SBJ/March 24-30, 2014/Facilities

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  • Reds belly up to the craft beer trend with new 85-foot-long bar

    The Cincinnati Reds are the latest major league team to cash in on the craft brew craze at sports facilities.

    This season, Delaware North Sportservice, their food provider, is opening the new Reds Brewery District, an 85-foot-long bar at Great American Ballpark. The bar, situated on the main concourse halfway between third base and left field, features 24 taps, split equally among local and national microbrewers.

    The Reds Brewery District will feature 24 taps and plenty of microbrews.
    Photo by: MSA ARCHITECTS
    Sportservice paid for the investment, in the low six figures, said Don Dierig, the vendor’s general manager in Cincinnati. Driving the project is the appetite for craft beers locally as well as on a national level, according to Dierig.

    Last year, craft brewers accounted for 7.8 percent of the total U.S. beer market, a 1.3 percentage point increase over 2012, according to data released last week by the Brewers Association, a group devoted to craft brewers. Craft beer sales generated $14.3 billion in 2013, representing 20 percent growth over the previous year.

    The same trends are taking place in sports (SportsBusiness Journal, Jan. 13-19). In Denver, the Colorado Rockies and Aramark are opening a large craft bar in the upper deck at Coors Field, home to Blue Moon Brewery, a MillerCoors subsidiary.

    At the Reds Brewery District, Sportservice plans to sell 16-ounce drafts for $9. Budweiser, the official beer of the Reds, and Bud Light will have taps at the bar, and 24-ounce drafts will cost $9.25.

    Premium-seat patrons will have access to those craft beers as well. Those brews will be listed on the suite menus and upon request, attendants will fill 32-ounce growlers at the bar and store them in the suite refrigerators, Dierig said.

    Last year, Sportservice had local brewers come to the ballpark on Friday nights of homestands to tap a keg of beer new in their craft portfolio and educate fans on those flavors. The vendor used social media to promote those special events. It was a big hit and will be done again this year at every homestand, Dierig said.

    SixteenFifty Creative Intelligence, a San Diego firm, designed the Reds Brewery District.

    Opening Day is March 31 at Great American Ballpark.

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  • Twins fill concourse space with new Digital Clubhouse

    Don Muret
    The Minnesota Twins have made several technology upgrades at Target Field for this season, including the Digital Clubhouse, tied to the U.S. Bank Home Run Porch in left field.

    The Digital Clubhouse, built next to the Town Ball Tavern in the left-field corner of the club level, is a sheltered outdoor area. It fills some of the park’s last remaining open concourse space, said Chris Iles, the Twins’ director of corporate and digital communications.

    Inspiring the project for the Twins were similar destinations at other ballparks, most notably the San Francisco Giants’ @Cafe at AT&T Park and the Chicago White Sox’s #SoxSocial Lounge at U.S. Cellular Field, Iles said.

    “We’ve seen the fan demand and it’s what they want,” he said. “There were no surveys involved, just watching industry trends. To some extent it’s social media, but it’s more of a digital experience.”

    Starting at the home opener, April 7 against Oakland, fans can interact with several digital displays. The centerpiece is an old dugout bench from the Metrodome, the Twins’ home from 1982 to 2009, providing a unique photo opportunity for users of mobile devices to share with family and friends.

    The space, in the left-field corner of the club level, will offer social media options.
    Rendering: HGA ARCHITECTS
    In addition, a Twitter Mirror, a “selfie” tool popular with the Hollywood set, enables fans to send more customized photos tied to their Twitter handles through an iPad set up at the clubhouse.

    Attendants supervising the digital clubhouse will post fan-generated messages and images in real time on Twitter and Instagram on a screen above the old bench, Isles said.

    The clubhouse’s 80-inch touchscreen provides a vehicle for fans to access Twins-generated digital content.

    The team is still developing that piece of the program, Isles said. It could include navigation through the #TwinsTerritory Instagram map, a global diagram of user-generated Instagram photos posted by Twins fans; sending congratulatory messages to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on his 1,000th victory (he’s at 998); plus access to the Twins’ video library and deeper statistics available through the Gameday feature of MLB’s At The Ballpark mobile application.

    U.S. Bank is presenting sponsor of the digital clubhouse as part of its naming rights for a section of left-field seats. Its deal runs through 2014, and the new development in the Home Run Porch will be part of renewal discussions, team spokesman Kevin Smith said.

    Team officials would not disclose the investment for the Digital Clubhouse, which was designed by HGA, a Minneapolis architect.

    Overall, Target Field is upgrading its Wi-Fi system by installing 500 new access points, driven in large part by the stadium’s playing host to the 2014 MLB All-Star Game, said John Avenson, the Twins’ vice president of technology.

