SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/Finance

‘Cashless’ comes to concessions

A small technology company launched last year by sports consultant Marc Ganis hopes to be in the vanguard of bringing cashless transactions to sports stadiums and arenas.

On Sunday, the St. Louis Rams became one of the first professional sports teams in the United States to introduce a "smart card," a preloaded cash card to buy merchandise and concessions within the Edward Jones Dome. The card also will provide buying patterns that the Rams and their concessionaire can use to manage inventory.

The Rams contracted with Ganis' company, Facility Acceptance Network, which assumes all the financial risk in St. Louis, for the remainder of the season. Including Sunday's game, the Rams had four remaining regular-season home games this year.

"Smart cards" offer convenience to fans, no risk to Rams.

The Rams have no financial risk, said Bob Wallace, the Rams' executive vice president. The team has a two-year option to continue with the card after this season, Wallace said.

Facility Acceptance makes its money, Ganis said, by the interest-rate float on the cash, card sponsorships and potentially incremental concession sales. The last point is not part of the Rams' deal, but may be part of future contracts.

"I expect by next season to see at least a dozen NFL stadiums using the card," said Ganis, who also has talked with the National Tennis Center about employing the card during the U.S. Open.

The Open employed a debit card for the first time this year, said the NTC's managing director, Danny Zausner, but would consider Ganis' smart-card system for next year.

Facility Acceptance has spent a few hundred thousand dollars already and does not expect to recoup that money with the Rams.

The New England Patriots use a similar card on their club-seat level this season, but the Rams will have it available for use throughout their stadium. At the 24 permanent concession stands, one line will be just for patrons who buy the card, which is available in $25 and $50 increments.

The convenience of fans breezing through concession lines is the main attraction for the Rams, Wallace said. The 125 concession kiosks also will accept the card, but there will be no express line.

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