SBJ/September 25 - October 1, 2006/This Weeks News

Checketts looks to MSG for ideas to upgrade arena

Dave Checketts wants to stamp Madison Square Garden’s image on Scottrade Center in St. Louis, and that means creating a super VIP club for the team’s new owners and sponsors and keeping the concessions in-house.

Ideas that Checketts is considering bringing from Madison Square Garden to St. Louis include a super-exclusive VIP club.
Checketts, formerly MSG’s president and CEO, is tackling the task of turning the Blues around after his Sports Capital Partners bought the team and its arena lease for $150 million earlier this year.

Part of Checketts’ challenge is to upgrade the arena. The long-term naming-rights deal the Blues recently signed with Scottrade provides a “great first step” toward renovating and rebranding the team’s home, Checketts said.

“It’s a great building, but it does need some freshness and we are working hard to do that,” he said.

Sports Capital Group spent $10 million to buy a new Daktronics center-ice scoreboard, install LED ribbon boards, put in a new point-of-sale system that accepts credit and debit cards and replace 1,726 club seats in the lower bowl, about 25 rows from the ice.

The new, leather seats are wider and have higher backs compared with the old seats, which “didn’t set apart the [club] experience,” Checketts said. The team is talking to three to four companies to sponsor the unnamed club, he said.

The Blues increased club seat amenities to include more interaction with players and front-office personnel, first rights to buy tickets to other arena events and one parking pass for every two season tickets purchased.

St. Louis hockey fans will be asked to pay $100 a game for a club seat, a $21 increase over last season’s price. The Blues finished 27th of 30 NHL teams in paid attendance last season, averaging 14,213 fans.

Scottrade Center has plenty of space to build an ultra-exclusive club similar to the one at the Garden, Checketts said.

“Our restaurant is really nice and we have an opportunity to do some more VIP things with a different offering,” he said.

Checketts wants to improve regular concessions, and the idea is to keep it a self-operating entity without hiring a third party.

“At the Garden, everything is in-house and that’s my bias,” he said. “We can control the whole customer experience.”

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