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Business

Businesses get ready for first Celtics home game

Businesses that rely on Celtics traffic are excited about the first post-lockout home game - and they hope fans are, too

Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe

“We need our Celtics dynasty back in action - as fans, and to keep our small business going,’’ says Kevin Krueger, the owner of SupahFans.

Twenty-thousand commemorative Boston Celtics T-shirts are printed and packaged. The Four’s and other restaurants around TD Garden are staffing up, and Comcast SportsNet is aggressively promoting the return of another basketball season.

Businesses and workers that depend on the popularity of Celtics are gearing up for the team’s first home game after a 149-day lockout that kept the parquet empty as team owners and players fought over how to split revenue. The game is Friday night.

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The Celtics have been on the road since the first games of the shortened season began on Christmas Day, but the long wait will soon be over for merchants who suffered through the National Basketball Association lockout. Hundreds of games were canceled, including 16 Celtics contests.

“We’re psyched,’’ said Kevin Krueger, owner of SupahFans in Kenmore Square, which sells sports T-shirts and mementos. “We need our Celtics dynasty back in action - as fans, and to keep our small business going.’’

Krueger said he sold “almost nothing’’ related to basketball this fall, but strong sales of Boston Bruins gear have helped stem the losses.

To prepare for the NBA season - even if it is only 66 games, compared to a typical 82 - Krueger has ordered eight different Celtics shirts, including one inspired by team captain Paul Pierce that reads “Obey the Truth’’ and a vintage shirt that celebrates the 1986 team.

10/22/2011 Boston, MA Ian MacGregor (cq) a bartender at The Four's pouring a couple of beers in front of 2 empty bar stools on Saturday October 22, 2011. (Matthew J. Lee) slug: 24coltrane section: living reporter: Sullivan

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

The Four’s is hoping for a full house Friday when the Celtics return to the home court. In the past, business tripled on home game nights.

At The Four’s, business would triple during home game nights and the restaurant would fill up to its 395-patron capacity. Owner Peter Colton is hoping for a big turnout Friday after having lost revenue during the lockout.

“We lost the month of November and most of December. We will never see that money again,’’ said Colton, who is boosting his staffing to accommodate the jampacked NBA schedule.

The shorter season means there will be three home games a week instead of two.

“I am happy that we have the remaining 66 games,’’ Colton said. “Hopefully, we will have a good year, and they extend into the playoffs.’’

Officials at the TD Garden are doing their part to get fans excited. On the building’s Causeway Street side, workers have draped a giant banner that reads “Welcome Home.’’

FOR Business. Boston, MA 12/28/2011 The TD Garden displays a Welcome Home sign for the Boston Celtics along Causeway St. in Boston, MA on Wednesday, December 28, 2011. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff) Section: Business Slug: 28workers Reporter: diaz LOID: 5.0.714590358

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

A banner on the side of TD Garden signals the excitement of fans and businesses that want to shout out a simple message: Welcome back.

The Garden’s president, John Wentzell, said the banner was “something to greet the Celtics organization but importantly the Celtics fans.’’

Although the facility has been busy with Bruins hockey, Wentzell said he was ecstatic that the Celtics are coming back to the home court.

“It’s back to business,’’ he said. “The Celtics are obviously an important piece to a two-team puzzle for us. We look forward to getting back into our rhythm.’’

In a show of appreciation, each fan attending Friday’s game will receive a T-shirt, courtesy of New England Ford and Xfinity, that plays off the team’s new ads and reads: “I am not Hollywood. I am not South Beach. I am Causeway Street.’’

“We’ve done [this] off and on in the past, but wanted to make sure we did it this year as a thanks to the fans,’’ said Ted Dalton, vice president for corporate partnerships and business development for the Celtics.

Pat Moscaritolo, president of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, estimated that fans, companies that are entertaining clients, and corporate partners spend $400,000 to $450,000 per game - spending that ripples into area businesses.

“The Celtics at the TD Garden is a great benefit to our visitor economy and comes at just the right time, with winter being our slowest part of the season for visitors,’’ Moscaritolo said.

Some fans prefer watching the Celtics on TV, and Comcast SportsNet, which airs 55 games this season, likes it that way.

During the lockout, ratings at the regional network plunged on the nights it would have aired live Celtics games.

During the past few weeks, the network has been running promos and ads by the Celtics to stoke fan enthusiasm.

Last week, the network aired a preseason game that drew about 250,000 viewers - the highest total for a preseason Celtics game for SportsNet, general manager Bill Bridgen said.

“The advertisers are back, and fan interest is high,’’ he said.

But not all fans have been as passionate.

Tickets of Boston’s ticket sales have not been as strong as in previous years, market manager Michael Ferragamo said, and he blames the lockout.

In October, the Allston company cut two part-time sales associates because of lackluster Celtics sales during the lockout.

“We are happy that there is going to be revenue, but it’s not going to be enough to bring them back,’’ Ferragamo said.

A Celtics spokesman said that season tickets are sold out, and there are a limited number of single-game tickets available, which is similar to past seasons.

“We expect this season to sell out as well, but we still have seats to sell and we are not taking it for granted,’’ Shawn Sullivan, a Celtics spokesman, wrote in an e-mail.

“We have to continue to earn the fan support by the product we are putting on the court.’’

Johnny Diaz can be reached at jodiaz@globe.com.
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