SBJ/November 14-20, 2011/Facilities

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  • Carolina Panthers’ home hopes to welcome Chesney in June

    Don Muret
    Country artist Kenny Chesney is expected to announce his 2012 tour today, including a June 24 show at Bank of America Stadium, the first concert in 15 years at the Carolina Panthers’ facility.

    As of last week, tour dates were still being confirmed for Chesney and co-headliner Tim McGraw. Together, they are targeting 20 to 22 stadiums, according to a source familiar with the production. NFL facilities were expected to get the majority of those shows.

    Chesney’s date in Charlotte will be the first concert on the Panthers’ field since the Rolling Stones played there Oct. 10, 1997. At the time, the building was called Ericsson Stadium.

    Panthers officials referred calls to Chesney’s management. Chesney’s tour producer, Louis Messina, did not return a call to confirm the Charlotte date.

    The Panthers join two NFL clubs that booked Chesney at their stadiums in 2011 after long dry spells between shows.
    This year, Arrowhead Stadium and Lambeau Field were among the 11 stadiums on Chesney’s “Goin’ Coastal” tour. In Green Bay, it was the first concert in 26 years at the Packers’ stadium. In Kansas City, there had not been a concert on the field since 2001. The Chiefs were in talks to bring Chesney back to Arrowhead in 2012, said team President Mark Donovan.

    Chesney’s 2011 show at Arrowhead generated $4.36 million in gross ticket sales and attendance of 52,523, according to Billboard Boxscore. The Chiefs assumed the financial risk to promote the show in tandem with The Messina Group/AEG Live.

    With more skin in the game, the Chiefs received a greater share of revenue compared with renting out the stadium.

    In Green Bay, local promoter PMI Entertainment took the risk to bring Chesney to Lambeau Field, a show that grossed $4.9 million in ticket sales on attendance of 45,445. The Packers’ income from the concert came primarily from concessions and parking revenue.

    The Gridiron Stadium Network, 12 NFL facilities that work together to bring special events to their venues, expects a “healthy number” of its members to land Chesney dates next year, said Jeff Apregan, the group’s consultant and a former promoter.

    The network has developed a close relationship with Chesney and Messina over the past seven years. Since 2005, Chesney has played multiple dates at Heinz Field, Lincoln Financial Field and Ford Field, three members of the network since its inception.

    Arrowhead Stadium is also a member of the network, but Lambeau Field and Bank of America Stadium are not. To join, teams must pay an annual fee.

    Chesney is set to officially announce his tour today during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

    Mackey’s premium seats include iPads, app.
    Photo by: XOS DIGITAL
    PURDUE’S NEW PAD:
    The new premium seats tied to Mackey Arena’s renovation carry high-tech amenities: iPads loaded with exclusive content for Purdue University men’s and women’s basketball games.

    The $100 million in upgrades to the school’s 44-year-old arena includes the John R. Wooden Courtside Club, 66 seats spread over the first four rows on the building’s west side.

    Those seats sell for $4,500 to $8,500 annually for men’s games alone with terms of three years up to 18 years. Season tickets are an additional cost.

    To add value to those seats, the school worked with tech firm XOS Digital to develop an iPad application providing live streaming video, real-time statistics and scores of other Big Ten games in progress.

    Courtside club members pick up the iPads inside the club lounge before tipoff and drop them off after the game. Cisco set up the wireless network powering the iPads. The school bought the iPads direct from Apple.

    The iPads are programmed to supply the same video replays shown on the arena’s new Daktronics center-hung video board. There is about a 20-second delay from the time the play occurs until it pops up on the iPad, said XOS spokesman Nathan Christopher.

    That’s not a bad thing. For courtside club members sitting underneath the board, it’s easier to view those replays on the tablet than straining to look at the board overhead, said Nick Terruso, Purdue’s sports video operations specialist.

    The location of those seats was not a determining factor for supplying the iPads, said Morgan Burke, Purdue’s athletic director.

    “Because of the higher price point, we wanted to add an additional benefit,” Burke said. “The iPad allows them to get information on other games as well, so it’s not limited to our game.”

    XOS Digital specializes in producing software for college coaches to manage their teams’ video analysis of upcoming opponents. The Purdue application is its first in-arena application for the fans, said Dan Aton, XOS’ founder and chief innovation officer.

    XOS officials are in early talks with other schools to create similar applications. As the technology develops, there are opportunities for schools to generate revenue by incorporating their sponsors into the applications, Aton said.

    In addition, there is the potential for extras such as video replays on demand, concessions ordering, facility diagrams and social media elements.

    “We have a full product road map on this,” Aton said. “We think there is a large market for this, not just a one-off.”

    Rental fees for a catered dinner with live music at Minute Maid Park can reach into the mid-six figures.
    Photo by: HOUSTON ASTROS
    HOME RUN:
    The Houston Astros struggled this year, but their special-events group expects 2011 to be a record year at Minute Maid Park.

