SBJ/November 27 - December 3, 2006/This Weeks News

AEG runs Staples plans past suite holders

Anschutz Entertainment Group would spend $2 million next year to renovate the 160 suites at downtown Los Angeles’ Staples Center if suite holders give the thumbs up.

AEG, which owns the seven-year-old arena, will start surveying many of the building’s suite holders in January to gauge their reaction to renovation plans, said Lee Zeidman, Staples Center’s senior vice president and general manager. The arena is home to the Lakers, Clippers, Sparks, Kings and Avengers.

The tentative plan is to rearrange cabinetry and install extra-large plasma televisions in the skyboxes, Zeidman said.

Arena officials put two 50-inch Sony flat screens in the owner’s box to show suite patrons the dramatic upgrade over most units’ 32-inch traditional screens.The move continues AEG’s focus group program, which started last summer. The company’s goal is to invite up to 75 percent of the arena’s suite holders and about 250 Premier Seat accounts, the facility’s club seat holders, and have them participate in several 90-minute sessions before a game at Staples Center.

The “town hall” meetings will be followed by a complimentary dinner in Kendall-Jackson’s Grand Reserve Club, Zeidman said.

The first round of focus groups surveyed 20 suite holders and 20 club seat patrons about how the arena operator could improve customer service and upgrade Levy Restaurants’ premium food operation.

Their input resulted in enhancing menu options and implementing new point-of-sale technology. AEG spent $100,000 on 24 InfoGenesis text messaging tablets to provide instantaneous and more efficient communication for food orders between Levy’s suite attendants and kitchen pantries.

AEG also invested $300,000 to install Ticketmaster’s Access Manager bar code readers outside the 160 suites as a security measure to stop a growing problem with unauthorized patrons getting into skyboxes and eating food they did not pay for, according to the initial surveys.

An undetermined number of Premier Seat customers were also guilty of “suite hopping” instead of going to their seats in the inner bowl, Zeidman said. Those ticket holders enter the suite level to get to their seats.

Ticketmaster’s Access Manager system scans a suite ticket’s bar code outside the box before unlocking the door.

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