SBJ/April 4-10, 2011/Facilities

Marlins hook premium seat buyers

ERIC FISHER / STAFF
Construction continues at the Florida Marlins' new ballpark, set to open a year from now.
The Florida Marlins are in a strong position for selling premium seats at their new ballpark opening in April 2012.

The team has sold all 379 Diamond Club seats behind home plate and as of last week had 80 of 296 Dugout Club seats left to sell next to the first and third base dugouts.

In addition, the Marlins have seen strong demand for the two Championship Suites named after the club’s two World Series titles in 1997 and 2003. It is a hybrid premium seat product designed for individuals to buy into a suite experience. The team had eight seats remaining to sell among the 102 total seats available among the two rooms, said David Samson, the team’s president.

The $150 ticket price for the Championship Suites covers the cost of food, beer, wine and soft drinks. Hard liquor is an additional cost.

“We looked at our market with a lot of midsize companies and thought this might be attractive and we ended up being right,” Samson said.

In fact, with 15 of 40 regular suites remaining to sell, the Marlins could convert some of those skyboxes into a third Championship Suite space, if necessary. Twelve months before the park opens, the team still has some time before having to make that decision, Samson said.

The group suite offering falls in line with what teams in all sports have done to meet the changing needs of premium-seat holders. Flexibility is key and the all-inclusive food and drink package is now a standard amenity to provide fans with cost certainty they need in an economy that’s still shaky.

“Here, the intimacy and scale of the building is such that the Championship Suite location and view is as good as any [regular] suite location in another ballpark,” said Earl Santee, a senior principal at Populous and principal-in-charge of the project. “That’s the beauty of what’s going on here. It’s a shared experience, but you still haven’t really compromised anything.”

The 23 suites sold to date range in price from $150,000 to $250,000 annually. The 40 total suites are the fewest in the majors, and the 37,000-seat park is MLB’s smallest. That fits the trend for MLB parks built in the past five to 10 years, Santee said.

The Marlins continue to have discussions with three serious candidates for naming rights and could have a deal done in three to four weeks, Samson said.

The team is also pitching naming rights for the four ballpark quadrants/entrances and could go to market for a sixth deal for the ballpark plaza, he said.

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