SBJ/April 11-17, 2011/Facilities

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  • Double Eagle Club making a comeback

    The Double Eagle Club, the leading hospitality site at the Masters since 1992, saw its revenue increase 65 percent this year.

    While the daily guest count surpassed the 200 mark last week, it still hasn’t returned to the pre-recession levels of 2008, when nearly 300 people a day were passing through the club.

    But the increase in guests this year marks a significant comeback for Masters hospitality, which suffered from corporate cutbacks in 2009 and ’10. About 90 percent of the hospitality crowd at the Double Eagle Club is corporate business and about 1,500 guests attended last week.

    “In the last two years, companies were laying off employees, so it just looked bad to send a bunch of clients to the Masters,” said Chuck Johnsen, a senior vice president at Chicago-based Intersport, the agency that runs the Double Eagle Club. “But it looks like the belt-tightening is done and those companies are saying that it’s time to get back to growing our business.”

    Intersport, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Double Eagle Club last week, began the hospitality business really out of necessity. As a production company that worked closely with CBS on golf projects, Intersport took guests to the Masters, where executives were unimpressed with the offerings of pimento cheese sandwiches.

    So the agency bought an old arcade building directly across Washington Road from the entrance to Augusta National. The 5,000 square-foot space was retrofitted to serve as a home for hospitality and another 3,000 square feet have been added.

    Intersport’s hospitality packages go for $105,000 for eight people and include housing in upscale homes, transportation, tickets to the tournament, and full access to the Double Eagle Club.

    Inside, the club serves breakfast each day with an omelet station and guests typically eat there before walking across the street to Augusta National. They return for lunch, where there’s a carving station and traditional Southern favorites like fried chicken. Dinner often includes some kind of change-up, like wild game, and the guests retire to the expansive deck for cocktails.

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  • Dynamic pricing will make playoff debut

    The Nashville Predators and Atlanta Hawks are two of the first big league teams to dynamically price playoff tickets.

    Dynamic pricing adjusts single-game ticket prices as late as the day of the game through computer analysis of factors including team performance, opponent, weather, day of week and gate giveaways.

    Both teams have arranged playoff deals with Qcue, an Austin, Texas, technology firm that works with about 20 teams and sports facilities to dynamically price tickets. The Hawks used Qcue’s system for the regular season and extended it for the playoffs.

    The Predators’ deal is for the playoffs only. The NHL team is using the postseason as a test of dynamic pricing and has an option to extend its current agreement with Qcue for the 2011-12 season, said Sean Henry, the club’s president and chief operating officer.

    Teams’ deals with Qcue typically involve revenue sharing, and that is the case in Nashville, confirmed Nat Harden, the Predators’ vice president of ticket sales.

    The playoffs are a whole new world for dynamic pricing. NBA and NHL teams, unlike MLB and NFL clubs, control ticket prices for the playoffs and do not need league approval for dynamic pricing.

    “It’s our first experience with the playoffs, too,” said Barry Kahn, Qcue’s founder and CEO. “The traditional hockey and basketball seasons are a long selling period. We have to adjust to a much shorter selling period. Things happen a lot quicker and change more frequently.”

    In Nashville, the Predators started selling 4,000 single-game tickets April 2 for four potential first-round home games at Bridgestone Arena, a full week before the regular season ended and playoff matchups and game dates were set. To move the needle on ticket sales before dynamic pricing kicked in, the team initially priced those seats on average 8 percent less compared with last year’s playoffs, when Nashville lost to Chicago in the first round.

    Starting today, with the playoffs set, the Predators have the ability to move prices up and down to meet demand. There will be a price floor to protect their season-ticket holders, Henry said.

    Last year, the Preds fell 700 seats short of selling out their first playoff game before moving all tickets for their other two games.

    In Atlanta, a traditionally lukewarm market for the playoffs, the Hawks do not expect dynamic pricing to have an impact in their first-round series against the Magic, said team President Bob Williams.

    Digonex, a Qcue competitor, has dynamic pricing deals with NHL teams for the playoffs but company officials would not identify those clubs.