    The new system, provided by Cisco, doubles the number of access points under the old Wi-Fi network in place at Target Field over the last four to five years. It’s part of MLB Advanced Media’s effort to bring all 30 ballparks up to speed in wireless technology, Avenson said.

    > FOUR CORNERS: Greensboro Coliseum showcased its expanded upper concourse at the ACC men’s basketball tournament.

    The renovation, completed in early March, adds 17,750 square feet to the arena, which turned 55 years old this year. Most of the new space is in the upper corners of the facility, where the old restrooms were situated. New restrooms were built in the inner ring of the upper deck.

    In addition, the arena replaced the old seats in the upper level with 10,000 new cushioned seats. Total capacity is now about 22,000, a net loss of 1,800 seats after the first two years of renovations, said Scott Johnson, the coliseum’s deputy director.

    To have enough suites for new ACC members Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, a new suite was built in Section 202 in the arena’s southeast corner, Johnson said, and the arena gave up some existing suites it controls.

    As a decorative element and to cover up exposed ductwork from upper deck construction, Unifi, a North Carolina firm, produced large banners made from photographs taken at the arena’s signature events. The 50-plus signs were made from 16,000 recycled plastic bottles collected statewide.

    The $24 million in total upgrades will be completed next year with the addition of some permanent concession stands on both concourses.

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

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  • St. Louis: Beyond the ballpark’s walls

    Come Opening Day, St. Louis Cardinals fans can taste the closest thing to the homemade tomato soup that team president Bill DeWitt III enjoyed as a kid growing up in Cincinnati.

    It won’t be served at Busch Stadium, though. Delaware North Sportservice, the ballpark’s concessionaire, has the dish on its menu at Cardinals Nation, a full-service restaurant at Ballpark Village, the new entertainment complex across the street from the stadium.

    Cardinals Nation, in Ballpark Village, is a new environment for Delaware North Sportservice.
    Photo by: ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
    Cardinals Nation, a three-story building, encompasses a 510-seat restaurant and rooftop deck, which serves as an all-inclusive ticketed space for Cardinals games, plus an 8,000-square-foot museum, hall of fame and a team store. Starting April 7, the home opener against Cincinnati, the facility will be open year-round, operating from 11 a.m. to midnight daily. The Cardinals are responsible for booking catered events on days when games aren’t played.

    “We think this is unique in sports,” DeWitt said. “Nobody has done all four in one location.”

    Elsewhere, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment in Toronto runs Real Sports Bar & Grill and Eleven restaurant next to Air Canada Centre. Other projects use independent restaurateurs that do not run food at sports facilities, consultant Chris Bigelow said.

    For Sportservice, which has experience operating restaurants inside arenas and stadiums, it is the first time in the vendor’s 98-year history that it has gone outside the four walls of a sports facility to run a food destination with connections to the primary venue. Other Delaware North subsidiaries manage restaurants tied to hotels, resorts, casinos, airports and national parks, said Sportservice Regional Vice President Dan Fetcho, entering his 30th year in St. Louis.

    All told, Sportservice has been the Cardinals’ food provider for 60 years, and it was that long-standing relationship that led to a two-year deal for the concessionaire to operate Cardinals Nation. The terms of the management contract include Sportservice receiving a percentage of sales, DeWitt said. The concessionaire did not invest capital dollars in the project, a joint venture between the Cardinals and developer The Cordish Cos., he said.

    Sportservice hired former Aramark executive William Edmondson as executive chef for Cardinals Nation, and the company will have 265 employees working the restaurant and the other spaces. The Cardinals were heavily involved in developing Cardinals Nation and looked closely at other sports-themed restaurants they thought were a good comparison, including Wayne Gretzky’s in Toronto. Their vision, though, was to create something more than just a sports bar by focusing on creating a family-style eatery with a full menu, DeWitt said.

    The menu features DeWitt’s favorite soup, an R&D journey that involved Busch Stadium executive chef Larry Johnson executing a 24-hour process to pinpoint the exact flavors — “more paprika, less salt” — before DeWitt’s tastebuds gave the thumbs-up on the final recipe.

    Other menu selections include gulf shrimp, strip steak and fresh fish dinners.

    The “Meeting on the Mound” nachos should be a signature item at Cardinals Nation considering Sportservice sells more nachos at Busch Stadium than any of its nine other MLB accounts, Fetcho said.

    Ballpark Village, including Cardinals Nation, should complement other St. Louis restaurants near the ballpark, including Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood, named for the team’s longtime broadcaster, DeWitt said.

    “We have more than a $1 million [annual] marketing budget to bring events to Ballpark Village and when our places are full, where else are people going to go?” he said. “All this new activity is positive for downtown.”

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