SBJ/Jan. 24-30, 2011/Franchises

Braves brand super suites for the office, bar

The Atlanta Braves are developing two new branded super suites catering to separate audiences at Turner Field.

The team is consolidating four regular suites midlevel beyond the right-field foul pole that often went unsold into two larger 50-person units for the 2011 season. One skybox will be marketed as a business meeting space with projection screens and other office equipment tailored for corporate use before games. The second will have a sports bar theme with a foosball table, Golden Tee and other video games, said Derek Schiller, the Braves’ executive vice president of sales and marketing.

The club is negotiating naming rights for both premium spaces, and each sponsor will receive exclusive use of those group suites for a half-dozen games, Schiller said. Those two deals are not signed. Both super suites will be sold for single games for the remaining 75 dates.

The cost for the business center suite is $6,000 for weekday games, $4,500 for weekend dates. The sports bar suite price is $4,800 for weekdays, $3,600 for weekends. Food and drink is an additional cost.

In repositioning vacant suite inventory to adapt to a shifting premium market, the Braves fall in line with other MLB teams playing in ballparks built in the 1990s, when skyboxes were still a relatively new product. Some parks, such as Progressive Field in Cleveland, opened with more than 100 suites and wound up with many empty units after long-term leases expired and companies declined to renew their deals because of economic conditions, the desire to get closer to the field, or other factors.

Turner Field, built for the 1996 Olympics and converted for baseball, has 58 suites, far fewer than other parks of the era but still too many to keep occupied in a 49,583-seat stadium, according to Schiller. The Braves saw what the Indians did to create their “fan cave” suite, a 12-person skybox with a pool table and video games that sold for $3,000 a game in 2010. For 2011, Cleveland is doubling the size of its fan cave and moving it elsewhere in the park after combining two individual suites, team officials said.

John Cimperman, Schiller’s friend from their days working in the NHL, helped the Braves create their sports bar super suite. Ten years ago, Cimperman, now a principal with Cenergy, a Buffalo-based sports creative agency, developed a rec-room style suite at HSBC Arena modeled after Comedy Central’s “The Man Show.”

The goal for teams is to create demand for suites by reducing supply while developing new sponsorship opportunities to get more companies to buy premium seats, Cimperman said.

“Right now, all of them are saying, ‘We wish we had 30 less suites,’” he said.

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