SBJ/November 7-13, 2011/Events and Attractions

NFL House to debut at Super Bowl

VIP space offered for top business guests

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In a clear response to the hospitality troubles that marred Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, the NFL is moving forward on a new level of league-administered hospitality called NFL House — a high-end, drop-in facility for business partners that will operate from Thursday through Sunday of Super Bowl week in Indianapolis.

The ice storms and snow that hit Dallas during Super Bowl week this year led to complaints from the league’s top business partners, especially in how they were treated on their way into the annual Super Bowl Tailgate pregame party (SportsBusiness Journal, Feb. 14-20). The wait to get into the tailgate, a de facto sports business convention, was hours for some and easily the biggest gripe by industry types after Super Sunday.

The NFL House will feature a ski-lodge-style room and an oversized fireplace.
Rendering: SportsMark
Following a lengthy post-mortem on Super Bowl XLV, league officials decided that controlling more assets in and around their championship event would be one corrective course of action. That led to NFL House, a two-level, 15,000-square-foot facility that will be built within the 123-year-old Union Station in downtown Indianapolis.

The space will be outfitted in grand style and include a large ski-lodge-style room with an oversized fireplace as well as a game room and meeting areas. Food and drinks will be offered, along with programming that is still to be determined but will include the likes of chalk talks with retired NFL players, wine tastings and celebrity chef events. A high-end Super Bowl store is also planned for the space, which will be run by retail and merchandising company MainGate.

NFL House, which is similar to efforts at the Olympics and FIFA World Cup, will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. to business partners from the media, sponsorship and licensing world, along with an extended family of owners and retired players. While the exact mix hasn’t been determined, some business partners will get complimentary access while others will have to buy transferrable credentials, priced at $400 a day or $1,050 for the extended weekend.

Frank Supovitz, NFL senior vice president of events, said no credentials have been sold yet since clients are just beginning to be pitched.

“We’re providing not just a game, but an experience, so it’s about how we make the experience better to a number of constituencies,” he said. “We wanted to make our business partners feel better taken care of.”

Fans wait to get inside this year’s Super Bowl. NFL business partners complained loudly about lengthy waits they endured to access the Super Bowl Tailgate pregame party.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
In that spirit, Supovitz said, 500 additional customer service employees will be added outside Lucas Oil Stadium on game day, and that the league is working to ensure more efficient movement through the metal detectors at the gate. Some attendees in Dallas complained about waiting for hours to get into Cowboys Stadium. Supovitz added that NFL House is intended to complement, not replace, the hospitality many NFL business partners provide for their best customers in and around the Super Bowl. The NFL will continue to offer its traditional “NFL On Location” hospitality packages to all consumers through Quint Events.

Some of the impetus for NFL House came from the fact that Indianapolis is relatively short on hospitality space. However, the new offering isn’t intended to be for just this year. The NFL is already scouting for locations in New Orleans, which will host the 2013 Super Bowl. Finding a central space in metro New York and New Jersey for 2014 is also an imperative.

“This isn’t a one-year solution,” Supovitz said. “Our Super Bowl hotel is now a secure location, so we had lost somewhat the ability to welcome people. That’s why we thought it was important to get this going. By New York/New Jersey, we want to establish NFL House as a brand.”

The Super Bowl Host Committee will also get access to the facility.

“We saw a void,” said Keith Bruce, president of SportsMark, which is handling creative, production and operations for NFL House. “What we’re trying to create with the NFL is an oasis of calm during an otherwise chaotic Super Bowl weekend.”

Mary Pat Augenthaler, NFL vice president of events, said NFL House is envisioned as a place for work and entertainment that will be able to handle 600 to 800 people a day.

“The idea is for our most important business partners to have a relatively quiet place where everybody knows their name,” she said. “That’s not easy to find during Super Bowl week.”

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