SBJ/December 13-18, 2010/Facilities

Spurs create club for season-ticket holders in first three rows

ATT Center

The San Antonio Spurs have developed a new event-level club for about 300 season-ticket holders in the first three rows at AT&T Center.

The Express Jets Courtside Club, a 4,500-square-foot, upscale hospitality space in the arena’s southwest corner, provides food, soft drinks, beer and wine at no extra cost to premium-seat patrons paying $295 to $900 a game for seats in the first two rows around the court and the third row along the sidelines. Previously, those fans had access to Saddles & Spurs, two clubs on the Charter Level open to all 1,908 club-seat holders, but they did not have a lounge to call their own, said Rick Pych, president of business operations.

“This is an area specific to them, whether they want to have a full dinner, lighter fare at halftime or a beverage after the game before they go home,” Pych said. “It is whatever you want it to be and the nicest area we have in the building. It is all part of an effort to provide more value for our season-ticket holders.”

To build the club, the Spurs took an old storage area in the eight-year-old facility and hired local architect Kell Muñoz to design an upscale destination similar to the Four Seasons Hotel, Pych said. The club’s marble finishes, illuminated bar counter, low lighting and commissioned art pieces stand in contrast to the arena’s original overall interior design, themed after a Mexican marketplace. A 20-foot glass wall provides a glimpse of players walking to and from the locker rooms.

“This goes in a different direction,” Pych said. “We wanted a cool but high-end type feel.”

The Spurs fall in line with the Phoenix Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder, two other NBA clubs that went through retrofits to develop event-level clubs. The Spurs used both US Airways Center and Ford Center as models, Pych said.

The Orlando Magic, another team Pych mentioned as an influence for what it did with the old Monte Cristo Club at Amway Arena, now has the Mercedes-Benz Star Lounge at Amway Center, its new facility.

In San Antonio, Express Jets, a local firm that companies use to help them buy and sell corporate jets, signed a three-year naming rights deal for the new club. Express Jets had not been a Spurs sponsor but does buy season tickets, Pych said.

The Spurs planned a soft opening for the club last Friday.



NO MIRAGE:
Sports architect Dan Meis is one person with a vested interest in World Cup soccer who was not surprised by FIFA’s selection of Qatar to play host to the 2022 event.

Meis, a senior principal at Populous, has been working for the past 18 months with the Qatar bid committee to design 46,890-seat Sports City Stadium in Doha, one of nine new facilities to be built among the 12 venues involved in World Cup competition.

The group’s passion for the sport, something Meis experienced firsthand, and its hard work to meet FIFA requirements paid off, he said.

“FIFA believed in the power of the game to bring the world something special,” Meis said. “Most people thought it was logical and practical for World Cup to go to the U.S. and England [in 2018]. But FIFA was seeking a higher purpose, and I think South Africa proved that.”

Qatar’s bid addressed the sustainability issue with its plan to develop several stadiums that can be taken down and built somewhere else. Sports City, a $1 billion project, will be a permanent venue designed with a section of 10,000 seats that can operate independently as an amphitheater. Its flexibility is similar to Saitama Super Arena in Japan, a project Meis designed in the mid-1990s.

The proposal for the Doha stadium calls for a retractable roof, 116 suites, 5,122 VIP seats and 80 VVIP seats, reserved for “very, VERY important persons,” Meis said. “Luxury at a higher level in the premier spaces.”

Aedas Sport, Meis’ employer until September, remains a partner in the Qatar project.

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

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