SBJ/December 19-25, 2011/Facilities

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  • Shamrock hired to sell Austin naming rights

    A minor league arena outside Austin, Texas, and operated by Tom Hicks has hired Shamrock Sports & Entertainment to sell the facility’s naming rights.

    Cedar Park Center is home to the Texas Stars hockey team, as well as a D-League team.
    Photo by: SPORTRAITS BY DEENA
    Cedar Park Center is home of the Texas Stars, the Dallas Stars’ American Hockey League affiliate, and the NBA D-League’s Austin Toros. The 6,800-seat arena, which opened in 2009, is owned by the city of Cedar Park and operated by Hicks Cedar Park. The firm owns both sports tenants.

    The addition of the Toros last season doubled the number of sports events at the facility, which now books about 130 dates annually, drawing more than 500,000 attendees in a strong market for live music and technology.

    Those factors led Shamrock officials to believe they can sign a deal for a minimum of 10 years, valued in the mid- to upper-six figures annually, said Brian Corcoran, president of the two-year-old marketing firm.

    Corcoran, whose experience includes stints at NASCAR, SFX Sports and Roush Fenway Racing, worked on the $700 million Nextel Sprint Cup sponsorship as well as the naming-rights deals for the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series.

    Twelve of the nation’s top 13 technology brands have offices in Austin, including Dell, IBM, Cisco, SAP, AMD and Oracle, and that’s where Shamrock’s initial focus will be, according to Corcoran.

    “We are just starting our road show and will hit the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas [in January], knowing that technology is front and center in Austin,” he said.

    The banking and automotive categories are also possibilities.

    The revenue from naming rights would be shared by the city and Hicks Cedar Park.

    Shamrock’s deal runs for 12 months.

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  • Returning NBA teams target ticket fees, concession prices

    Don Muret
    The NBA’s strategy to fill arenas after the five-month lockout has led some teams to slash prices on tickets and concessions.

    The Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks are two examples. The Hawks caught the attention of the sports world by eliminating all ticket fees for home-game seat purchases. At Philips Arena, those fees can range from 6.5 percent to 46 percent of the ticket price for NBA games depending on location, said Tracy White, the Hawks’ senior vice president of sales and marketing and chief sales officer.

    White refused to say how much money the Hawks, whose ticketing deal is with Ticketmaster, stand to lose by initiating the no-fee policy.

    For single-game ticket sales alone, the loss could be up to $200,000, according to an industry source with expertise in NBA ticket sales. Sports consultant Bernie Mullin estimated the loss at closer to $100,000 based on his ticket-sales experience with the Hawks, MLB Pirates and Rockies, and with the NBA league office.

    “It’s tough to draw even on revenues [without the fees], but I applaud the decision,” Mullin said. “They are satisfying the customer by removing an obstacle to sale. It’s about getting more people into the building to spend the money they save on food and merchandise.”

    The Hawks did not raise ticket prices this year to make up the difference. In fact, the team reduced its lowest-tier prices for 17 games to an average of $39 a seat, down from $47 last season, a 17 percent savings, White said.

    Dynamic pricing will affect those average prices closer to game day. The Hawks committed to using Qcue’s software system again this season — which, depending on demand, could trigger ticket prices to move up or down.

    Elsewhere, the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes have eliminated ticket fees this season, said Jared Smith, Ticketmaster’s chief operating officer. “Others have an interest,” Smith said.

    The Bobcats, meanwhile, will chop food and drink prices by 50 percent for their Dec. 26 regular-season opener against Milwaukee. For that game only, the cheapest hot dog is $2.25 and the least-expensive draft beer is $3.25. Wine is covered in the half-off promotion but hard liquor is not, said Pete Guelli, the team’s executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer.

    The Bobcats are covering the loss in concessions revenue incurred by Levy Restaurants, their food provider at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Bobcats and Levy could extend the promotion to more NBA games this season if it proves to be a success on opening night, Guelli said.

    PPL Park played host to Villanova football and is looking to land the College Cup.
    Photo by: COURTESY OF COMCAST-SPECTACOR
    RAISE THE CUP:
    Three days before this year’s College Cup in Hoover, Ala., earlier this month, the NCAA officially announced the final four of men’s soccer would return to the same minor league ballpark in 2012.

    After next year, it could return to an MLS facility for the first time since 2008.

    PPL Park and Livestrong Sporting Park both submitted bids to play host to the College Cup for next year and 2013, confirmed Mike Scanlon, regional vice president for Global Spectrum, the operator of both stadiums.“We still have our fingers crossed for 2013,” Scanlon said.

