SBJ/January 16-22, 2012/In Depth

On the industry's radar

We asked executives in the sports facilities industry to identify the trends they’re watching and to give their predictions on where the industry is headed. The following are highlights of what they had to say.

Food/concessions

Marc Bruno
President
Aramark Sports & Entertainment


■ Technology takes off: One of the most visible trends in 2012 will be the continuing integration of mobile technology into the food delivery process. As smartphones, tablets and similar devices continue to grow in popularity, mobile food ordering applications will allow guests to order food and retail items, and customize their offerings, while providing food and beverage providers with new promotional channels to engage guests.

■ Fans become foodies: Fans’ tastes have become more sophisticated, which will lead to expanding the presence of specialty foods, like ethnic cuisine, street food, food trucks, gluten-free and allergen-free items, and healthy fare, to ensure menus have something for everyone. Look for an elevated dining experience, where simple comfort foods have been turned into premium quality fare.

■ Going local beyond the farm: Fans are also more mindful of where their food comes from and greater emphasis is being placed on connecting with the local culinary scene by working with local farmers and featuring microbrews and craft beers. PNC Park’s pierogi stacker sandwich in Pittsburgh is a local culinary specialty and there are growing opportunities to partner with local restaurateurs and celebrity chefs.



Stadium/arena merchandising

Jeff Hess
Vice president of retail
Delaware North Companies Sportservice


Fans at a stadium today expect selection, value and convenience. Demand for women’s and children’s apparel and merchandise will continue to grow, and fans will increasingly purchase team-branded items for their homes, cars and electronic accessories.

For stadiums and arenas, that will mean maximizing retail space to enhance fans’ emotional connection to the game. Teams and their partners become mainstream retailers and not simply concessionaires. It will be increasingly important to follow fashion and retail trends and provide customers with a targeted selection of merchandise.

To provide the space needed, some venues are already developing large, iconic stores for a more exciting and memorable shopping experience. The large stores feature dramatic décor with eye-popping visuals and lighting. … In addition, leveraging licensed partners to create brand- or item-specific shops and portable kiosks will create a more personal shopping experience.

Targeted marketing programs and new e-commerce technology and mobile applications will increasingly be used to reach fans beyond the gates of the venue. Customized merchandise will be available throughout the stadium, and on non-game days, to offer the convenience fans will look for.



Technology

Bob Jordan
Managing partner
Venue Research and Design


Technology is developing at a much faster pace than the design and operation of the sports facilities. Fans attending the events will be video centric and it will be a BYOD (bring your own device) environment. The infrastructure will be the impediment to adoption of the technology and will be the focus as each facility moves into the future. This will require a change in some of the design philosophies in facilities. Video devices, wireless devices, structured cabling, switching and routing, and headend and demarc gear are all devices that require coordination and square footage.

The fan is expecting the visual of the living room with the communal vitality of the event. This will be a two-way experience with an unrestricted social media experience and an enhanced and memorable event. Fans are the early adopters of technology. They will also be the early exit if the brand is unable to deliver. The fans will be both a consumer and creator of content.

Using a remote method to order food, the fan base is asking for greater convenience. Removing the human interaction of a cashier translating your order to a register and then filling that order while you wait is desired. The implications are to design outlets that are not relying on the standard queues. Facilities will also have to deal with the fact of BYOD such as battery life and where does the fan set the device.



Venue design

Earl Santee
Senior principal
Populous


The booming era of new stadiums began nearly three decades ago. While we believe the vast majority can be viable for decades to come, they do need to evolve to be economically viable, socially engaging and relevant to new generations. One trend we expect to continue is the ever-increasing expectations of patrons to personally control their game-day experience, to enjoy ease of movement, and to be entertained with new experiences.

A key element of new experiences is technology integration. It has increased dramatically in recent years, and we believe it will be integral to the future of sports design. Likewise, sponsors and corporate partners are looking for fresh alternatives to static advertising. Populous is helping integrate sponsors into facility design with sponsor-activated fan zones, interactive media and new kinds of experiences that are tailored to engage fans and express strong brand personalities.

Lastly is the growing importance of urban planning. The substantial community and private investments required by these large structures demand greater justification than simply a suitable place for watching a sporting event. Going forward, existing stadiums and arenas must include a much broader community vision for benefiting the surrounding area with economic growth and regeneration opportunities.



Premium seating

Jason Gonella
Vice president of sales
Rose Bowl Revitalization Project


The premium seating buying mantra has gone from exuberance and flashiness — where bigger and closer are best, with limited or no concern for cost as the standard 5-10 years ago — to now the model has changed due to the customer approach to be a more conservative value-based efficiency and return on investment.

■ Product trends: All inclusive pricing is here to stay on club seating and the wave of the future for suites on both the consumer and building side of the sale. Value-added selling is prevalent in every aspect of the economy now. Adding food, access to special events that once were incremental, is the wave of today and I cannot see that changing. Product diversity is also critical; the one-size-fits-all mentality [has] passed us by. … The placement of the products has not changed too much, closer is better in almost all cases, but exclusivity to lounges and special events is more important than ever — people need more of a reason to buy than they ever have in the past. Season-ticket selling and packaging today, especially in the indoor sports and baseball, is so competitive with club-seat selling, it has become a real challenge to differentiate to the buyer where the value is in these seats. The smaller club-seat buyer has to be made to feel extremely special these days.

■ Things to do: Pricing appropriately and packaging and locating the products effectively are the key to the success. Additionally, creating that sellout, high-demand mentality is critical as well. If the buyer senses the demand is soft or supply is high, one will be in a tough position to get sales in this economy.

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