SBJ/September 8 - 14, 2003/Facilities

NFL’s newest venues learning their lessons

Last year came the ribbon-cutting and critiquing. This year, at the four NFL stadiums that opened in 2002, comes the tweaking and trouble shooting.

With a year of operations to learn from, officials at Gillette Stadium, Ford Field, Reliant Stadium and Seahawks Stadium are making minor adjustments to improve the fan experience at their venues.


The Detroit Lions' most significant modification was a marketing move, lowering club-seat prices in the far reaches of Ford Field.

Since last season, the Lions have sold 1,000 additional club seats after reducing from $1,350 to $1,100 the last 10 rows of club seats in the upper deck on the north side of Ford Field. Tom Lewand, the team's executive vice president and COO, said it's not that those seats weren't selling, but that there was no tiered pricing available the first season.

"We have about 8,700 club seats total," he said. "At last count, we have sold 8,250. Premium seating is an inexact science when it's still a relatively new product in the market. It still is in its infancy here. Plus, disposable income is not where it was 10 years ago.

"We're now about 90 percent sold and that stacks up against the top of the NFL, according to the calls we've made to other teams. That may be more anecdotal than precise, but in looking at ticket manifesting and sharing so much revenue, we're outpacing a lot of the new stadiums by a significant margin."

The 132 suites, including 17 game-day rentals, are all leased at Ford Field.


Reliant Stadium, besides accommodating the Texans and their

Houston races to get ready for Super Bowl.
fan base, has to set its sights on getting ready for the 2004 Super Bowl in late January.

Shea Guinn, SMG's president and GM of Reliant Park, said, "For the international media, we are [expanding our] tables and seats and will finish off areas in the service level that will be used by the NFL for production space."

With the exception of the NFL Experience, which with 700,000 square feet of interactive space was relocated to the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston, Reliant Park will accommodate most Super Bowl-affiliated functions.

"You aren't going to see the massive amount of tents you've seen in the past at the Super Bowl," Guinn said. "The tailgate village and corporate hospitality will be inside Reliant Center."

Otherwise, Guinn said, "I would definitely like to have more sun on our grass field. We're having to move the palletized field in and out a lot more than initially planned." The playing field is stored and nurtured at an on-site turf farm.

Reliant Stadium also recently installed wireless technology on the club level for in-seat food service.


Gillette Stadium had well-documented problems with a lack of men's rest rooms. The Patriots addressed the situation by adding urinals and designating eight units as "swing" bathrooms that can be converted for men or women depending on the event, said Jim Nolan, vice president of operations.

Electronic scanning devices for the detailed security pat-downs at the gate entrances also provide instantaneous data to determine the appropriate number of rest rooms for football, soccer, concerts and other events.

"We now know in real time what the demographic is in the building, and also have demographic information from last year," Nolan said. An example of how the stadium adjusts to meet demand was during a summertime Bon Jovi concert, when there were more women than men in the stadium. Bruce Springsteen resulted in a 50-50 split.

"The real change is in football," Nolan said.


Seahawks Stadium in Seattle installed four LED boards for out-of-town scores and advertising messages, said GM Jeff Klein.

"The major thing we're concentrating on is improved customer service through a better-trained staff, making sure people are knowledgeable about the building," he said. "We're undergoing a complete retraining of all employees, which includes the people that didn't work here before."

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