SBJ/20100816/Facilities

Design, sponsorships taking shape for spring training park

HKS’ latest renderings of the new Cactus League home for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies show a ballpark design reflecting the landowners.

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, a $115 million facility being built near Scottsdale, Ariz., and funded by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, is the first spring training facility built on American Indian property. The theme, “Two Teams — Two Tribes — One Home,” is carried throughout the 11,000-seat building.

One signature design element is the two roofs covering the grandstand, a modern take on the traditional ramada shade structure tied to Indian culture in the Southwest, said Byron Chambers, HKS’ principal designer for the project.

Beneath the roof cover are three elevated party decks providing some of the most spectacular mountain views in Greater Phoenix, said Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall.

Those premium hospitality spaces contain some of the park’s primary branded areas. MillerCoors, a Diamondbacks partner, plans activation on one deck above the press box and behind home plate.

A rendering shows the HKS design for the D-Backs’
and Rockies’ new spring training home.

All told, Pepsi, Cold Stone Creamery, Crust Pizza & Wine Cafe, Native New Yorker and Salty Senorita all signed deals to serve their products at the stadium. MillerCoors, Pepsi and Cold Stone are Diamondbacks partners.

The Diamondbacks were responsible for selling those sponsorships because the building is in their backyard, and they get a slightly bigger piece of the pie in sharing that revenue with the Rockies, Hall said.

Salt River Fields opens Feb. 1.

LAMBEAU HALF-STEP: The stagnant economy has forced the Green Bay Packers to sell half-season suite packages at Lambeau Field, something the NFL club has never had to do since suites were added to the facility in 1985.

In the past year, eight suites have opened up at Lambeau after premium customers decided not to renew their long-term deals. To keep those units filled for the 2010 season, the Packers thought it made sense to split the skyboxes into five-game plans.

Team officials have always had success marketing single-game suites, and as the recession continues to linger, they observed several companies buying a suite for two to three games a season instead of the full 10-game slate, said Jennifer Ark, director of premium sales and guest relations.

“This is an opportunity to have other businesses experience the Lambeau Field game-day environment that can’t commit to a long-term agreement,” Ark said. “We want to share the message and create awareness because there is a perception that there is nothing available.”

The five-game price is $47,500 and includes 20 tickets and two parking passes for each game. Food and beverage is a separate cost. As of last week, the Packers had a commitment from one firm to buy a half-season plan and two more companies showing strong interest, Ark said.

By comparison, full-season suites tied to long-term contracts range from $81,000 to $154,000.

The Packers are allowing suite customers
to buy half-season packages at Lambeau.

The Packers are not alone in making adjustments to meet market needs during the downturn. Most NFL teams have open inventory and some have expanded their sales staffs to find new clients interested in sampling the suite experience, said Bill Dorsey, a principal with SuiteAgent, a joint venture with corporate hospitality marketer PrimeSport. SuiteAgent launched in October and has deals with the Lions, Jaguars, Rams and Titans to sell single-game suites, keeping on average 20 percent of the rental fee.

“Teams are open to anything: half-seasons, split suites, multiple tenants, all options are on the table,” Dorsey said. “Green Bay has a national following, so this is something they can really go after, especially in the NFL, which has the highest fan travel of all the leagues.”

Despite the vacancies, things aren’t grim in Packerland. Lambeau Field’s 168 suites are filled to 92 percent capacity this season, Ark said.

TICKETS.COM LANDS FISH: Tickets.com has signed the Florida Marlins as its 14th MLB client. The ticketing software firm, owned by MLB Advanced Media, signed the Marlins to a four-year deal starting in 2012, when the team moves into its new $515 million ballpark in Miami.

The Marlins are already accepting season-ticket holder deposits for the 37,000-seat park through ProVenue 2.0, Tickets.com’s latest ticketing platform, said John Walker, president and CEO.

When the facility opens, fans will be able to buy tickets on their mobile devices and add cash value on their tickets through Uptix, Tickets.com’s partnership with stored-value vendor Givex, Walker said.

The Marlins will continue to sell game tickets through Ticketmaster for the rest of this year and the 2011 season. The team is a tenant at Sun Life Stadium, owned by the Dolphins and a Ticketmaster account.

“We went through a cost benefit analysis and discovered that Tickets.com … fit better with what we wanted to do,” said Marlins President David Samson. “They are an aggressive company interested in new technology and the future.”

One sign of how ticketing and bar code technology continues to evolve is that the Marlins’ facility will be MLB’s first ballpark without turnstiles, according to Samson.

CHALLENGING CISCO: Daktronics is using Louisville’s new college basketball arena to showcase its Internet protocol television network.

The scoreboard maker enters a market dominated by Cisco Systems, the San Jose-based technology firm that has installed its IPTV programs at six major league facilities, including Consol Energy Center, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ new arena.

At KFC Yum! Center, the arena’s 414 LCD televisions and 59 LED screens are all connected to one control system that with one flick of a switch sends a single message or 400 separate messages throughout the facility.

The point of difference is Daktronics also produced the LED scoreboard and ribbon boards in Louisville, and all those signs in the seating bowl are tied to the same controller plugged into the televisions, said Will Ellerbruch, Daktronics’ regional sales manager.

Stadiums and arenas using other IPTV providers have separate systems controlling televisions and LED screens and thus must hire more than one person to operate those programs, according to Ellerbruch.

“With our system you can tie [IPTV] into the game statistics,” Ellerbruch said. “It comes directly from our game controller sitting at courtside, which is pretty cool. It’s really our controller that is the secret sauce for us that ties it all together.”

Cisco also bid for the job, confirmed Paula Yancey, vice president of PC Sports, the owner’s representative for the $238 million project. Price and the flexibility of having one provider for all those systems led to officials selecting Daktronics, Yancey said. The IPTV system is valued at $1.1 million.

The Redskins took out seats and created
party decks behind new video boards.

NFL TIDBITS: The Carolina Panthers teamed with corporate partners Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors to develop a pair of beer-branded spaces on the main concourse at Bank of America Stadium for fans to hang out, drink a cold brew and watch other NFL games on the RedZone Channel. The graphic displays on structural columns and back walls across from sections 137 and 117 are tied to Bud Light and Coors Light, respectively. Those areas were previously designated for smokers, said Scott Paul, the Panthers’ stadium operations manager. Since January, the stadium has gone smoke-free to comply with North Carolina state law. … The Washington Redskins spent $1.5 million to develop club-level party decks in both end zones at FedEx Field. The project was necessitated by the installation of two new Daktronics video boards that would have obstructed the views of club-seat holders sitting behind those structures. “The new video boards are higher than the old ones and we had to do something,” said Dave Donovan, the team’s chief operating officer. About 1,200 fixed seats were removed in each end and the team relocated club seat holders affected by the move to seats lower in the bowl, he said. The standing room setups both accommodate 1,500 premium patrons, and the plan is to set up portable beer and soft drink stands in those areas. As of last week, the Skins were in talks with a potential sponsor for the party decks, but Donovan would not reveal the name of the firm. Bud Light, one of the team’s corporate partners, sponsors end zone destinations at NFL facilities in Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Glendale, Ariz.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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