SBJ/June 17-23, 2013/Facilities

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  • Twins target midsize concerts with amphitheater-style setup

    Don Muret
    The Minnesota Twins are using Target Field to test the need for a midsize amphitheater in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market.

    The Twins, in conjunction with local promoter Sue McClean & Associates and K-TWIN FM, are producing the inaugural Skyline Music Festival at the ballpark. The Pohlad family, which owns the Twins, also owns K-TWIN, and the station has the team’s broadcast rights.

    The July 26 concert, featuring Soul Asylum and the Gear Daddies, two Minnesota bands, plus Big Head Todd and the Monsters and Matthew Sweet, will be held in a scaled-down setting at Target Field. The stage will be set up just past the infield dirt and face the seats along the third-base side.

    The Twins are restricting capacity for the concert to 7,000 to maintain the feel of an amphitheater and ensure a quality experience for customers paying $25 to $45 for tickets, said Laura Day, the Twins’ executive vice president of business development.
     
    As of last week, about 4,000 tickets had been sold, Day said. Twins premium-seat holders were able to buy seats tied to the DeltaSky360 Legends Club before tickets went on sale to the public. Those seats, among the farthest from the stage, are being sold for the concert as general admission tickets.

    The show fits the Twins’ vision to position Target Field as a community asset, Day said. Plus, team officials see the potential to host smaller outdoor concerts in addition to larger shows such as Kenny Chesney’s annual stadium tour, booked July 12 at the ballpark.

    For many years, the Twin Cities has not had an amphitheater to accommodate 6,000 to 8,000 people, Day said. The efforts to build a permanent outdoor venue for touring acts included the ill-fated Black Dog Amphitheater, a project in which the Minnesota Wild were partners with another local concert promoter during Day’s tenure with the NHL team in the early 2000s. The project, in the Twin Cities suburb of Burnsville, never broke ground in part because of residents’ concerns with environmental and sound issues.

    “We want to see if we can fill that niche with the beautiful downtown skyline in the background,” Day said.
     
    The event’s presenting sponsors, Michelob Golden Draft Light and Rockstar Energy Drink, are brands tied to Twins partners Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi. Michelob, which does not have a big marketing presence at Twins games, gets pre-concert hospitality as part of its deal, Day said.

    As part of the event production, the Twins will show the concert live on the park’s center-field video board.
    Day would not disclose the Twins’ investment but their expenses are “very affordable” compared with putting on a full-size stadium show such as Chesney, she said. The team pays a fee to Sue McLean & Associates and will generate most of its revenue from concessions.

    As with all non-baseball events, the Twins get to keep 100 percent of their share of concert income under MLB’s revenue-sharing agreement.

    “We’re not in this necessarily to make money,” Day said. “It’s more about learning how to do this and to see if there is an appetite for more of a true amphitheater-style experience. If there is, we will continue to do it.”

    > TIDBITS: Facility research firm CSL International has been conducting a feasibility study for the Oakland Raiders to determine the demand for a new NFL stadium in Oakland, CSL principal Bill Rhoda said. The Raiders confirmed the information but are not ready to make any further comment, team spokesman Mike Taylor said. Separately, sports architect AECOM has studied the same issue for the Oakland-Alameda County Stadium Authority. … Sports marketer Jason Gonella is now working for Van Wagner Group, the company hired by the Minnesota Vikings to sell naming rights and premium seats and develop technology for their new stadium project. Gonella previously sold premium seats for the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles, as well as AEG and Legends Sales and Marketing. … Skanska USA won the job to renovate Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium, a project with $85 million in hard construction costs. The same firm interviewed last week for the Rupp Arena rehab in Lexington.

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

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  • Ballparks take the operational challenge, host Spartan Race

    Fenway Park has hosted numerous non-baseball events during its 101-year history, from an Irish Republican Army meeting to professional wrestling matches and even a John Philip Sousa concert.

    The ballpark, however, had never been home to a mass-participant obstacle race before this past November, when the Spartan Race series held its inaugural urban race there — the first of a growing number of visits to big league stadiums for the series.

    Photo by: NUVISION ACTION IMAGE
    The success of the Fenway event convinced Spartan Race CEO Joe De Sena to seek out additional stadiums as hosts. The Spartan Race held an event in April at New York’s Citi Field, and it has scheduled September events at Miller Park in Milwaukee and Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia as well as a return to Fenway in November. It also will hold an event at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium in February, and has a return date set for Citi Field in April.

    Fenway Park (top) brought in the Spartan Race last November; Citi Field had one while the Mets were away.
    Photo by: NEW YORK METS
    “It was attractive for us to show our versatility,” said Chris Jordan, event services manager for Fenway Enterprises. “It was definitely a challenge for our operations team, but it showed us we can take [Fenway] in different directions.”

    About 50 Spartan Race officials and five Fenway grounds crew employees worked for a week to erect 25 obstacles, setting up a 2.8-mile course that snaked through the concourses and grandstands. Some of the obstacles required little more effort than stacking picnic tables or tying off ropes. Others were more complex, like the 25-foot A-frame and cargo net that stood in front of the famous Green Monster in right field.

