SBJ/May 28-June 3, 2012/Facilities

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  • Post-Manning Colts get some help selling season tickets

    Don Muret
    The Indianapolis Colts have outsourced ticket sales after finding themselves entering the post-Peyton Manning era with 3,000 season tickets to sell at Lucas Oil Stadium.

    Get Real Sports Sales, an Indianapolis firm, has signed a one-year deal with the Colts to sell season tickets to the local corporate community, said Greg Hylton, the team’s vice president of premium seating and ticket sales.

    In addition, for the first time in 10 years, the Colts have hired summer interns to target new prospects and those who previously bought single-game tickets. The six interns will also go back to a waiting list already picked through for return calls, Hylton said.

    The Colts were a perennial Super Bowl contender under Manning’s leadership at quarterback. With a season ticket renewal rate of about 95 percent, the team’s ticket sales staff consisted of Kip Brownfield, director of ticket sales, and Kevin Kirkhoff, a ticket sales account manager.

    Those two remain with the Colts, but otherwise things have changed dramatically in the offseason after the departure of Manning and other key players, plus a new coaching staff and general manager.

    The Colts have seen a 7 percent reduction in season-ticket holder renewals as the club embarks on a rebuilding process with rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, the first pick of the NFL draft.

    As it stands now, the renewal rate is 87 percent, which is near the league average, Hylton said.

    Get Real Sports Sales will try to help the team climb back over 90 percent in season-ticket renewals by assigning four people to make outbound calls from its office in downtown Indy.

    Jake Vernon, the company’s president, is former vice president of ticket sales for the Indiana Pacers. “Jake and I have known each other for quite a while, and there was a standing invitation if we ever needed help,” Hylton said. “This year we decided to talk.” The terms of their agreement are confidential.

    The Colts are Get Real Sports Sales’ first NFL account. The company has worked for the Charlotte Bobcats, Minnesota Timberwolves, Cincinnati Reds, San Jose Earthquakes and a few other sports properties to boost season-ticket sales.
    For the Colts, 80 percent of the available inventory at Lucas Oil Stadium is along the sidelines in the upper deck with a lesser number of midlevel seats in the corners for sale. Ticket prices are $690 a season ticket in the upper deck and $990 for the midlevel seats.

    “Now that the Colts have the No. 1 pick in Andrew Luck, it’s like when Peyton first arrived,” Vernon said. “We can tell a story [to prospective buyers] that they have already heard with an opportunity to get in now. It’s a good wave to ride.”

    Fourteen months after it was formed in March 2011, Get Real Sports Sales has expanded to 16 full-time employees and recently moved to a bigger office. In the next few months, Vernon expects his company to grow to 24 full-timers.

    The Florida Panthers are getting some outside help as well, hiring Legends Sales & Marketing to market their new center ice club, Club Red.
    Get Real Sports Sales recently signed Iowa State football and has deals pending with three NCAA Division I college basketball programs that Vernon would not identify until those contracts are signed.

    CLUB RED: The Florida Panthers, meanwhile, have turned to Legends Sales & Marketing to help market their new center ice club and consult on premium-seat sales at BankAtlantic Center.

    Club Red, the name of the arena’s newest premium space, is an all-inclusive product tied to about 700 sideline seats on the southeast side of the lower bowl.

    Over the past three months, the Panthers have sold 45 percent of the memberships available for Club Red; most of those sales covering all events in the facility. To sell the remaining seats, the team signed a one-year deal with Legends, a firm co-owned by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees.

    Legends will hire one sales executive to sell Club Red and work with 10 people now employed with 360 Premium, a new company the Panthers formed to sell the arena’s 2,200 club seats and 74 suites. Legends will also be involved in hiring three to six more 360 Premium sales staff.

    For Club Red, memberships are $12,500 annually for hockey only and concerts only, and $22,500 for all events, said Michael Yormark, president and chief operating officer for Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the NHL team and operates the arena.

    The cost covers tickets, food, beer, wine, soda and valet parking, among other amenities. The arena typically books between 150 and 200 events every year, Yormark said.

    Yormark and Chad Estis, president of Legends Sales & Marketing, worked together at the Tampa Bay Lightning for about three seasons in the late 1990s, and they both recognize the challenges of selling hockey in Florida.

    Estis and Mike Ondrejko, Legends chief operating officer, will oversee the Club Red marketing effort and make occasional visits to South Florida.

    “We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t like the product,” Estis said. “It is newly created for the very best seats in the arena and has all the elements to be successful.”

    The Panthers spent $5.5 million to develop Club Red with a 12,000-square-foot lounge supporting seats 15 rows from the ice for hockey and at stage right for concerts and other events.

    With its contemporary look, heavy on red as part of the Panthers’ rebrand last season, it is the nicest of the arena’s three clubs, according to Yormark.

    Club Red is similar to sideline clubs at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and Prudential Center in Newark, the two newest NHL arenas, said George Heinlein, a principal with 360 Architecture and one of the firm’s designers for Club Red. The architecture firm is not related to 360 Premium.

    “It is intended to be an upscale club environment unlike anything else they have in the building … to capitalize on the best seats in the house,” Heinlein said. “It should be one of the best out there.”

    Club Red is set to open Aug. 4 for the Rod Stewart-Stevie Nicks concert.

