SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Facilities

Orioles consider partial-season packages for some suites

Faced with intense competition for the high-end sports dollar, the Baltimore Orioles are considering offering partial-season packages for some of the luxury suites at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Companies would be able to purchase a suite for a half-season — 41 games — or for as few as nine or 10 games under plans being weighed by team executives.

There is limited availability among the stadium’s 72 luxury suites, said T.J. Brightman, vice president of corporate sales and sponsorships for the Orioles. Offering partial-season packages to smaller companies would be a way not only to keep the suites filled but also to introduce the Orioles to a new wave of corporate backers — at a time when the team faces new competition for the sports entertainment dollar thanks to the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington.

“This is for a small company that says, ‘I want to entertain, I see the value the ballpark offers and I want to be part of it,’” Brightman said.

Longtime luxury suite holders see that value, Brightman added, with several renewing their contracts after last season for three to seven years. Brightman said the organization recognizes companies “have more choices in the marketplace.”

“Our competition includes all teams in the region: the Ravens, the [Maryland] Terps, the Redskins, MCI Center,” Brightman added. “Thirteen years ago, that wasn’t the case.”

The Comcast Center, neighboring M&T Bank Stadium and other sports venues threaten to oversaturate the region with luxury suites, so the Orioles’ strategy is sound, said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based Sportscorp Ltd., a sports business consulting firm.

“An empty suite is like an empty airline seat once the plane takes off,” Ganis said. “You simply cannot recapture that revenue.”

Brightman would not disclose the revenue the team reaps from suite sales and wouldn’t offer specifics about the number of suites available and sold since last year. He said all of the suites between the baselines have been sold for the 2005 season. The Orioles open the season April 4 with a game against the Oakland Athletics.

Suites at Camden Yards sell for $100,000 to $300,000 for a season. Revenue from suite sales is part of the $129 million that the team booked in 2004, according to Forbes’ annual team valuations.

Robert Terry writes for Baltimore Business Journal.

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