SBJ/October 24-30, 2011/Facilities

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  • SMU uses suite plan first designed for Duke

    Southern Methodist University plans to build a three-story tower with suites looking into Moody Coliseum, part of a $40 million renovation of the school’s basketball arena.

    The design by 360 Architecture is similar to a model the firm’s Tom Waggoner proposed eight years ago for Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. The arenas are more than 50 years old and have virtually the same footprint.

    SMU
    New suites and loge boxes are seen to the left in a rendering of a remodeled Moody Coliseum.
    “Architects laid over the blueprints of Cameron and Moody and they come within 6 inches of having the same floor layout and seating bowl,” said SMU Athletic Director Steve Orsini. “It helped us to think about what we could do to renovate our building.”

    In Dallas, the new tower facing the north side of Moody Coliseum will have a private club on the first floor, office space on the second floor and 10 suites on the third level overlooking the court.

    The renovation calls for punching two holes in Moody’s north wall: One will allow views from the tower suites, and the other will connect 48 new loge boxes inside the arena to the private club. The four-seat loges, also on the north side, extend from ground level to mid-aisle in the seating bowl.

    To develop the skyboxes, the top four to five rows of regular seats near the top of the north side of the arena will be removed to provide open views to the court for suite holders. Down below, three rows of seats around the perimeter of the bowl will be eliminated to install the loge boxes, as well as seats that meet the federal Americans with Disabilities Act code. As a result, Moody’s total seat count will be reduced from 8,988 to about 7,500.

    SMU hoops supporters who buy the suites and loge boxes will have exclusive access to the tower club beneath the stands, Orsini said.

    The school hired CSL International to complete a study to determine pricing for the suites and loges. SMU holds its multimedia rights in-house and plans to sell the premium seats on its own, Orsini said.

    SMU has $32 million in private donations committed to the arena renovation, meeting a university requirement to have 80 percent of the money pledged before starting design. “We passed that milestone this spring, and hopefully by next summer we will see dirt flying here,” Orsini said.

    Within two weeks in April, SMU received two large financial gifts to help pay for construction. The Moody Foundation donated $20 million to keep its name on a building it originally helped pay for 55 years ago. Separately, former SMU basketball player David Miller donated $10 million for the project.

    The private school, which has an enrollment of about 11,000, does not have a large alumni base, but officials are confident they can sell all of the new inventory. “If we price it properly, it is all revenue we can use to add more things to the project,” Orsini said.

    The goal is to complete the renovation by Dec. 1, 2013. The arena renovation fits with SMU’s strategy to elevate its basketball program to top-25 status and join a BCS conference in football, Orsini said.

    Moody’s face lift will bring it up to date with Crum Basketball Center, SMU’s three-year-old basketball practice facility, and Gerald J. Ford Stadium, the school’s football stadium, which opened in 2000.

    Duke’s campaign to renovate Cameron Indoor Stadium, part of a $100 million athletic facilities master plan, does not include a suite project at this time, said Mike Cragg, the school’s senior associate athletic director.

    In 2003, Waggoner, while designing a retractable bleacher system at Cameron Indoor, presented an idea to athletic officials to build skyboxes on top of the Schwartz-Butters Athletic Center, a six-story building next to the arena.

    The suite addition remains part of a long-term vision for improving Cameron Indoor, Cragg said.

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  • Populous to design Quebec arena

    Quebec City has moved closer to fulfilling its dream of again being home to an NHL team.

    Last week, Populous was selected to serve as the lead architect to design a new NHL-ready arena for the city.

    The Kansas City sports designer is part of a joint venture with three Canadian firms, two architects and an engineer. Thornton Tomasetti, a New York structural engineer working on Barclays Center in Brooklyn, is the fifth member of the team.

    The $400 million project, a public-private partnership, is targeted as a multipurpose facility with 18,000 seats. The premium-seat mix will not be determined until March 31, said Francois Moisan, a spokesman for Quebec City, the arena owner.

    In September, Quebecor, a multimedia conglomerate, signed a 25-year lease with the city and bought the rights to operate and market the arena. Quebecor is also responsible for finding a primary sports tenant, specifically an NHL team.
    There is no deal in place for an NHL team to relocate to Quebec City.

    The site for the new arena is on the ExpoCité fairgrounds, to the west of Colisée Pepsi, where the old Quebec Nordiques played from 1979 until 1995. The Nordiques relocated to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche.

    A 5,000-seat arena on the fairgrounds will be torn down to clear space for new construction, Moisan said.

    The Quebec City project is similar to Sprint Center in Kansas City, an arena Populous helped plan to accommodate an NHL team or an NBA club. Four years after it opened, the arena does not have a major league tenant.

    Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume toured Sprint Center, as well as Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and Prudential Center in Newark, the two newest NHL arenas and both Populous designs, said Rick Martin, principal-in-charge in Quebec City.

    Officials will select a general contractor early next year and expect to break ground next summer, with the arena opening in the fall of 2015, Moisan said.

    The joint venture of designers and engineers share a contract fee of $18.6 million, a deal that runs until the end of the project in 2015, according to city officials.

    Icon Venue Group, a company co-owned by AEG, is owner’s representative for Quebecor.

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  • Burgatory’s hotter than H-E double hockey sticks at Pens’ arena

    Don Muret
    A new gourmet burger-and-shake stand at Consol Energy Center is grabbing the attention of fans throughout the second-year home of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Burgatory, situated behind Section 206 in the arena’s upper deck, opened this season as part of more than $1 million in upgrades to the NHL facility. The stand’s “helluva burgers” and “heavenly shakes” are themed after the original family-owned restaurant in suburban Pittsburgh that has been open less than a year. The arena site replaces an old general concessions stand, said David Peart, Penguins senior vice president.