    As the calendar year comes to an end, the Astros are closing in on 600 non-baseball events booked on the field, in the stadium’s premium spaces and conference rooms, and in the lobby of Union Station, the former train station connected to the ballpark.

    Those functions typically produce $3 million to $5 million in annual revenue, said Kala Sorenson, the Astros’ vice president of special events. Rental fees range from $12,000 to $15,000 for companies to take batting practice, to mid-six figures for catered dinners with live music.

    An improving economy, a more aggressive approach to booking those events, repeat business and strong interest in team-building efforts such as scavenger hunts led to the spike in sales, Sorenson said.

    For the first three weekends of December, Minute Maid Park’s multiple event spaces are 95 percent booked with holiday parties, Sorenson said. One of those functions, Dec. 10, is Citgo’s party for 2,000 employees on the field.

    It is the first time Citgo has used the park for its annual holiday event, Sorenson said. The petroleum company, an Astros sponsor, has a large sign over the light standard in left field.

    A recent Taylor Swift concert at Minute Maid Park produced merchandise per caps of “well over” $20, among the highest numbers on the pop star’s tour, Sorenson said.

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

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  • Pointstreak expands data systems with Flyers, Penguins

    Sports entrepreneurs Scott Secord and Kevin Lovitt are marketing software designed to help NHL teams form stronger ties with local hockey programs.

    At Consol Energy Center, fans can view real-time stats from area youth hockey leagues.
    Pittsburgh Penguins
    Pointstreak Sports Technologies, a 10-year-old Toronto firm, produces Web-based scoring and statistical systems for 3,000 professional and amateur sports leagues worldwide, serving 2.6 million players in hockey, baseball, soccer and lacrosse, according to Pointstreak data.

    The company also designs websites and provides content distribution for those leagues. The firm’s data show those sites combined are drawing an average of 6 million visitors a month in 2011.

    Over the past year, Pointstreak, under Secord, its president and CEO, has expanded its operation to the NHL, signing deals with the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

    The Flyers partnered with Pointstreak in early October to install computer terminals at the scorer’s tables at 83 community rinks in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. The Flyers invested $200,000 to modernize those rinks’ scoring systems with digital technology.

    In total, the Flyers’ reach through Pointstreak extends to 14,000 youth and adult players, said Shawn Tilger, the Flyers’ senior vice president of business operations.

    Flyers President Peter Luukko saw Pointstreak’s scoring system while watching his son Nick play for the Dubuque (Iowa) Fighting Saints at a United States Hockey League game and thought it would be a smart investment, Tilger said.

    The Flyers also pay player registration fees. On average those fees are $5 to $9 a player, said Lovitt, formerly with IMG and the NHL Players’ Association and now president of 50/50 Central, a digital raffle system Pointstreak bought in October.

    The Flyers get access to a database tied to the websites run by the youth leagues. Every time a boy or girl registers to play hockey, the Flyers capture that information. After registration, users can choose to opt out of receiving Flyers messages.

    “It’s a way for us to touch every active member in the youth hockey market in our region through one centralized system,” he said.

    Philadelphia’s system was set to be operational by Nov. 11. The Flyers will generate revenue through increased traffic to their website, with the potential of selling more tickets, Tilger said.

    The Penguins signed with Pointstreak in spring 2010. Like the Flyers, the Penguins paid for installing the terminals at local rinks and the registration fees for 8,000 players competing in two leagues.

    At Consol Energy Center, the Penguins installed Pointstreak’s technology in touch-screen displays at the Highmark Youth Hockey Center on the main concourse. Fans can view real-time scores and statistics from area high school and amateur hockey games.

    The Penguins view Pointstreak’s system as a way to give back to the leagues that support them by attending NHL games, said Max Malone, the team’s manager of interactive development. “There is an opportunity to sell sponsorship, but we do not,” Malone said.

    Pointstreak’s 50/50 Central has raffle deals with seven major league teams (see box). No teams use both Pointstreak and 50/50 Central, but the firm’s business strategy is for clubs to tap into both systems to further support local hockey.

    In Canada, where 50-50 raffles are a big part of the sports culture, the Winnipeg Jets generated about $140,000 on opening night at 15,500-seat MTS Centre. The Calgary Flames, a former investor in 50/50 Central before Pointstreak bought 100 percent of the company, generates an average of nearly $70,000 using the system at every home game, Lovitt said.

    One challenge to 50/50 Central is the gambling restrictions in Canada and the U.S. Lovitt, an attorney by trade, says he can sell the system in about 45 states, but in Pennsylvania, home to the Flyers and Penguins as well as two teams in MLB and another in the NBA, raffles are outlawed. The NFL does not allow raffles.

    In Toronto, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment runs 50-50 raffles the old-fashioned way at Air Canada Centre because of an Ontario law prohibiting automated systems. Pointstreak has a law firm on retainer lobbying regulatory commission officials to change the law.

    “We are confident there will be determination to all of this in our favor,” Lovitt said.

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