SBJ/February 6-12, 2012/Franchises

Petco wireless upgrade part of fan program

The San Diego Padres have signed a long-term deal with Verizon Wireless to upgrade Petco Park for Wi-Fi and 4G coverage that will ultimately serve as the backbone of the team’s new fan membership program.

The San Diego Padres’ membership program will offer discounts on tickets, concessions and merchandise.
ANDY HAYT / SAN DIEGO PADRES
The agreement is one of the first deals for Verizon Wireless in Major League Baseball, said Tom Garfinkel, the Padres’ president and chief operating officer.

Sources say the deal spans more than 10 years and is valued in the high six figures to low seven figures annually.

In San Diego, the installation of a new distributed antenna system to meet 4G needs and a separate Wi-Fi platform will greatly improve mobile phone service for Padres fans, Garfinkel said. Verizon Wireless is covering all project costs, he said.

Both systems provide the foundation for a larger program using the in-park technology that MLB Advanced Media has developed. The Padres’ goal is to “layer” other elements on top that are connected to a fan loyalty program under development, such as a special section where members can access tablets or the ability to order food and beverages from their seats.

“Our vision is for a fan membership program that we came up with about halfway through the 2011 season, that we call ‘Padres 2013’ internally,” Garfinkel said. “It incorporates enhancements to several elements of how fans experience the Padres.”

The Padres formed a committee to create the program, led by Jarrod Dillon, vice president of ticket sales; Steve Reese, vice president of technology; and John Abbamondi, vice president of strategy and business analysis.

Brent Stehlik, the club’s senior vice president of business operations, oversees the committee. The program will allow fans to sign up and become members for free and receive discounts on tickets, concessions, merchandise and seat upgrades.

Members can elevate their status by becoming season-ticket holders and attending games, making them eligible for exclusive experiences such as early entry to the park, dinner with a player and first access to postseason games, concerts and the special events at the park.

“Each level will have more exclusive benefits,” Garfinkel said.

The Padres will test the program this season with about 300 to 500 people tied to 150 to 200 season-ticket accounts.

They will receive a smart card with stored value to gain admission to the ballpark and to buy food and merchandise. The test group will have access to a special page on padres.com where they can manage their accounts and add value to individual game tickets.

During the 2012 season, the Padres will refine the mechanics and benefits of the fan membership program to prepare for a bigger rollout in 2013. By that time, both Verizon Wireless platforms will be fully installed to support the new initiative.

“Our goal is to create value for the season-ticket holder that can’t be transferred to the secondary market,” Garfinkel said. “The Verizon deal … is definitely an important first step.”

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