    Separately, Burgatory officials signed a three-year sponsorship with the Penguins valued at $50,000 annually covering brand exposure on LED ribbon boards and digital signs on the concourses.

    KATELYN ROSE PETRAITIS
    “Helluva burgers” and “heavenly shakes” draw fans upstairs at Consol Energy Center.
    Mike Hanley
    , Burgatory’s operating partner, invested about $100,000 in equipment costs and signed a licensing deal with Aramark, the Penguins’ food and retail provider and the stand’s operator. In turn, Aramark pays Burgatory a percentage of sales, Hanley said.

    Early in the season, Burgatory officials are training Aramark workers and managing the stand for quality control, Hanley said.

    On opening night, Oct. 11, Burgatory sold 700 burgers and 350 shakes, a single-game sales record for the arena’s food stands. Its limited menu has two burgers, a chicken sandwich, caramel pretzel and triple chocolate brownie shakes, and fresh-cut fries. A half-pound burger sells for $12.50 and comes with homemade chips. The large shakes are $8.75.

    As the buzz on Burgatory spreads, hockey fans in all seating areas are migrating to the stand. In some cases, suite holders bypass catered fare to make the trip upstairs to grab a burger, Peart said.

    Burgatory and the Penguins first connected through Peart. The Penguins’ executive frequents the original location and is a “big fan and a great customer of ours,” Hanley said.

    Signing a deal to bring another popular brand into the arena fit with what Pittsburgh hockey fans were looking for, based on fan surveys and season-ticket-holder breakfasts that the Penguins organized as early as two weeks into the building’s inaugural season, Peart said.

    “Yes, it is a burger-and-shake stand, but it is not the kind of food you find in a traditional arena,” Peart said. “Fans wanted local flavor and access to a premium experience.”

    Consol Energy Center opened last year with Primanti Bros. sandwiches, an iconic Pittsburgh brand.

    The Penguins also discovered through fan feedback that their customers desired a place close by to sit down and eat before and after games. Team officials believe T.G.I. Friday’s, the casual dining chain, fills that niche.

    In June, Friday’s opened a streetside restaurant that is part of Consol Energy Center. Friday’s pays rent to the Penguins to operate the space. Unlike the Friday’s Front Row concept at MLB parks in Phoenix and Milwaukee, T.G.I. Friday’s does not extend to an overlook in the seating bowl. It operates more as a retail location than an in-arena destination, Peart said.

    Arena manager SMG books 170 events annually, drawing an average of 12,000 spectators, driving enough traffic to make it a viable business, Peart said. In addition, Friday’s draws lunch and dinner crowds from nearby Duquesne University and UPMC Mercy hospital.

    The restaurant sits along Fifth Avenue, part of the first phase of development the team is involved with outside the arena.

    CLEAN SWEEP: Delaware North Sportservice officials could not be happier with how the MLB playoffs unfolded.

    For the first time in its 96-year history, Sportservice had all four teams advancing to the ALCS and NLCS as clients, confirmed Rick Abramson, president of the concessions firm.

    Through the league championship series, the 21 playoff games at Busch Stadium, Comerica Park, Miller Park and Rangers Ballpark generated close to $24 million in total food and merchandise sales. Food receipts alone produced about $21 million.

    Sportservice went nuts finding squirrels for St. Louis.
    For the four teams, the average food and retail per cap was $25.04, the biggest number in playoff history for Sportservice, Abramson said. The figure does not include Rangers merchandise because the team runs that operation in-house.

    In St. Louis, as of last week, Sportservice had sold about 8,000 Rally Squirrels, stuffed toys named after the rogue rodent or rodents that disrupted play during two games of the Cardinals-Phillies divisional series at Busch Stadium.

    To quickly meet demand, the vendor contacted its sister company, Delaware North Cos. Parks and Resorts, the firm that runs gift shops at Yellowstone and Yosemite. Those two national parks shipped excess toy squirrel inventory to Busch Stadium’s team store run by Sportservice. After those initial $6 toys sold out, Sportservice upgraded to a $12 talking squirrel that’s now for sale.

    The squirrel toys and other Rally Squirrel merchandise, a spin on the Los Angeles Angels’ Rally Monkey that took the spotlight during the 2002 World Series, are also being sold at a half-dozen “pop-up” stores that Sportservice opened near Busch Stadium.

    SOCIAL GATHERING: The Carolina Panthers are using Facebook and Twitter to sell discounted single-game tickets to their game this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.

    The Panthers had 5,000 tickets left to sell for that game and thought it would be a good test to use social media to sell the rest in the corners of the upper deck, said Phil Youtsey, the club’s director of ticket sales and operations.

    The team slashed the price of those tickets from $52 to $32, excluding the $1.25 print-at-home fee.

    As of last week, the Panthers had sold more than 800 tickets through the promotion and expected to meet their projection of 1,000, Youtsey said.

    The offer was available only to those fans signing up for the team’s social media programs. A link directs prospective buyers to Ticketmaster’s site, where they enter a password to get the discount.

    The Panthers have more than 333,000 followers on Facebook and about 48,000 on Twitter. “It’s a thank-you to our social media followers,” Youtsey said.

    Last Tuesday, the Panthers still had 3,500 tickets left for the game.

    Last Sunday’s home game against Washington was the Panthers’ 89th consecutive sellout.

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

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