SBJ/November 5-11, 2012/Facilities

Bucs’ refurb plans to pump up retail sales

Massive team store part of merchandise/food upgrade effort

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Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are targeting major upgrades for 14-year-old Raymond James Stadium over the next two years, with a focus on food and retail.

The Buccaneers’ plans include a two-story, 13,000-square-foot team store that would be one of the biggest in the NFL outside of Cowboys Stadium’s 18,000-square-foot Pro Shop. The proposed improvements would bolster the case for the Super Bowl to return to Tampa for the first time since 2009.

The plans are outlined in a request-for-proposal that the NFL team issued in July. The RFP sought candidates to run the stadium’s food service and merchandise and the retail side of Buccaneers.com.

SportsBusiness Journal obtained a copy of the RFP and an addendum with food and retail sales numbers from 2009 to 2011, data that provide a rare glimpse into detailed sales numbers for a team in the NFL, where only the Green Bay Packers are publicly owned.

The proposal does not specify project costs and financing, but does ask vendors to provide dollar figures for grants to help fund stadium renovations. It says the Bucs prefer to consolidate food, merchandise and online retail with one firm. Levy Restaurants and Centerplate operate food service and retail, respectively, at Raymond James Stadium, and Fanatics runs the team’s online retail operation. Five-year contracts with options for all three deals become available in March 2013.

The Bucs reportedly have had issues with Levy. Last year, the Chicago firm ran out of food at halftime of a preseason game, leading to the team’s decision to cut concession prices in half for the regular-season home opener. For the 2011 home opener against the Lions, a game where 15,000 seats were empty, Levy continued to have problems, running out of ice as fans waited in line at concession stands for up to one hour to buy food and drink, according to local reports.

The Buccaneers refused to comment on the proposal. As of last week, the team had not announced any deals with vendors, and officials with three concessionaires competing for the business said they had not heard from the club regarding a winner.

Eric Hart, president and CEO of the Tampa Sports Authority, the Bucs’ landlord, said that the team had not informed him of any decisions but that he expects an announcement by year’s end. To this point, authority officials do not know many details about the Bucs’ plans, he said.

“We have had no formal meetings with the Bucs,” Hart said. “They haven’t released anything.”

As the stadium’s owner, the authority has an obligation through its agreement with the Bucs to keep the building on par with NFL stadiums of similar vintage. It has about $20 million in public funds available for upkeep, Hart said, a number covering a new $9 million scoreboard, among other items. Hillsborough County officials must approve those funds in future negotiations with the Buccaneers over stadium improvements.

The Tampa market was a finalist for the 2015 Super Bowl but lost out to Phoenix after playing host to the event in 2001 and 2009. Landing a third Super Bowl as well as reversing the Bucs’ drops in attendance since 2008 are primary drivers for stadium upgrades, sources said.

An analysis of in-stadium sales over the past three years shows the Buccaneers have plenty of room to grow their business at Raymond James. The historical numbers are net sales after taxes and do not reflect revenue splits with vendors, percentages the Bucs have not disclosed.

The Bucs' food and drink per caps of $17.20 and $17.21 the past two years rank at the bottom of the NFL compared with leaguewide averages. Depending on the NFL market, the range is $17 on the low end to $30 on the high end, said Chris Bigelow, a consultant who major league teams use to manage the process for selecting food vendors.
The Bucs are managing the process in-house.

On the retail side, the team’s data show the Bucs and their vendors have also underperformed. Last year, the team’s stadium merchandise per cap was $2.07 after two seasons in which the average was below $2. The league average is $3 to $5, Bigelow said.

Part of the reason for the Bucs’ retail shortfall is Raymond James Stadium, which opened in 1998, is one of the few NFL facilities without a permanent team store. The Bucs’ planned retail destination would be open on game days, and during the week could play host to events such as live radio broadcasts, the proposal said.

The Bucs’ proposal also lists the redesign of 10 fixed retail locations at the stadium and build-out of retail spaces in both clubs.

The Buccaneers have seen empty seats, as at the 2011 season opener vs. the Lions.
GETTY IMAGES
Total net merchandise sales on Buccaneers.com have averaged about $565,000 over the past three seasons. The leaguewide average runs between $1 million and $10 million annually, with the wide gap reflecting a team’s success and its heritage, said one NFL online vendor. Legacy teams with long, successful histories and national fan bases, for example the Steelers, Giants and Packers, rise to the top end of the spectrum. Clubs such as the Chiefs, Bills and Jaguars — along with the Bucs — fall to the bottom tier.

To upgrade food service, the Bucs are planning a redesign and rebranding of all general and premium concession stands covering all-inclusive food, beer, wine and soda at NFL games, and remodeling of the 195 suites with full-size refrigerators, new cabinets, hot plates and beverage tubs. The makeover of the “lower galley” restaurants in the east and west clubs and construction of a sports bar are also in the team’s plans.

There is room to significantly expand both sideline clubs as the Bucs begin the transition to marketing an all-inclusive ticket package for 9,000 club seats, sources said. The Bucs have been talking about extending the floor plans over the escalators to the glass on the exterior walls. Doing so would widen those hospitality spaces by roughly 50 to 75 feet and provide food and retail vendors with more points of sale.

Outside the stadium, the Bucs are targeting a “tailgate village” near the north stadium quadrant, as described in the proposal. There were no details in the proposal for what it could include but a roller coaster and a flume ride have been discussed as attractions, sources said.

Raymond James Stadium Food & Beverage sales

2009
Event Attendance
(# of events)
Average
attendance
per
capita
Total food/bev
sales
Buccaneers 446,172 (9) 49,575 $16.31 $7,271,374
USF Bulls 248,059 (6) 41,343 $10.51 $2,607,972
Major events (25,000+) 217,388 (4) 54,347 $11.87 $2,580,379
Small events (<25,000) 41,647 (10) 4,165 $4.90 $203,982
Total 953,266 (29) 32,871 $13.28 $12,663,707
 
2010
Event Attendance
(# of events)
Average
attendance
per
capita
Total food/bev
sales
Buccaneers 415,968 (10) 41,597 $17.21 $7,157,511
USF Bulls 209,688 (7) 29,955 $9.61 $2,014,822
Major events (25,000+) 128,897 (3) 42,966 $9.41 $1,212,852
Small events (<25,000) 63,840 (10) 6,384 $4.84 $309,251
Total 818,393 (30) 27,280 $13.07 $10,694,436
 
2011
Event Attendance
(# of events)
Average
attendance
per
capita
Total food/bev
sales
Buccaneers 437,043 (9) 48,560 $17.20 $7,518,264
USF Bulls 227,044 (7) 32,435 $9.86 $2,239,134
Major events (25,000+) 190,387 (4) 47,597 $13.78 $2,623,358
Small events (<25,000) 47,519 (11) 4,320 $9.56 $454,130
Total 901,993 (31) 29,097 $14.23 $12,834,886

Buccaneers retail merchandise sales at …

  Raymond James Stadium Buccaneers.com
2009 $463,344 $486,257
2010 $650,125 $613,263
2011 $904,829 $594,612

Source: Addendum to Buccaneers’ RFP

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