SBD/June 7, 2012/Events and Attractions

Facilities & Franchises: Technology, Premium Seating Key To Future Revenue

Economou say MSG will have a "much different feel" after renovations
Ticketing technology, premium seat revamps and special events play key roles in providing teams with incremental income, according to a panel discussing future revenue opportunities at the SBD/SBJ Sports Facilities & Franchises conference.

SEATS AT A PREMIUM: The three-year, $1B transformation of Madison Square Garden will add three premium clubs to the arena, something it has never had before, said MSG Exec VP/Revenue Performance Greg Economou. The second phase of offseason construction, demolishing the entire upper bowl, started a few weeks ago after the Rangers bowed out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The project has created 28 "major transformational assets, 22 of which we have sold already, all found money," Economou said. "It's been an extraordinary run to date, and after this phase, from top to bottom, when we add these amenities, it's going to take on a much different feel. We joke that's like throwing a dinner party every night while you're reconstructing your kitchen."

GLOBAL GARDEN: Moving forward, international companies will play a key role for new activation at the upgraded Garden, in part due to MSG's marketing of Knicks G Jeremy Lin. "We started to figure out how to tell the story ... we went on a few forays, we hit China, Europe and Russia, talking to companies we felt we could identify with that will be spending money in the U.S. in the near future to explain their brands," Economou said. "Obviously, our priorities changed, the Asian sector became a super high priority. We did some deals with Chinese-based companies right away, which was more of an emotional reaction. For us, it's taking this gateway into the media capital, fashion, advertising and overlay that with incredible relevance with Jeremy and the Asian business community, it starts to take shape. I think there's going to be a lot of momentum in that space."

LET ME UPGRADE YOU: The Magic are trying to figure out how to continue to generate more revenue through the use of technology at Amway Center, the team's two-year-old arena. Digital menu boards have produced food per caps rivaling larger markets in Chicago, N.Y. and L.A., said Magic Exec VP/Business Development Charlie Freeman. "The one that we are really interested in is yield management," he said. "How do you take the technology with upgrades and apply that to your arenas? We've been talking to Ticketmaster and other firms, so that a few days out prior to a game, during the game, how do you get that emotional purchase of upgrading that inventory? I saw that in Orlando [Tuesday] when I checked into the airport, $45 to upgrade to first class. There's a market there to take advantage and increase your yields that we have to get to from a technology perspective. You have to be able to push the offer to the consumer so they can make an emotional buy. You will get a feel, with all the dynamic pricing teams are doing, for the inventory you have to fill. We have to get to that model at some point."

Schiller says booking acts like the Avett Brothers
at Turner Field has paid off for the Braves 

HOME OF THE BRAVES: The Braves are reaping the benefits of booking about a half-dozen postgame concerts per season at Turner Field, said team Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Derek Schiller. The Braves bought a portable stage that cuts down on the expenses tied to production costs and artist fees. In addition, the team defrays those costs by selling advance seats and standing-room space in front of the stage for $10-25. The extent to which bands are active on social media plays into choosing the right acts to play at the ballpark. The Braves and artists work together to promote those special events through Facebook and Twitter. "One of the biggest successes we had last year was the Avett Brothers," Schiller said. "Fifteen thousand people showed up for that game, in our estimation, because of the band. They have a very activated fan base that wanted to see that particular band."

POWER OF PAPERLESS: The Nationals' test of paperless ticketing this season has enabled the team to track its customers' spending in real time from the moment they enter the ballpark. The team provides its fans with an option to use smart cards as their season ticket and to pay for food and retail concessions after loading credit onto the cards. In turn, the Nationals can provide their fans with special offers and discounts as part of a larger loyalty program. Fortress, the tech vendor, works with dozens of European soccer teams in addition to the MLS Red Bulls. The technology provides the Nationals with a "360-degree view" of their fans, said team COO Andy Feffer. In Europe, those "e-cash" transactions have proven to generate three times the revenue compared with spending cash for concessions, Feffer said. "We will utilize this across the board for all season-ticket holders next year, it won't be an option. The incentive to use this is tied to the loyalty points that you get by using the card ... for additional tickets, parking and experiences."

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