SBJ/June 6-12, 2011/Facilities

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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