SBJ/February 11-17, 2013/Facilities

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  • Pistons refining art of filling their new ‘blank canvas,’ Club 300

    Don Muret
    The Detroit Pistons are starting to see some traction for Club 300, the new all-inclusive group space on the penthouse level of the Palace of Auburn Hills.

    Last summer, as part of the NBA club’s effort to rebuild itself and fill more seats under new owner Tom Gores, it eliminated 16 unsold suites from the arena’s upper level to develop a club tied to single-game ticket packages for Pistons games, concerts and other events.

    The retrofit, situated on the arena’s northwest corner, behind one basket for Pistons games and at center stage for shows, has 192 fixed seats and standing room for 138. Club 300 ticket prices are $30 to $50 a person per game depending on the food package ordered through Levy Restaurants, the arena’s concessionaire. The high-end ticket price covers the cost of draft beer and wine, plus a buffet dinner of Thai chicken satay, sausage bites, mac and cheese, nachos, a snack mix and cookies.
     
    A minimum of 50 tickets must be sold before the club is activated and the Pistons accept walk-up buyers, said Chris Quinn, vice president of business development and premium seating for Palace Sports & Entertainment, the Pistons’ parent company, which runs the arena.
     
    The Pistons are using their new all-inclusive Club 300 for single-game group sales.
    Photo: DAN LIPPITT
    As the midway point of the NBA season approaches, Palace Sports has opened the club for about a dozen Pistons games as officials find creative ways to reach various demographics in Greater Detroit.

    To date, one of the most successful events at Club 300 was Chaldean Night at the Palace. For the Jan. 22 game against the Magic, the Pistons sold 292 tickets for the club after marketing the space to Detroit’s large community of Chaldean residents, who originally immigrated from Iraq.

    On Feb. 8, the Pistons were to hold their first Craft Beer Night for a game against the Spurs, and officials expected another big crowd at Club 300. Three days before the game, more than 100 tickets had been sold, Quinn said. The $35 ticket price covered 10 two-ounce beer tastings and light appetizers.

    Powers Distributing, a Pistons sponsor, was providing local microbrews in addition to national brands Samuel Adams, Magic Hat and Leinenkugel’s. The idea came from the beer festivals held at Santa Anita Park in California, Quinn’s previous employer.

    “This is a blank canvas for developing a social space,” Quinn said. “I know the NBA doesn’t like to hear this, but sometimes maybe the game is secondary.”

    > L.A. IS ALIVE: Staples Center has a lot going on these days beyond the arena’s four primary tenants.

    Last week, AEG, the arena’s owner and operator, announced the facility was switching to Axs, the group’s new in-house ticketing system. The building has been a Ticketmaster client since it opened in October 1999.

    In addition, the arena is upgrading Wi-Fi for complete coverage for all carriers inside the 18,997-seat venue and Nokia Plaza across the street at L.A. Live, said Lee Zeidman, Staples Center’s senior vice president and general manager.

    Verizon, an arena founding partner, and AEG are sharing the $2 million to $3 million investment, Zeidman said. The upgrades should be completed by the time the NBA playoffs begin in late April, he said.

    The improved Wi-Fi also could facilitate the use of Bypass Lane, the technology firm AEG recently invested in, Zeidman said. Officials have not made a decision yet on whether to use the in-seat system for ordering concessions from mobile devices, he said.

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

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  • Cisco’s StadiumVision Mobile debuts in Brooklyn

    Aiming to improve the in-venue experience for fans, Cisco has introduced technology that provides exclusive video feeds via mobile devices at live events.

    StadiumVision Mobile, an extension of Cisco’s digital concourse display system, was unveiled earlier this month at Barclays Center, with the system integrated into the arena’s free mobile application. Sporting Kansas City and Real Madrid are expected to activate the same technology later this year through mobile apps at their venues.

    Cisco hopes its ability to deliver high-quality live video, game replays, and commerce opportunities to smartphones and tablets will help teams and venues add value to what they’re already offering to fans.

    “This validates a lot of the ‘competing with the couch’ issues and challenges that we have been talking about for some time,” said Dave Holland, Cisco Sports & Entertainment’s general manager and senior vice president. “It creates the portal by which owners of teams can actually know who’s in their venue, and have a means by which they can communicate and let [fans] opt-in for services or maybe even transact business.”

    Fans using apps powered by Cisco’s StadiumVision Mobile will get access to exclusive video. The Brooklyn Nets have been testing the system at Barclays Center.
    For both Barclays Center and Sporting Kansas City, the use of StadiumVision Mobile could extend beyond live game events to concerts and other special events, pending approval from the participating artists and event promoters.

    At Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, the system allows fans to get exclusive feeds from Cisco cameras placed throughout the building, with one feed coming from the YES Network, the Nets’ broadcast partner. That channel does not carry the broadcast feed’s commercials. In addition, small wireless cameras have been placed in select locations — the scorer’s table, the players’ bench and a basket stanchion — to give an insider’s view.

    Over the next few weeks, cameras also could be set up in premium spaces for behind-the-ropes feeds from the Calvin Klein Courtside Club or the Nets’ practice court.

    “The idea is to provide a different experience every time you load the application,” said Chip Foley, director of building technology for Forest City Ratner Cos., the developer of Barclays Center.

    But the system is only as good as fans’ ability to access the content. Barclays Center spent an undisclosed amount to outfit its building to meet the needs of StadiumVision Mobile.

    The building opened in September after Cisco installed 275 Wi-Fi access points, 100 in the seating bowl alone, to support fans simultaneously connecting to the application to watch live video.

