SBJ/January 16-22, 2012/Facilities

Quick-change Superdome cashes in on events

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome completed the busiest stretch in the stadium’s 37-year history, setting food service records for the Allstate BCS National Championship Game to close a remarkable run of four high-profile football games over nine days.

From Jan. 1 to Jan. 9, the dome played host to a pair of sold-out New Orleans Saints games, including an NFC Wild Card playoff, the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the sold-out BCS title game.

Centerplate, the Superdome’s food provider, reported a food and beverage per cap greater than $33 for general concessions and premium catering for Alabama’s win over LSU, resulting in total spending of about $2.6 million for a crowd of 78,237.

The per cap beat Centerplate’s numbers for the NFC
championship game two years ago at the Superdome, as well as the Saints’ 2010 regular-season opener against the Vikings, said Steve Trotter, Centerplate’s vice president of operations in New Orleans.

The $33-plus per head is 150 percent greater than the average Saints regular-season game, Trotter said. The number also is
$6 to $7 greater than the per cap for the 2008 event, the last time the Superdome had the BCS national championship, said Doug Thornton, senior vice president of stadiums and arenas for SMG, the stadium’s management firm. LSU beat Ohio State that year.

The 2002 Super Bowl was the last time the dome produced
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome was transformed to play host to four high-profile football games over nine days, events that posted strong food sales and provided exposure for the automaker.
Photos by: SOLOMON GROUP
revenue figures in the $30 range, Thornton said.

All told, Centerplate generated $8 million in gross food revenue over a two-week period, including the Dec. 26 “Monday Night Football” game between the Saints and Falcons, and four NBA games across the street at New Orleans Arena, home of the Hornets.

At the Superdome, gross food revenue was $7.75 million over those two weeks, said Bob Pascal, Centerplate’s chief marketing officer.

Having two regional schools within driving distance was a key factor for the record food and drink sales. Superdome officials estimated 35,000 to 50,000 people showed up in town without tickets to the game. “Between Alabama and LSU, the entire downtown was packed with RVs, whether they had tickets or not,” Thornton said.

The BCS per cap covered concessions and catering outside the dome at Champions Square, an outdoor space, and at the arena, where Centerplate served a 500-person private party at the Capital One Club and fed FBI employees working the game.

Those without tickets to the BCS title game still joined the party at the Verizon-sponsored square, an entertainment zone with local food vendors and beer stands. It opened at 2 p.m., 3 1/2 hours before the dome’s doors opened and 5 1/2 hours before kickoff.

“The peak period at Champions Square was between 5 and 5:30, when a tidal wave of fans starting walking up Poydras Street,” Thornton said. “We watched it all unfold on our security cameras.”

Club 44, a separate indoor lounge and part of Champions Square, was reserved for Dr Pepper, one of the event’s secondary sponsors. BCS title sponsor Allstate entertained clients in a tent at the square. Inside the dome, Nike took over one of the stadium’s two new bunker lounges.

For Mercedes-Benz, the dome’s naming-rights holder, media exposure during the BCS title game was valued at more than $4 million for broadcast, $491,000 for newsprint and $135,000 for social media, said Eric Smallwood, senior vice president of Front Row Marketing. Television exposure for Mercedes-Benz came from announcer mentions and interior and exterior stadium signs, Smallwood said.

“If they mentioned Superdome [only], we did not count it,” Smallwood said.

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