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The New Jersey Devils continue to build on a new social media center at Prudential Center, preparing to offer hockey fans access to iPads so they can stay connected with online friends and the team’s mobile website.
Devils Arena Entertainment, the team’s arena operator, invested “well into six figures” to build what project officials describe as a digital command center on the venue’s main concourse, with six desktops and six 50-inch high-definition televisions showing the team’s games, said Rich Krezwick, the group’s president.
Later this week, 20 iPads customized with the Devils’ application as well as apps from the NHL and other sports will be available to rent for $20 apiece at the center. IPad users must provide a valid credit card number and sign a short contract holding them liable for theft or any damage while the units are in their possession, Krezwick said.
The mobile computers, valued at $500 individually, contain filters preventing users from gaining access to inappropriate sites.
“People can access the Internet and go to their Facebook page after they have registered,” Krezwick said. “It is not a revenue idea but a social media service. It is a sophisticated way for us to stay in touch with our fans during the game.”
The Devils hired Jim Delaney, president of event marketing firm Activate Sports and Entertainment, as a consultant to form the center’s business plan and creative. Delaney worked with Krezwick for 10 years at TD Garden in Boston, and the two put their heads together to come up with a digital plan that integrates the Devils’ e-mail, social media and mobile applications.
The ultimate goal is to develop a program similar to Gatorade Mission Control Center, a war room of sorts inside the sports drink maker’s Chicago headquarters where the company monitors, analyzes and responds to all social media conversations related to its brands, Delaney said.
“It is a room symbolic of what we are trying to do with the Devils,” he said. “Every team and venue has a Facebook site and Twitter account … but very few teams engage in conversation. They get the media part but not the social part. We need to connect the dots. It’s not just another office in the corner, but having all the right people in the same [place].”
Krezwick said the Devils expect to recoup the costs of the 20 iPads over the course of the season through those rental fees. The plan is to give the iPads away April 10 during Fan Appreciation Day at the team’s final regular-season game.
The team’s pregame radio show will broadcast from the social media center, providing additional exposure for the new program. The Devils could buy more iPads depending on the center’s success in Newark, Krezwick said.
AN AMERICAN TALE: Sporting Kansas City, the MLS team until recently known as the Wizards, has selected American Sportservice to operate food concessions and premium dining at its $115 million stadium opening in June. As of last week, no contract had been signed but officials from both sides said they were confident the deal would get done.
American Sportservice is a partnership between Delaware North Sportservice and American Food and Vending, a Syracuse, N.Y.-based company that in Kansas City alone serves 30,000 meals a day to some of the community’s largest corporations. One of those companies is Cerner Corp., a health care technology firm founded by Neal Patterson and Cliff Illig, co-owners of Sporting Kansas City.
Cerner was a key part of the plan to bring the team across the state line from Missouri to Kansas City, Kan. Earlier this year, Wyandotte (Kan.) County officials approved a $400 million development plan that includes both a new stadium and a 600,000-square-foot office complex for Cerner. The two properties will be within a half-mile of each other in the Village West tourism district west of downtown Kansas City, Mo. Both projects are being funded through a combination of private and public financing.
Sporting Kansas City is Sportservice’s second MLS account after the Buffalo firm opened Red Bull Arena in April. Sportservice returns to Kansas City about 40 years after serving as concessionaire at old Municipal Stadium.
TOPPING OFF: The New Jersey Nets have scheduled their first partnership summit for Barclays Center, where potential sponsors and premium-seat holders will find out firsthand from stakeholders what the arena has to offer and get an update on facility construction.
About 75 people will be invited to a four-hour meeting Dec. 13 at the Barclays Center Showroom on the 38th floor of the New York Times Building. They will hear from officials representing arena financier and naming-rights holder Barclays Capital and content providers IMG College (college basketball), Golden Boy Promotions (boxing) and Lagardère Unlimited (pro tennis) on what they can expect in return for their investment, said Brett Yormark, president and CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, the arena’s operating company.
Nets minority partner Bruce Ratner, the developer for the Atlantic Yards project where the arena is being built, and Billy King, the team’s general manager, will also speak at the summit, as will Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Levy Restaurants, Barclays Center’s food provider, will serve lunch.
Ninety percent of those invited are arena partners; the balance represent prospects for founding partnerships and suite holders, Yormark said.
The Nets have 12 founding partners signed and are seeking more deals in the airline, automotive, consumer electronics and insurance categories. The team has sold about 40 percent of the 104 suites planned for Barclays Center, Yormark said.
Don Muret can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.