SBJ/June 20-26, 2011/Facilities

Populous launches division to focus on sponsor integration

Don Muret
Sports architect Populous has launched Activate, a division focusing on sponsor integration inside sports facilities.
Populous Activate will work with teams, leagues, brands and their marketing agencies to come up with ideas for developing sponsorship activation at arenas and stadiums, company officials said. The goal is the same as always: to enrich the fan experience while generating additional revenue for teams and buildings.

Designers have assumed that role for years as part of their regular jobs as architects. Now, Populous has put an identity on that aspect of the business as it expands the scope of services it provides to clients. Populous Activate has the flexibility to be brought to the table for planning a building where Populous is the architect, or it can work separately on a project where a different architect is designing the venue, company officials said.

Clickspring Design, Infinite Scale and RipBang Studios are three firms that specialize in executing brand integration to some extent at sports facilities, but “there is nobody filling that role entirely,” according to Dan Meis, a senior principal at Populous in Los Angeles and one of the firm’s three designers in charge of Activate. Populous’ idea behind Activate is that its broad experience as an architect brings more value to a client compared with hiring a niche company.

“It’s really trying to help teams understand and leverage the sponsor relationships in a way that integrates it into the overall experience in a way that we don’t think is leveraged to the degree it should be today,” said Jon Knight, a senior project designer at Populous.

With the big leagues near full build-out for new facilities, Populous Activate sees an opportunity to help teams rebrand spaces and develop incremental revenue in their buildings. The Hy-Vee Hot Zone at Arrowhead Stadium, an interactive ramp named for the regional grocery and tied to a live music stage sponsored by Coca-Cola, is one example. As a firm, Populous designed that space. Moving forward, Activate would take over that role in the project.

Brian Mirakian, associate principal for Populous in Kansas City, will head up Activate, supported by Meis in Southern California and Nick Reynolds in the firm’s London office.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
The Royals have opened the revamped .390 Bar & Grill to all ticket holders.
HITTER’S PITCH:
Kauffman Stadium’s rebranded .390 Bar & Grill has seen a huge spike in business after the Kansas City Royals opened the indoor lounge to all ticket holders this season. Aramark’s food and beverage sales in the revamped space have jumped 128 percent over last year, said Mike Bucek, the Royals’ vice president of marketing and business development.

The old Stadium Club was restricted to season-ticket holders paying an annual membership fee. This season, fans do not have to pay a fee to gain entrance. Season-ticket holders who do pay a $325 fee get 14-day advance reservations for tables with the best views of the game and a 15 percent discount on alcohol drinks. Last year, the fee was $300 to $350 depending on the season-ticket package.

Nonmembers can hang out at the bar or the drink rail facing the field and get some relief from the steamy summer weather. The club’s upgrades include 65-inch high-def televisions and a new menu with food items priced from $6 to $28.

The space, renamed for Royals hall of famer George Brett’s 1980 batting average, is on the loge level along the third-base line. Some of the memorabilia on display came from George Brett’s Restaurant in Kansas City, which closed in 2008.

BY DESIGN: In Kansas City, home of sports architecture, there is no shortage of designers to assign for jobs at Kansas and Kansas State, two schools producing architects employed by the half-dozen firms in town doing work in the professional and college ranks. HNTB is no exception, competing for Kansas State’s $60 million press box/premium seat addition at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. K-State graduates Trent Braddock, Tim Cahill and John Peterkord are spearheading the firm’s proposal. The same trio designed Michigan Stadium’s $226 million renovation. Populous, 360 Architecture and Aecom, three other Kansas City architects, also bid for the project, in addition to Atlanta-based Heery. … 360 Architecture is the national consultant to design an expansion to Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. 360’s Nate Appleman developed a master plan for the facility last year when he was at Populous. … Aecom’s James Poulson has played a key role for designing both NBA arenas in New York. He is design director for Barclays Center, the Nets’ new arena under construction in Brooklyn. Twenty-three years ago, Poulson worked on the last major renovation to Madison Square Garden. … 360 principal Brad Schrock’s son John is a preferred walk-on at quarterback with Colorado. The elder Schrock was lead designer for Coors Field in Denver.

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