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  • Indians bolster ballpark’s craft beers, including a $30 bottle

    Don Muret
    Craft beers have grown to represent 5 percent of America’s beer sales by volume, and MLB concessionaires are going to greater lengths to satisfy their fans’ desire for high-end suds.

    At Progressive Field in Cleveland, Delaware North Sportservice, the Indians’ food provider, developed a new Spirits of Ohio stand in Section 154 of the lower deck behind home plate. Those beers, all made in the Buckeye State, range from $6.75 to an eye-opening $29.75 for a 22-ounce specialty beer.

    Sportservice built Spirits of Ohio this year after testing craft beers last season in the ballpark’s Terrace Club, a premium space reserved for Indians season-ticket holders. The results were mixed, but Sportservice went ahead with building that stand as well as Your Dad’s Beer, a location in Section 119 in the right-field corner. That particular stand offers old-school beer brands such as Blatz, PBR and Schaefer sold in 12-ounce cans for $4.50 as well as mainstream brands produced by Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors.

    Spirits of Ohio sells beers brewed in the Buckeye State.
    Chris Angne
    , Sportservice’s general manager at Progressive Field, first began expanding beer selections beyond the ordinary when he worked at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, another Sportservice account. Three years after arriving in Cleveland, Angne has adopted the same ideas as part of an overall approach to refresh the park’s food and drink menus. Angne has discovered the state of Ohio has a rich brewing history, and in both big league markets he has found beer aficionados willing to pay a healthy price for a new craft beer experience.

    Conversely, having to pay $30 for a Hoppin’ Frog Bodacious Black and Tan could be considered excessive. That particular beer, as well as the Hippie IPA ($19.75) and Brew Kettle 4 C’s Pale Ale ($15.75) are available only in 22-ounce bottles. Sportservice must pay a premium at the wholesale level to buy those bottles compared with traditional bottles and kegs, Angne said.

    Sportservice’s markup for those three beers is two to three times what it pays for those products at wholesale, he said. The beer price also reflects the food vendor’s cost of doing business at the stadium.

    Across sports in general, the markup for domestic beer brands is typically four to five times what the concessionaire pays wholesale and covers the commissions it pays the team as part of their concessions deal, said food consultant Chris Bigelow.

    Concessionaires also pay heavy taxes at the wholesale level, Bigelow said.

    The Spirits of Ohio stand sold 29 bottles of the three specialty brews during Cleveland’s first three home games, including four of the $30 Hoppin’ Frogs. The Indians were pleased with those initial results, team spokesman Curtis Danburg said.

    All told, Sportservice has more than 75 different beers available at Progressive Field, Angne said.

    In sports, the craft beer trend began 10 to 15 years ago at arenas and stadiums in the Pacific Northwest, home to many microbreweries, Bigelow said. Centerplate, for example, serves 40 craft beers at Safeco Field, the Mariners’ park, which is across the street from Pyramid Brewery’s Seattle Alehouse.

    In some respects, purchasing a 22-ounce microbrew at Progressive Field is similar to buying a fine wine, officials said: The prices vary for both products, and the large bottles are suitable for sharing.

    SNOW JOB: The Minnesota Vikings are trying to make good with their corporate partner Mall of America about four months after heavy snow caused the roof to collapse at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

    Mall of America signed a three-year naming-rights deal for the stadium’s field in October 2009. The terms included painting the mall’s logo on the roof, a process that was completed in May 2010. Seven months later, the roof collapsed and officials decided it was better to replace the structure than repair it. The new roof will not be completely installed until Aug. 1, which means Mall of America loses a big piece of activation for nine months, or roughly one-quarter the length of its deal.

    The team and the sponsor are discussing a resolution, said Steve LaCroix, the Vikings’ vice president of sales and marketing and chief marketing officer.

    Mall of America officials were contacted, but an executive authorized to speak for the company was not available for comment.

    In addition to the roof, Mall of America Field has three signs on the exterior of the stadium, banners on light poles, and video board exposure, LaCroix said.

    Don Muret can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BreakGround.

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