    The Barclays Center application, which can be viewed on iPhones and Android devices and most tablets, debuted Feb. 1 after arena officials spent the last three months testing the live-video component, Foley said. To access the live video, fans enter the facility and connect to the building’s Wi-Fi system, where they can download the free arena application.

    The app’s “watch” icon opens the various camera views.

    Arena officials estimated usage in the hundreds for the first two home games since the technology was activated. Foley said the video rendered fine on newer cell phones with higher frequency for Wi-Fi but that the quality was less than optimal on older devices.

    The service is being promoted through digital signs inside and outside the building.

    Barclays Center executives view the technology primarily as a fan amenity but see future opportunities for developing advertising inventory on it.

    “We reviewed other IPTV systems and StadiumVision was the best,” Foley said. “That’s where we started and from there we wanted to be all-in with the ability to get connected with a mobile application. The most important thing is we have a solid, high bandwidth Wi-Fi solution.”

    For Cisco, the mobile system follows StadiumVision, the company’s branded concourse display system, and Connected Stadium Wi-Fi, its wireless solution supporting mobile — all of which are part of the company’s effort to boost the fan experience.

    For older buildings, the cost to upgrade Wi-Fi for StadiumVision Mobile runs from $1 million to $2 million, depending on the size of the venue and the number of wireless access points required, Holland said. Connected Stadium Wi-Fi can be used in tandem with other networks at a building, but it’s designed to operate with Cisco equipment. The mobile technology carries the same opportunities to generate revenue with advertising insertions as the 5-year-old StadiumVision platform.

    “It is not a prohibitive investment when you look at the revenue streams it could generate,” Holland said. “If you already have a Cisco network in place, it could be somewhat less. We don’t think the pricing is a market hurdle.”

    Sporting Kansas City, a Cisco client, plans to activate the technology for the coming MLS season with four wireless cameras offering views from the players’ bench, a field corner, behind a goal and the top of the stadium. Fans must register on the team’s free application before they can access the technology in Kansas City.

    The team plans to develop its own mobile advertising program using the same sponsors advertising on StadiumVision television monitors throughout the stadium, according to Asim Pasha, Sporting Kansas City’s chief information officer. As the technology develops, there will be an option for mobile users to eliminate commercial messages, Pasha said.

    Pasha said the team tested the application on many occasions last season at Sporting Park, the team’s 18,500-seat stadium that opened in 2011.

    “There are refinements to be made, but overall it does fairly well in a medium- to low-scale [setting],” Pasha said. “For prime time at an NFL venue, there is work to be done.”

    Cisco officials also tout the potential for full integration of its systems, where a moment of exclusivity can now run seamlessly from the main scoreboard to LED ribbon boards and StadiumVision’s wired displays in the concourses, suites and clubs, to the seat level with the mobile app.

    “This is the holy grail for advertisers because it brings them into that [team] discussion with the fan,” Holland said.

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  • Rockies upgrading Coors Field

    The Colorado Rockies are consolidating 12 skyboxes at Coors Field into four super suites and turning most of the press box into a new club.

    The super suites and press box retrofit top the list of several upgrades to the 18-year-old ballpark for the 2013 season. All together, the projects total several million dollars, said Greg Feasel, the Rockies’ executive vice president and chief operating officer.

    The volume of park upgrades are the most extensive in many years for Coors Field, which at 50,445 seats is one of MLB’s biggest stadiums.

    The Rockies are converting 12 suites in the right-field corner just inside the foul pole into larger group spaces. As four single units, each super suite can accommodate up to 60 people.

    Sliding glass doors between the suites can make room for
    The Colorado Rockies are converting 12 suites in right field into larger group spaces. Elsewhere, a section of the press box is being made into a club.
    Images: COLORADO ROCKIES (2)
    even larger groups. Ticket prices are $150 a person per game and cover a catered meal and non-alcoholic beverages.

    The new super suites follow the 2007 conversion of nine long-term skyboxes down the right-field line into three party suites. Team officials continue to see a demand for a single-game suite experience for companies that prefer not to buy a suite for 81 home games, Feasel said.

    For the new press box club, two-thirds of the total space on the club level behind home plate is being converted into premium seats to be sold as a season ticket. There are 84 ticketed seats with high-end movable chairs, drink rails and an island bar in a casual atmosphere, Feasel said.

    The ticket price is $175 a game per person, and like the super suite, the cost covers food and drink but no alcohol.

    The Rockies modeled the new club after similar press box retrofits at Minute Maid Park in Houston and U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Feasel said. The decline in the print media business overall has resulted in MLB teams finding new ways to fill that space and generate new revenue.

    Elsewhere in the park, the 168-seat Coors Clubhouse, the Rockies’ version of the diamond clubs at other MLB facilities, will have new seats 23 to 24 inches wide, about 5 inches wider than the original chairs installed 10 years ago when the club was built.

    For better flow and to avoid having club-seat holders walk in front of others in the section, the Rockies relocated aisles to behind the seats and reduced the number of seats in some rows, Feasel said.

    The backstop is being moved six feet closer to the field to make room for the changes. The Rockies also are renovating the lounge behind those seats, replacing old booths with large high-top tables. The refresh is more in tune with a Starbucks setting, he said.

    The Warning Track Party Room, a group space at event level behind a chain-link fence in right-center field, also is being remodeled with a permanent bar and a shuffleboard table. The room has 85 seats priced at $100 per person a game, which includes food and drink.

    Separately, a covered group picnic area behind the batter’s eye in center field is being redone as a kids zone targeted for families with young children.

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