SBJ/December 3-9, 2012/Facilities

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  • Braves look to duplicate success of new club

    The Atlanta Braves are building a club at Turner Field to match the ballpark’s profitable Georgia’s Own Credit Union Club, which opened last season.

    The new premium space, which will open for the 2013 season, is on the club level along the third-base side of the press box. It will serve as a bookend to the existing club on the first-base side, said Derek Schiller, the Braves’ executive vice president of sales and marketing. In each case, the team is taking out two to three suites and about 200 regular seats to create the new space.

    The Georgia’s Own Credit Union Club will get a twin on the Turner Field club level.
    Photo by: POUYA DIANAT / ATLANTA BRAVES
    “We found there is a market for this type of experience at a Braves game,” Schiller said. “We are picking up companies that really like the amenities. It provides for an easier business conversation opportunity.”

    The new club will have 18 four-seat tables outdoors, a total of 72 seats. Ticket prices average about $100 a seat per game. Customers must buy the entire table through multiyear deals available for up to five years, Schiller said.
    Every seat has a $30 food and drink credit built into the ticket’s bar code. The credit does not transfer to the next home game, Schiller said.

    The retrofits provide the team with incremental revenue from the food and drink guarantee plus naming rights, given the credit union’s five-year deal with an annual value of $300,000 to $500,000. To name the new club, the Braves are in talks with two companies, including an existing sponsor, Schiller said.

    As of last week, 11 of the 18 tables had been sold for the new club. The buyers have been split among existing season-ticket holders and new business, the same as the existing club, he said.

    The 72-seat Georgia’s Own Credit Union Club, which has a design similar to that of the new club, was sold out for 2012 with a few two-seat tables mixed in with the four-seaters. The seats for both clubs have roof cover for protection against the summer sun and access to an air-conditioned lounge.

    Private wait service and valet parking on the back side of Turner Field are other top-shelf amenities.

    The team spent about $2 million to build the original club with a small kitchen attached. The investment to construct the new club will be slightly less because there is already a kitchen nearby to serve those seats, Schiller said.

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  • New seats will help White Sox fans keep eyes on the game

    Don Muret
    The Chicago White Sox are upgrading their outfield sports bar with new seats to improve the fan experience.

    The team recently bought 25 four-seat tables from 4Topps, a North Carolina company producing seats for new stadiums and retrofits. Each semicircular table comes with four flip-up swivel chairs.

    For the 2013 season, those tables, encompassing 100 total seats, will replace the old picnic table setup at the Miller Lite Bullpen Sports Bar, a popular destination in U.S. Cellular Field’s right-field corner.

    The space has three levels. At field level, a covered bar underneath the stands provides views of the visiting team’s bullpen with outdoor seats behind the right-field fence. The ground floor is open to fans 21 and older regardless of seat location.

    The picnic tables at the Miller Lite Bullpen Sports Bar in Chicago are being replaced.
    Photo by: RON VESELY / CHICAGO WHITE SOX
    Above are two tiers of outdoor seats that the White Sox sold for groups with the option to buy an all-inclusive ticket package covering the cost of food and drink with wait service. If no groups bought the picnic tables, those seats were open to all ticket holders.

    Last year for groups, single-game ticket prices for the two upper levels cost an average of $42 a person with a meal and $32 without food and drink, said Tom Sheridan, the team’s director of ticket sales.

    White Sox officials last week were still developing ticket prices for the 56 seats in the two upper tiers. They could fold the cost of food and drink into the ticket price, but no decisions have been made, Sheridan said. The 44 seats at ground level will be open to all ticket holders.

    The 4Topps setup should provide a greater level of comfort for all bullpen bar patrons, Sheridan said. Under the old setup, “you had to turn on one cheek to see the game,” Sheridan said. Now, fans can watch the game and still have a face-to-face conversation with their seatmates.

    Delaware North Sportservice runs the stadium’s general concessions and operates the Miller Lite Bullpen Sports Bar. As part of the upgrades, Sportservice is working with MillerCoors to name the outdoor seating area, said Matt Krauss, Sportservice’s operations manager.

    > STANDING OVATIONS: The Charlotte Knights, the White Sox’s Class AAA affiliate, have selected Ovations Food Services as the food provider at their new ballpark opening in 2014, confirmed general manager Dan Rajkowski.
    As of last week, the two parties were still negotiating the terms of a multiyear deal, Rajkowski said.

    Ovations, a division of Comcast-Spectacor, has been the team’s concessionaire at Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, S.C., for five years.

    BB&T Ballpark, an 8,500-seat facility being built in downtown Charlotte, will offer plenty of dining options through 18 regular suites, two dugout suites, two skyboxes reserved for nightly rentals, a home plate club and outfield picnic areas.
     
    The home plate club, supported by an indoor lounge with glass walls in the top eight rows of the bowl, will be unique in the minor leagues, ballpark architect Martin DiNitto said. DiNitto’s firm, Ballpark Design Associates, designed the ballpark with Odell Architects.

    “Kauffman Stadium has something similar, but this one will be 20 rows closer to home plate,” DiNitto said.

    > DEW NOT DROP: The Milwaukee Brewers recently announced a new rock-climbing wall as part of the revamped Dew Deck at Miller Park, which team officials think is a first at an MLB facility.