    For those thinking Philadelphia is too cold in December for the event, officials preparing PPL Park’s bid sent historical data that showed temperatures in the 40s for that time of year. “It’s actually quite nice,” Scanlon said.

    Separately, Global Spectrum is in talks with Villanova to book more football games at the stadium, which is the home of the Philadelphia Union. Villanova played the first football game at PPL Park in November, losing to Delaware. Villanova Stadium, the Wildcats’ home field, was built in 1927 and has 12,500 seats.

    “There is talk of Villanova going to the Big East for football, and if so, we would become their home stadium,” Scanlon said. “We could potentially expand to 30,000 to accommodate them.”

    PPL Park holds 18,500 for soccer.

    Villanova, a football member of the Colonial Athletic Association at the Football Championship Subdivision level, is still in the mix for moving up to the Big East, according to local media reports.



















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



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  • Legends sells out top-dollar suites for 49ers’ planned stadium

    Legends Sales and Marketing has sold all 22 owners suites for the San Francisco 49ers’ proposed stadium, the highest-priced skyboxes in the venue.

    Those deals, priced at $500,000 annually, are part of the $197 million in suite revenue committed so far to help finance the $1 billion project, said Al Guido, Legends’ vice president of sales in charge of the project.

    Legends, the 49ers’ stadium marketing firm, sent out contracts for five regular suites in early December after the news broke that three banks will loan $850 million in stadium funding. If those sell, total suite revenue would reach the $200 million mark, Guido said.

    A rendering shows a suite at the planned Santa Clara stadium, which will have 165.
    Image: SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
    “We should be over $200 million by the time we get through the holidays,” he said. “We are actually ahead of where we were at the same time as Cowboys Stadium in terms of the percentage of sell-through, and still have 40-plus months to sell.” The stadium is targeted for a 2015 opening.

    Legends is co-owned by the Dallas Cowboys, and Guido previously served as the Cowboys’ sales manager. Guido and Chad Estis, president of Legends Sales and Marketing, were responsible for generating $500 million in premium seat revenue at Cowboys Stadium.

    Now, Guido is leading an effort to sell 165 suites in Santa Clara. The contracts span 10 and 20 years, similar to the terms for Cowboys Stadium suite holders.

    Legends officials will not say exactly how many suites have been sold. The owners suites on the east side of the stadium are an all-inclusive product supported by a 22,000-square-foot club. Those deals cover the cost of food and drink with tickets to most events.

    Most of the suites are distributed among three levels in a suite tower on the stadium’s west side. Those units cost $150,000 to $350,000 a year depending on location. All suites on both sides are 30 feet deep and 16 feet wide and have 16 seats.

    Twelve of the 16 seats are outdoors after focus groups expressed their preference for open-air seating. If it rains during a game, the roof overhang will keep the 49ers’ highest-paying customers dry, Guido said.

    In early January, Legends will go to market with the first phase of seat relocation, starting with 9,000 club seats tied to the 49ers’ Stadium Builders License program, the club’s term for PSLs.

    Legends hired and trained 40 people in sales and service to relocate 60,000 season-ticket holders from Candlestick Park to the new facility. From an available seat standpoint, the 68,500 seats in Santa Clara are sold out with a waiting list of a few thousand that keeps growing, Guido said.

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  • Tracks push harder for events beyond racing

    As the Thompson family’s Honda minivan rounded a dark road outside Charlotte Motor Speedway on a recent evening, Brayden Stille’s eyes widened and absorbed the glow of blinking red, green and white Christmas lights.

    “Holy smokes!” Stille said as he digested the sight of a 20-by-30-foot block of lights in the shape of a Candyland Candy Factory.

    His friend and neighbor, Tyler Thompson, 6, poked Stille and pointed at the zMax Dragway on the other side of the van. Etched into the darkness in a Technicolor display were the images of Christmas: A partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds.

    Charlotte Motor Speedway created its own Christmas tradition with an annual light show.
    Photo by: HAROLD HINSON PHOTOGRAPHY
    “Five golden rings,” Tyler sang.

    Visiting Charlotte Motor Speedway has become a December tradition for the Thompson family. The Harrisburg, N.C., residents have spent a night the last two years winding their way through the grounds outside the racetrack and into the infield for a live nativity scene. They are just a handful of some 200,000 visitors who will spend $20 to see 2 million LED lights erected by the speedway this Christmas.

