SBJ/May 23-29, 2011/In Depth

‘Dolphins Express’ finds more riders

The Miami Dolphins put their own spin on retail outlet ticket sales after signing a deal with Duffy’s Sports Grill.

NFL fans visiting Duffy’s, the team’s official sports grill with 24 locations, can buy a ticket package for a Dolphins game that includes a bus trip to Sun Life Stadium and a pregame meal. In 2009, the first year of the program, the Dolphins Express program sold about 2,400 ticket packages. The number grew to just under 4,300 in 2010 after the tailgate meal was added, said Mark Tilson, the team’s senior vice president of sales and ticket operations.

Fans can buy those ticket packages by phone or from their table server at the restaurant. They are not available online. Last season, about 70 percent of Dolphins Express purchases were made at Duffy’s locations, an increase of more than 10 percent over the first year due to a boost in on-site advertising and wait staff aggressively pushing the deal, Tilson said. Last year, those ticket packages cost $129 for a lower-level seat and $79 for an upper-deck seat. As of last week, the Dolphins had not determined prices for the 2011 season.

At Duffy’s, the table server conducts the transaction and gives the customer a receipt, containing an email address to print his game ticket at home, and a bus voucher with information on the Duffy’s location to catch the bus to the stadium. Servers get paid a $5 commission for each ticket package they sell.

This year, pending resolution of the NFL lockout, the club expects to sell 10,000 to 12,000 ticket packages, Tilson said. The team is searching for a bigger meal space outside the stadium to accommodate up to 1,500 fans. The meal itself consists of hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, soft drinks and bottled water. No alcohol is served but Dolphins Express patrons can bring their own adult beverages and set up their own separate tailgate space apart from the official function catered by Centerplate, the Dolphins’ concessionaire.

“It’s not only a great deal but you save money on avoiding the parking fee, which was $25 last season,” Tilson said. “The transportation piece alleviates a big headache for people. In Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, traditionally strong markets for us, it can be a 90-minute to two-hour trip to the stadium. It’s hassle-free.”

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