anticipated that having Pitino in the house could cause attendance at Celtics games to soar by as much as 25 percent. "Paid attendance" at home games - or sold seats - has averaged around 16,000 for the team, according to stats compiled by the NBA.

The FleetCenter head said Pitino has already made a difference to sales: A company that had hemmed and hawed for months about buying a luxury box called the night before to cut a deal. "By 10 a.m. this morning we had that suite sold," he said.

Area merchants whose cash registers rise and fall on the team's fortunes were cheered by the prospect of a new coach - and seeing a little more green off the court.

"As a businessperson - it's been a long year," said Bill Goodwin, a manager at Commonwealth Brewing Co., a brewpub located on a side street near the sporting arena.

"I definitely had a drop in business attributable to fewer people coming to games and less post-game activity," said Goodwin. He declined to cite specific numbers but called the revenue slide "a significant percentage drop."

"We're just thrilled," Goodwin said. "This will refresh and invigorate the fans. And I look forward to the challenge of hooking Rick Pitino on microbrewed beer."

That emotion was seconded at The Fours, a sports bar and restaurant across from North Station.

"This will definitely be a big help for us," said Fours manager Peter Colton. "We've seen a lot of great days back in the glory years and we've seen a lot of lean days recently, so we are looking forward to this."

While business on Friday nights remained strong at the Fours, weeknights were soft. Colton estimated that Pitino's presence might draw a bigger crowd to the arena on those nights and help boost overall sales.

Stock in the Boston Celtics, which jumped 3 points in anticipation of Pitino's anointment as coach, closed the day at $ 26.38, down 88 cents.

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