    The two-day event sold out its 6,600 spots and attracted approximately 10,000 total visitors, including spectators. Registration fees ranged from $75 to $150 for the event, depending on when registrants signed up.

    The race course took participants onto the warning track, but they didn’t run on the outfield grass or dirt infield. Jordan said the impact to the field was a concern, as the stadium has needed to resod grass after hockey games and other non-baseball events.

    “We were nervous about damaging grass,” he said. “They agreed, and between five floors and the concourses, we had plenty of room.”

    Jordan said the event will look to double registration to about 12,500 when it returns in November.

    For the ballparks, the Spartan Race is another way to bring crowds when the team is away. Having hosted the Men’s Health Urbanathlon obstacle course, Citi Field officials promoted their Spartan Race on the stadium’s LED billboards and during games.

    Citi Field, however, had a shorter window for its race, as the Mets were on a road trip. Heather Collamore, executive director of Metropolitan Hospitality at Citi Field, said the Spartan Race team set up in three days and then removed the obstacles in 24 hours. The race attracted 10,000 participants.

    “We started the first wave [of participants] at 8:30 a.m. and we went until 9 p.m.,” said Collamore, who also attended the Fenway race. “We want to do two days next year.”

    The move to ballparks marks a change in focus for Spartan Race, which traditionally holds its events at ski resorts, parklands and other rural venues. With annual revenue in the eight figures, Spartan Race is the second-largest player in the growing “mud run” category behind Tough Mudder.

    De Sena said the move to an urban environment helps distinguish Spartan Race from its rivals. “I don’t know if people want to constantly be playing in the mud,” he said. “We thought an urban course would be a good way to introduce new people to our sport.”

    But De Sena said stadium events do not generate profit, as the expenses are about six times greater than a traditional park or ski area race. He said his team spent just under $1 million to build a set of prefabricated obstacles, which can be set up and torn down quickly, allowing Spartan Race to operate at stadiums during the baseball season. But the fee to use ballparks ranges from the low to mid-six figures. Ballpark events also must cap their registration due to size. The rural Spartan Race events regularly attract 15,000 participants.

    “It’s about exposure and brand building,” De Sena said. “We want to be a mainstream sport.”

    Fred Dreier is a writer in Colorado.


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  • Bank puts name on two new Singapore venues, existing arena

    The Singapore Sports Hub has a memorandum of understanding in place with OCBC Bank to buy naming rights to three specific venues in the massive $1.5 billion complex.

    The 15-year deal has a total value stretching into eight figures, and it will rename the Singapore Indoor Stadium, a 24-year-old arena and the only existing venue among the eight facilities tied to the sports hub, said Mark Collins, Global Spectrum’s managing director of the complex.

    Construction on the National Stadium and other buildings on the site continues.
    Photo by: SINGAPORE SPORTS HUB
    In addition, two smaller multipurpose arenas will carry the bank’s brand, including one used to train Olympic athletes, Collins said. Global Spectrum has a 25-year deal to run the sports hub as part of the public-private consortium developing the property.

    The sports hub has a target opening of March 26. The naming-rights agreement is expected to close by Sept. 1, so project officials can begin marketing all the facilities by their official titles, Collins said.

    The memorandum, signed in late May, comes about nine months after OCBC Bank had an agreement in place to put its name on the entire campus, but that deal was killed by local government officials.

    Under terms of the sports hub development, naming rights could not be sold for the entire complex, which includes the 55,000-seat National Stadium, future home of two Singapore pro soccer teams and a rugby club, as well as the island’s national soccer team.

    “In Asia, these larger buildings are considered national icons and in general there are no naming rights associated with any of their national stadiums,” Collins said.

    Despite the initial confusion over which facilities could be named for a corporate entity, OCBC Bank was undeterred by the setback and went back to the bargaining table with World Sport Group, the sports marketing firm holding all commercial rights to the sports hub.

    Working with Adrian Staiti, World Sport Group senior vice president and formerly of Front Row Marketing, the bank signed the memorandum covering the three buildings.

    The tentative deal stamps them with the brand of Singapore’s second-biggest bank. For the past two years, OCBC Bank, which stands for Oversea-China Banking Corp., has topped Bloomberg Markets’ list as the world’s strongest bank and has more than $100 billion in assets.

    “I give a lot of credit to OCBC for sticking with it,” Collins said.

    The National Stadium, designed by Arup, the same firm that developed the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube for the Beijing Olympics, is the centerpiece of the sports hub.

    As of mid-June, World Sport Group had sold all but five of the stadium’s 61 suites, situated on the fifth level. The deals carry a minimum three-year commitment and sell for $70,000 a year to $265,000 annually, Collins said. Suites range from eight to 30 seats.

    The marketing of 7,000 club seats on the stadium’s fourth floor just recently launched, he said.

    OCBC Bank is also a major sponsor of cycling events in Singapore and Malaysia.

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