    The light show, which is taking place at six of eight Speedway Motorsports Inc. racetracks this month, is emblematic of a broader effort tracks have undertaken in recent years. As the economy challenges their business, dampening attendance at races and forcing cuts in ticket prices, speedways increasingly are adding non-motorsports events to their calendar in order to drive revenue and find new ticket buyers.

    Hosting such events has long been a priority at racetracks nationwide, but the frequency and scale has picked up.

    “There’s more interest across the board in alternative events,” said Michael Printup, president of Watkins Glen International, which spent two years lobbying the local community to allow it to host a series of Phish concerts this year. “What really tipped people was looking and saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute. I’m not selling out like I was in the ’90s.’ They’re looking at their venues and trying to figure out what else they can do to make some money.”

    The history of the Christmas light shows brightening SMI tracks nationwide can be traced to Bristol Motor Speedway. Former track President Jeff Byrd wanted to create a fundraiser for the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities and decided to do a Christmas light show inside the racetrack. The event started 15 years ago and continues today. It has helped raise more than $6.5 million for the charity.

    SMI President Marcus Smith borrowed the idea for Charlotte Motor Speedway last year. He partnered with a local event company, Miller Davis, and the Christmas lighting company Winterland Inc. to set up 500 LED light displays at the track and charged visitors who toured $20 a vehicle.

    Over 42 days in 2010, speedway officials estimate 200,000 people visited. They expect more visitors this year. Their biggest night to date brought in 2,500 vehicles and generated more than $50,000 over a little more than three hours — during a time when the speedway would usually be dark and closed.

    Smith said that the event hasn’t been a big boost to the speedway’s bottom line but it succeeded in attracting a lot of visitors and exposing them to the track. “We have seen people that have come out to the Christmas show last year that came back and tried a race in May and October,” he said.

    For that reason, SMI added light shows at New Hampshire, Texas, Las Vegas and Atlanta this year. Smith said the tracks don’t collect data on each visitor unless they buy advance tickets online, but SMI is thinking of ways to collect information from visitors who come out for the Christmas shows.

    Smith said SMI tracks constantly look for non-motorsports events. Perhaps none was more successful than Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which this year hosted the Electric Daisy Carnival, a massive electronic music festival. The event brought 230,000 people out to the track over three days last summer. Festival organizers paid to rent the facility, and LVMS kept concession sales, helping push total revenue into the low seven figures. But the upside wasn’t just financial. The show also exposed the facility to a huge swath of young people, a demographic NASCAR has had a difficult time reaching in recent years.

    “Our goal was to take care of everything around the facility and how they interacted with the different services so that they walked away from here feeling good about the experience,” said Kevin Camper, LVMS senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Hopefully that drives NASCAR revenue next year, 10 years or 20 years from now.”

    Auto Club Speedway has played host to Festival Cardenas since 2007.
    Photo by: AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY
    Using non-motorsports events to attract nontraditional motorsports fans has been a staple for the last five years at California’s Auto Club Speedway, which is owned by International Speedway Corp. The track began renting its grounds to a local Latino grocery chain, Cardenas, for a festival in 2007. The track doesn’t have hard data on the number of people who have returned for races, but it has helped increase attendance for races.

    “I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and said, ‘We came here for the Cardenas event,’ and they keep coming back,” said Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker. “It’s how they’re introduced to the speedway.”

    Auto Club’s sister track in Kansas hosted its first music festival, Kanrocksas, in August and discovered a similar upside with a different demographic. The festival, which featured Eminem, The Black Keys, The Flaming Lips, Muse and others, attracted 70,000 spectators over two days. Most of them were in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic.

    Like LVMS, the speedway rented the facility and kept concession revenue. It also oversaw the sale of a presenting sponsorship for the event: Samsung bought those rights and used them to promote a new phone.

    Chris Schwartz, Kansas Speedway vice president of marketing and sales, said the track set up show cars and simulators and sent out members of its staff to collect names and information from people attending the concerts. He said the track sold hundreds of tickets to its fall race as a direct result of those “name generation” efforts, and he believes it will land Samsung as a facility partner or suite buyer in 2012.

    Other tracks are courting concert promoters and other events for similar reasons. Pocono Raceway President and CEO Brandon Igdalsky has reached an agreement for a half-dozen new events in 2012 and hopes to add six more.

    “Running a stadium is not as cheap as it once was,” Igdalsky said. “With taxes and the costs of operations now, it’s harder, and if we can, we add [an event] to offset those costs.”

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