SBJ/February 11-17, 2013/Facilities

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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