SBJ/Oct. 14-20, 2013/Facilities

Seahawks turning up the fun at CenturyLink Field

Vulcan Sports & Entertainment, owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders, is at the top of its game right now.

Some pundits view the Seahawks as a Super Bowl contender. On the business side, Peter McLoughlin, in his fourth year as Vulcan’s CEO and the Seahawks’ president, has led upgrades at CenturyLink Field to meet the demands of 62,000 season-ticket holders, an all-time high.

The Experience Music Project Suite salutes local guitar hero Hendrix.
Photo by: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
This year, Vulcan Sports expanded the stadium’s team store at ground level to 7,400 square feet, more than doubling the size of the old layout. Merchandise sales are up 25 percent over last year for the operation, which is run in-house.

On days when the Seahawks are playing, 70 percent of the displays are decked out in the NFL team’s gear, including quarterback Russell Wilson’s jersey, now the league’s third-biggest seller, according to NFL.com. The remaining 30 percent is Sounders stuff.

On Sounders match days and nonevent days, the retail mix is 50/50, McLoughlin said.

“The biggest difference was, in the old store, we had eight points of sale with a fixed cash register,” he said. “Lines were 40 to 60 deep. Now we have 32 points of sale, the same eight permanent ones but now we have 24 handheld devices that take credit cards. It’s much better.”

Delaware North Sportservice is the new food provider at CenturyLink Field, and as part of its first year of operation, all concession stands have new digital menu boards.

For Sounders games, the boards’ technology enables Sportservice to run some food and drink discounts before matches and adjust prices to their normal levels during the game, McLoughlin said. Harris Corp. produced the digital screens.

In other stadium upgrades, Sportservice runs the new Brougham Beer Hall, a 175-seat public destination on the south side of the main concourse. The team and the vendor converted dead space into a bar and restaurant tied to a menu heavy on microbrews and German sausages.

The beer hall is a convenient gathering place for the Emerald City Supporters, the group of Sounders fans that occupies the stadium’s south end. The retrofit is named for the late Royal Brougham, a Seattle sportswriter for 68 years.

The stadium’s 107 suites reserved for long-term deals are sold out, including 12 Red Zone Suites in the north end zone.

Those suites, the first version of field-level premium seats in the NFL, sold for $80,000 a season when CenturyLink field opened in 2002. Eleven years later, the range is $125,000 to $140,000 a year for Seahawks games only, McLoughlin said. Sounders games are a separate charge.

The Experience Music Project Suite on the stadium’s north side is also new this season. Vulcan Sports took a single-game rental unit and themed it after the EMP Museum, the music history museum in town that Vulcan Sports’ Paul Allen founded.

The suite’s walls contain vintage photographs of rock guitar god Jimi Hendrix, a Seattle native and one of Allen’s heroes. A portion of one wall is adorned with the same shiny metallic material that is on the museum’s exterior.

The suite rents for $15,000 to $20,000 a game for Seahawks games, plus food and beverage. The museum gets the use of the suite for one game a season, which it auctions for charity, McLoughlin said.

“We’re all part of the same oversight company in Vulcan,” he said. “We want to help promote one another.”

Future improvements to CenturyLink Field could potentially include an all-inclusive club at field level.

“You wouldn’t be able to stand there during the game, but you could see warmups.,” McLoughlin said. “We’re being creative about how we can develop new products and amenities to drive incremental revenue.”

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