In a perfect world, Syracuse University would build a new retractable-roof stadium for its football and basketball teams.
“They do them more efficiently these days,” said Daryl Gross, the school’s athletic director.
Short of spending a few hundred million dollars on new construction, however, Syracuse is content with investing a fraction of the cost to periodically renovate the 30-year-old Carrier Dome.
The building’s most recent upgrade, a new 3,000-square-foot premium space called Club 4-4, officially opened Jan. 23 off the concourse level, overlooking the basketball side of the dome. The $1 million project, named for the jersey number worn by former Syracuse running backs Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little, replaced the dome’s old administrative office, which was moved to the opposite end of the building.
The club, modeled after trendy Manhattan nightclubs, has room for 250 members. They pay initial fees of $500 for the rest of the Big East Conference basketball season and a full season of lacrosse. Starting July 1, full-season fees cost $1,500 for all sports and special events. Food and drink are an additional cost.
Some Syracuse alumni and supporters may pay a smaller fee tied to their customized season-ticket packages, Gross said. In general, Club 4-4 membership does not include the price of event tickets.
To date, the athletic department has sold 150 memberships. Syracuse expects the club to generate $350,000 in revenue annually, a nice chunk of money on top of its concessions revenue and additional fees from renting the space for non-game-day corporate functions, Gross said.
Club 4-4 opens two hours before every game. “People are really enjoying themselves and the crowds grow every game,” he said.
The new club follows dome improvements that include the two-year-old Executive Club suite, mid-level in the southwest corner, and 208 courtside seats established four years ago that generate $1 million in revenue a year.
In the future, Gross wants to add a New York-style pub at the Carrier Dome where fans can grab a burger and beer before the game.
“People spent a lot of time there and we need to do what we can to make sure they continue to enjoy the entire experience,” Gross said.
TUG OF WAR: The Arizona Cardinals could have a fight on their hands if they aim to keep Steve Trotter in charge of the food service at University of Phoenix Stadium after the NFL club takes over the operation there in August.
Trotter, Centerplate’s GM in Glendale, has been at the stadium for four seasons. He was instrumental in opening the building in 2006 and was the vendor’s point man for the 2008 Super Bowl.
Both Trotter and the Cardinals prefer he stay on board to launch Rojo Hospitality, the team’s new concessions and premium dining venture, according to industry sources.
Trotter’s current employer sees it differently. “Steve and [his] team are very valuable employees of Centerplate, and their future is with Centerplate,” said Des Hague, Centerplate’s president and CEO.
Trotter and Ron Minegar, the Cardinals’ executive vice president and chief operating officer, declined to comment.
It’s no small question, says one expert. “The general manager is the most important hire they will make as the operator,” said Dan Smith, chief operating officer for Legends Hospitality Management, the new Cowboys-Yankees concessionaire.
The Cardinals are negotiating a two-year contract with the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, the stadium’s landlord.
FRONT ROW FREEBIE: Comcast-Spectacor’s Front Row Marketing is giving away a free sponsorship analysis to promote its revamped Web site. It’s good for one game and up to five advertising locations and carries a value of just under $5,000.
Throughout February, teams, facilities and municipalities can send an e-mail with contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org. A winner will be randomly selected March 1, said Front Row’s Liam Weseloh.
Don Muret can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.