SBJ/June 6-12, 2011/Facilities

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  • All-inclusive club at center ice, theater boxes part of BankAtlantic Center renovation

    BankAtlantic Center officials have a plan to develop a new all-inclusive club and theater boxes as part of the biggest renovation to the Florida Panthers’ arena since it opened in 1998.

    SUNRISE SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT
    The branded club off BankAtlantic Center’s main concourse would include 500 to 700 seats.
    Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, the NHL team’s arena management group, wants to build a branded club at center ice off the main concourse with 500 to 700 seats. One floor above, on the suite level, 12 to 17 skyboxes would be torn down and replaced with theater boxes, smaller units with four cushioned seats and access to a reserved table in a lounge behind the seats.

    Those two retrofits, plus the addition of new digital signs in the inner bowl and on the arena’s exterior walls, are part of $15 million to $20 million in upgrades to meet the changing needs of the Panthers’ highest-paying customers, said Michael Yormark, Sunrise Sports’ president and chief operating officer. The company is assessing who will pay for the upgrades in the arena, which is owned by Broward County.

    The group recently announced the hiring of 360 Architecture of Kansas City to design the improvements. Two to three years ago, 360 principal George Heinlein designed the theater boxes at United Center in Chicago to replace unsold suite inventory. The 32 four-person units are sold out, according to Steve Schanwald, United Center’s senior vice president of marketing. The $92,000 annual cost covers unlimited food and drink, including alcohol, tickets to all Bulls and Blackhawks games, and parking. Two eight-person theater boxes are sold out at $199,000 a year.

    In South Florida, Sunrise Sports has not determined prices for theater boxes at BankAtlantic Center. Yormark toured United Center with Heinlein to take a firsthand look at its theater-box setup. As things stand, the 72 suites at BankAtlantic Center are all sold between long-term leases and game-day rentals, Yormark said. At the same time, reducing the total number of skyboxes and developing a smaller, less costly premium-seat option should make it easier for companies to consistently entertain clients over the course of a 41-game home schedule.

    “These days, corporations have a tough time purchasing boxes for 15 to 20 people and having to open them up for every event, with food and beverage an additional cost,” Yormark said. “Both current and former suite holders have told us how they entertain and what makes the most sense from a financial standpoint.”

    The new club and its “walk-out bars” to the edge of the lower bowl will be run similar to BankAtlantic Center’s ADT Club, an all-inclusive space on the club level in the arena’s south end zone, in operation since 2004. The average seasonlong ticket price is $8,500 for that 564-seat space. The new club, two floors below the ADT Club with a prime view of the game action, will most likely carry a ticket price of $20,000 to $25,000 a season, Yormark said. Those patrons would get unlimited food, beer, wine and soda, as well as tickets to all events in the building. Centerplate is the Panthers’ food provider.

    Sunrise Sports’ goal is to have the new club open by July 1, 2012, the start of a new fiscal year. The theater box project will follow later.

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  • Innovation required at Barclays includes turntable for trucks

    Don Muret
    Barclays Center has been downsized from Bruce Ratner’s ill-fated Atlantic Yards mixed-use project, but the massive infrastructure upgrades tied to the arena development do not make the job any easier to build an NBA arena in Brooklyn.

    Squeezing the Nets’ facility on a tight urban site above an old storage yard for the Long Island Railroad resulted in a project with four to five major components, said Bob Sanna, director of design and construction for Forest City Ratner Cos., the arena’s developer.

    NEW JERSEY NETS
    Barclays Center’s tight urban site atop an old railroad storage yard in Brooklyn is requiring several major infrastructure projects.
    Front and center is building a new New York City subway entrance at the Atlantic Avenue stop that leads upstairs to a pedestrian plaza outside the arena’s front doors. That $50 million project alone, funded by Forest City, brings fans much closer to the arena from nine existing subway lines and the Long Island Railroad.

    Relocating the old railroad storage yard to a temporary site and building a new permanent site for the yard are two additional pieces of the project, Sanna said. In addition, most of the storm water and other utility relocations have been completed to power the 675,000-square-foot arena, he said.

    One of Barclays Center’s unique features is its loading dock. The constraints of the site, coupled with an event level designed below street level, forced pro-ject officials to develop a creative way to unload semi-trucks hauling equipment for touring shows. Those vehicles will enter a freight elevator that goes 33 feet down to event level. At that point, the trucks are placed on a turntable that spins them around to move forward or backward onto the arena floor to unload cargo for concerts, the circus and other events. Once emptied, the trucks are brought back up to street level to exit the building.

    In that respect, Barclays Center is the opposite of Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, an arena that sits above Penn Station, New York’s largest transportation hub. At MSG, “everything is trucked up” to the arena for touring productions, Sanna said, and all fans must take stairs and escalators to reach their seats.

    In Brooklyn, all patrons will enter at concourse level, and about half of the 18,000-seat arena’s population will walk down to their seats. Designing the arena’s lower bowl below grade was a critical part of Barclays Center’s development from the very beginning, Sanna said.

    As of late May, steel erection was 35 percent complete for the $1 billion arena, which remains on time and on budget, Sanna said. Barclays Center is set to open Sept. 28, 2012.

    BIG COUNTRY: New Meadowlands Stadium Co. President and CEO Mark Lamping provided an interesting anecdote recently about booking Kenny Chesney, the first country concert to be held in an NFL facility in New Jersey since Willie Nelson played Giants Stadium in 1983.

    Lamping told attendees at the SBJ/SBD Sports Facilities & Franchises conference about the conversation he had with Ron VanDeVeen, New Meadowlands Stadium’s senior vice president of events and guest experiences, about the possibility of scheduling a country act.

    Fine, said VanDeVeen, former senior vice president and general manager of Giants Stadium. But first, he told Lamping to tune to a country radio station on his way home from work to see whom he might be interested in having perform at the new stadium.

    Lamping went up and down the radio dial and discovered there were no country stations in the New York market. That was a big reason why Giants Stadium, traditionally one of the top-grossing stadiums for concerts, shied away from booking those artists.

    The lack of country music on the local airwaves did not stop the joint venture from pursuing Chesney, though. In fact, New Meadowlands Stadium Co. had enough confidence in Chesney to buy the show and take on the financial risk as the event promoter ­— a first for the company, Lamping said.

    As of last week, 37,000 tickets had been sold for Chesney’s Aug. 13 date at the stadium. With capacity at 50,000, “we are tracking toward a sellout,” Lamping said.

    The joint venture’s media partners for Chesney include a country station in Monmouth County, N.J., a new outlet that reaches New York, and stations as far north as New Haven, Conn., and as far south as Philadelphia.

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

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