    To ensure the safety of fans climbing the 25-foot-high attraction in right field, the Brewers are in talks with Adventure Rock, a local climbing gym, to assist in operations, said Teddy Werner, the team’s senior director of business operations. As of last week, no deal was signed.

    All climbers will be required to sign insurance waivers and wear helmets and harnesses, said Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger.

    Team officials approached PepsiCo, owner of Mountain Dew, with the idea to build the wall as a tie-in to the soft drink brand’s focus on extreme sports, Schlesinger said.

    The cost to build the wall is a little under $200,000. Total cost to renovate the 240-seat group space was about $500,000.

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

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  • Panasonic, Lighthouse team up

    Panasonic Eco Solutions North America has signed a deal with Lighthouse Technologies to be the sole distributor of Lighthouse LED video display technology in the United States and Canada.

    The partnership should strengthen business for both overseas firms as they compete for deals to develop scoreboards for arenas and stadiums in North America, officials with Panasonic and Lighthouse say.

    Lighthouse and Panasonic worked together on a new scoreboard for Ohio Stadium.
    Photo by: COURTESY OF PANASONIC
    Scoreboard integrators such as TS Sports, a company that has worked directly with Lighthouse in the past, would buy the firm’s technology through Panasonic, said Jim Doyle, president of Panasonic Eco Solutions North America.

    There are currently no deals signed with either firm. Panasonic will announce its channel partners at a later date, Doyle said.

    The deal expands a relationship between Panasonic and Lighthouse and creates consolidation in a small but fragmented industry. Outside of Daktronics, an American firm producing scoreboards at its factory in South Dakota, a handful of international companies often combine their products and services to develop high-definition video displays for big league teams and college sports venues.

    Panasonic’s headquarters is in Japan, where the electronics giant has teamed with Hong Kong-based Lighthouse to build scoreboards at sports facilities during the past five years, said Peter Chan, Lighthouse’s managing director.

    Domestically, before the deal was formalized, the two companies teamed up to develop scoreboards for football stadiums at Ohio State and Michigan State, and Scotiabank Place, home of the Ottawa Senators.

    Individually, they have produced high-profile projects over the past year at Toyota Center, LP Field, California Memorial Stadium in Berkeley and Circuit of the Americas, the new Formula One racetrack in Austin, Texas.

    Last year, Panasonic installed the world’s largest single video screen at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Last month, the Seattle Mariners announced that Panasonic would produce MLB’s largest video display for next season at Safeco Field.

    Panasonic and Lighthouse both produce the technology driving LED displays, although in recent years Panasonic has drifted away from the direct manufacturing of those systems, Doyle said.

    The goal of the partnership is to use Lighthouse’s capability as an LED manufacturer and “layer in” Panasonic’s technology, marketing support, and the logistical and technical services behind a $100 billion brand, Doyle said.

    “Basically, every LED manufacturer has reached out to us,” he said. “We evaluated the market … and based on a number of factors that are global in nature, we selected Lighthouse.”

    The alliance should benefit teams and facilities facing investments of $10 million to $15 million by increasing the competition, said Michael Rowe, a scoreboard development consultant with Anthony James Partners and a former sales manager with Lighthouse Technologies.

    “It consolidates and concentrates the individual talents of the existing Lighthouse distributors under the expanding Panasonic business model,” Rowe said. “It will motivate improved product development and drive more consistent pricing within the marketplace.”

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  • Wright State targets groups with its new baseline buffet

    Wright State University officials have developed a banquet-style hospitality space behind the north basket at Nutter Center.

    The Raider Party Deck, a retrofit designed by John Cox, assistant director of operations for the Dayton, Ohio, arena, is reserved for single-game group sales at men’s basketball games. The cost is $650 a game plus food and beverage fees of $9 to $13 a person for a group of 50 people.

    The new layout puts 10 tables beyond one basket on Nutter Center’s court.
    Photo by: JACOB VERNON / GET REAL SPORTS SALES
    The flexible space could accommodate up to 120 people if necessary by setting up more tables in addition to selling standing-room tickets, said Jake Vernon, president of Get Real Sports Sales, the firm that the Horizon League school hired to sell ticket sales.

    As of last week, the event-level party deck had been sold for eight of Wright State’s 14 home games, Vernon said.
    The deck is a temporary space built on a platform four to six feet above event level. In general, there are 10 circular tables with 10 cushioned folding chairs at each table.

    Of those 10 tables, the three in front are reserved for Raider Club donors, said Mark Gazdik, Wright State’s associate athletic director. Those donors had seats and a buffet meal in the area last season before their space was upgraded.

    “This year we were talking about different options for hospitality and saw an opportunity to give a different experience for groups,” Gazdik said. “It’s innovative and puts them close to the action. We reconfigured the entire area without cutting any benefits for donors.”

    The party deck opened Nov. 16 for the first regular-season game. It caught the attention of fans in attendance, some of whom asked about how to gain access to the new premium space, Gazdik said.

    Wright State officials are developing signs for the deck with information on purchasing the premium space.

    Ovations Food Services, the arena’s concessionaire, offers five meal packages for the Raider Party Deck served buffet style.

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