SBJ/November 26-December 2, 2012/Facilities

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  • New Spielberg movie isn’t the only Lincoln that’s selling out

    Don Muret
    Ben Wrigley has been solely responsible for selling out all of the available suite inventory at Pinnacle Bank Arena, a college basketball facility under construction in Lincoln, Neb.

    For the past two years, Wrigley, vice president of project development for Legends Hospitality Management, the Cowboys-Yankees joint venture, has been on the ground in Lincoln, traveling weekly to Nebraska from his home in Charlotte.

    The 16,000-seat arena, owned by the city of Lincoln and operated by SMG, opens in September as the new home of University of Nebraska men’s and women’s basketball, plus concerts and other special events. The Big Ten school is an arena tenant.

    Suites have sold out at Pinnacle Bank Arena, being built in Lincoln, Neb.
    Photo by: JAYME CROUCH / MORTENSON
    Wrigley’s client is the West Haymarket Joint Public Agency, the group managing the arena’s finances for the city of Lincoln. The arena has 36 suites, 31 of which the JPA made available for long-term deals. One of the 31 skyboxes was reserved for Pinnacle Bank, the arena’s naming-rights partner. Of the five remaining units, four are reserved for the school’s use, and the city gets one.

    All 36 suites have 12 fixed seats and sold for $45,000, $55,000 and $65,000 annually, with terms of five, seven and 10 years. There are 12 skyboxes in each price category. The $65,000 units, designed at midcourt on both sides of the arena, are all tied to 10-year deals.

    The arena has 20 loge boxes, four-seat units opposite stage end, that cost $20,000 a year with the same five-, seven- and 10-year terms. As of last week, Legends had signed contracts for 18 loges and had commitments for the remaining two, Wrigley said.

    The loges have drink rails, television monitors, back counters, space underneath the counters for a small refrigerator, and shelves for briefcases and purses. The prices for suites and loges cover tickets to all events.

    Nebraska men’s hoops hasn’t made it to the NCAA tournament since 1998, but that doesn’t seem to have dampened demand for premium seats. That may reflect the greater number of touring shows expected to come through town after the facility opens, Wrigley said.

    “It’s driven by the fact that with SMG opening the building there is a high level of confidence it will attract a large number of third-party acts,” he said. “Nebraska basketball will take up about 35 dates among a total of 100 to 120 events a year.”

    A large majority of premium-seat buyers are from Lincoln and Omaha in the state’s eastern corner. About 15 percent of that total are considered to live “outstate,” Wrigley said, mentioning the term Nebraskans use to describe state residents living west of those two cities.

    Many of those outstaters don’t think twice about driving long distances to attend high school championships in Lincoln, and the arena events align with their interests, Wrigley said.

    The marketing of 832 club seats is just starting. The school is selling those seats for Nebraska men’s basketball only. Legends is selling club seats for all other events tied to a $750 annual fee with first rights to buy tickets for special events.

    > JORDANESQUE: Sports facility developer Bob Jordan brings some international business to his new employer, Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment.

    In mid-October, Van Wagner hired Jordan, whose specialty is the design management of arena and stadium technology systems, as a senior vice president of team and venue operations.

    In addition to consulting with the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium, Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome and MLB Advanced Media, Jordan is working with a joint venture in India to develop five 8,000- to 10,000-seat arenas in that country.

    Those projects had been shut down because of the economy but are back in operation, Jordan said. The first arena, in Bangalore, a city of about 8.5 million, will start up in the first quarter of 2013 and open in late 2015. The four other facilities will open in the next five to seven years, he said.

    The arena market in India is vastly underdeveloped compared with North America, Jordan said. The joint venture involves a local developer and one of the country’s biggest event promoters. Together, they are using the arenas to anchor mixed-use developments, Jordan said.

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


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