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

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  • Kings’ retail sales highlight Staples Center’s wild weekend

    Staples Center, propelled by record sales of Los Angeles Kings merchandise, generated about $3.4 million in food and retail sales during one of the busiest four-day stretches in arena history.

    From May 17 to May 20, the Los Angeles facility played host to six NBA and NHL playoff games, including the Kings’ Western Conference Finals games against Phoenix on Thursday and Sunday.

    Jerseys and other Kings merchandise was flying out of Staples Center.
    Photo by: BERNSTEIN ASSOCIATES / STAPLES CENTER
    The sale of Kings merchandise, strengthened by special-edition playoff items, produced a team record per cap of $11.39 for Game 3 of the series on May 17, said Lee Zeidman, Staples Center’s senior vice president and general manager. With attendance of 18,402, gross retail sales were about $210,000 at Team LA Store and other souvenir stands, including a portable kiosk set up at L.A. Live, the entertainment district across the street.

    For Game 4 on May 20, gross retail sales were just short of $180,000, resulting in a per cap of $9.79 from a crowd of 18,367.

    The arena merchandise numbers were “through the roof” compared with the typical $3 to $5 per caps at a regular-season Kings game, according to Zeidman.

    The Kings’ retail per caps could have been higher had they closed out the Coyotes in Game 4. AEG Merchandising, sister company of AEG Facilities, the arena’s operator, runs the venue’s Team LA Store, and “we were ready to roll out the Stanley Cup Final stuff,” Zeidman said. Instead, the Coyotes won Game 4 before the Kings finished them off in Game 5 in Arizona.

    The NBA Lakers continue to hold Staples Center’s record for single-game merchandise sales, establishing a $22.28 per cap for Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals.

    Over the six events, Levy Restaurants, the arena’s food provider, reported per caps consistently topping $20 for general concessions and premium dining.

    Game 4 of the Lakers’ series with Oklahoma City on May 19 produced total food and beverage sales of about $438,000, resulting in a $23.05 per cap from attendance of 18,997. The per caps were $4 to $5 higher than a regular-season game, Zeidman said.

    The multiple arena changeovers extended to Team LA Store, which had to quickly shift merchandise back and forth depending on the event. AEG plans to upgrade store displays with movable walls to more efficiently manage those displays. Those improvements should save AEG six figures in labor costs over the course of the NBA and NHL seasons, Zeidman said.

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  • San Fran arena would be tech whiz

    The Golden State Warriors plan to develop the world’s smartest arena in San Francisco, and social media firms will play a key role in shaping the facility’s program needs, according to the team’s consultant.

    The NBA team announced last week its intention to build a privately financed $500 million bayfront arena in San Francisco to replace Oracle Arena, its home in Oakland since 1971. The Warriors plan to open the facility in 2017.

    The Golden State Warriors want to build a cutting-edge bayfront arena that would open in 2017.
    Photo by: ART ZENDARSKI / FUTURE CITIES
    The team’s vision to design a cutting-edge sports facility in the technology capital of North America includes tapping into some of the brightest minds in the Bay Area for input on how social media can drive the future of arena communications.

    It’s all part of the recognition by team owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, tech experts themselves, of the potential for building a sophisticated arena from the ground up in the heart of Silicon Valley, said Michael Hallmark, a principal with Future Cities and the Warriors’ arena consultant.

    Hallmark has designed a dozen NBA and NHL facilities over the past 20 years, including Staples Center in Los Angeles, and he believes the combination of a tech-savvy market and a waterfront site could produce an arena that stands atop all big league venues.

    “There are better opportunities to create a state-of-the-art arena in San Francisco because all the technology companies are here and the same is true for social networks; these people are world influencers,” Hallmark said.

    “It’s getting harder for advertisers to put up a billboard and expect people to flock to their product,” he said. “Social networks, through their followers, drive trends. They set those standards, and we will find them to influence the design of a building that works for all generations.”

    To seek input from tech firms as well as those working in sports and entertainment, the Warriors will conduct a series of workshops to create an arena program before hiring an architect, said Rick Welts, the team’s president and chief operating officer.

    “Five and a half years ago, there was no such thing as an iPhone,” Welts said. “We understand the challenge of looking more than five years into the future and predicting what it means.”

    The Warriors are also meeting with concert promoters, concessionaires and other NBA teams to talk tickets and suites, and will hand that information to the arena architects as they embark on facility design, Welts said.

    Sports architects typically are involved from the start of an arena project to plan every level of the building, but it is not unusual to develop those needs before bringing designers on board. That was the case several years ago for the $70 million facelift of US Airways Center in Phoenix.

    Welts, president of the Suns at the time, hired Future Cities for initial concept design before several architects took the plan to completion, including architect of record DLR Group and some smaller boutique firms designing lounges and clubs.

    The same process started three months ago when the Warriors hired Future Cities to form ideas for a new arena and evaluate several sites to build the facility. After the waterfront site was selected, Future Cities designed a higher-level concept and produced a few arena renderings.

    Moving ahead, Hallmark anticipates serving in an advisory role to help the Warriors assemble a full team of architects and engineers to develop the arena, an outdoor plaza and a small nightclub.

    The vision for the plaza is to develop a flexible space heavy with tech sponsors and large LED screens. At other arenas, most of those areas have been added on after the fact. In Dallas, for example, Future Cities’ Sean Duncan designed AT&T Plaza next to American Airlines Center.

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