SBJ/May 5-11, 2014/Facilities

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  • In White Sox suites, new tablets aren’t just for ordering food

    Don Muret
    The Chicago White Sox and their two food providers are using tablet technology that extends beyond ordering food and drink at U.S. Cellular Field.

    The White Sox signed a three-year deal with Philadelphia-based Parametric, a mobile technology company, to supply the ballpark’s 92 suites and Levy Restaurants servers with customized tablets.

    The firm’s SuiteMate mobile application is tied to a two-tablet system operating in the suites. Every suite has one 10-inch tablet that patrons use to order food and drink and watch out-of-market games through the MLB At Bat application, among other functions. Those units are linked to smaller, 7-inch tablets operated by individual servers to process customers’ food and beverage orders. Both tablets accept credit cards and the servers’ tablets can split bills between individual clients in a suite, adding value to the technology, said Rob Boaz, the White Sox’s manager of premium sales and service.

    The Parametric tablet system at work at a White Sox game
    Photo by: COURTESY OF PARAMETRIC

    Separately, Delaware North Sportservice, the team’s general concessions vendor, uses Parametric’s CheckMate tablets as its point-of-sale system in the Xfinity Clubhouse, a new bar and restaurant on the stadium’s 100 level open to all fans.

    Both SuiteMate and CheckMate run on the same cloud-based platform, providing greater flexibility and wireless operations for customers, Parametric CEO Geoff Johnson said.

    For the White Sox, improving the overall fan experience drove the need to use the technology for both premium dining and general concessions, Boaz said.

    In the suites, for example, servers are often running between the suites and the kitchens to grab orders and may not always be present to take an order. The 10-inch tablets contain a button to push to alert servers of additional needs.

    At the Xfinity Clubhouse, a dining area that flows into the main concourse, the tablets have improved the efficiency of service in a space that can get crowded before games. “It eliminates missed opportunities,” Boaz said.

    In addition, the technology provides the White Sox with another tool to use for data collection, said Terry Savarise, the team’s senior vice president of stadium operations.

    One month into the regular season, it’s too early to determine whether the technology has led to an uptick in food and drink sales, Boaz said.

    But the White Sox have observed many suite patrons watching other MLB games streamed through MLB At Bat. To this point, watching live games in other markets is the second-most-used feature on the tablets behind ordering food and beverage, he said.

    In the next few months, the White Sox plan to expand the technology to allow suite holders to order basic merchandise through the tablets and have those items delivered. Sportservice runs the ballpark’s retail operation.

    Parametric’s activation at U.S. Cellular Field follows an installation at United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks.

    Levy runs all food service at the arena. The concessionaire is in discussions with Parametric to expand the technology to its sports accounts outside of Chicago, but no deals have been signed, Johnson said.

    The White Sox paid for the technology, investing a total of $175,000, including $150,000 in the suites alone, Savarise said.

    > BIRD’S-EYE VIEW: It’s that time of year again. NFL teams are upgrading their video boards and
    Daktronics has been busy with installations at Bank of America Stadium, EverBank Field and University of Phoenix Stadium, site of the 2015 Super Bowl.

    In Glendale, the scoreboard maker produced high-definition, 13-millimeter boards for each end zone. The larger of the two screens, 58 feet tall and 164 feet wide, goes in the south end zone, where the retractable field moves in and out of the stadium.

    The boards replace Daktronics’ original units, in operation since the facility opened in 2006. They will be the fifth-largest screens in the NFL, providing 75 percent higher resolution than the old boards, said Brady Jacobsen, Daktronics’ regional sales manager for the southwest.

    Daktronics also produced the video boards for Levi’s Stadium, which the San Francisco 49ers will open in early August.

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


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  • Family section drives K-State improvements

    Kansas State, nestled in the heart of the Wheat Belt, went against the grain to develop the newest expansion to Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

    A rendering shows the new north end zone at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, set to open in 2015.
    Photo by: COURTESY OF KANSAS STATE ATHLETICS
    Over the past decade, dozens of major colleges have added premium seats to their football stadiums, to fund growing athletic department budgets and meet the demands of big donors. K-State is no exception: Its $75 million West Stadium Center opened last year, with 40 suites, 800 club seats and 36 loge boxes.

    For phase three of stadium upgrades, though, a $65 million project to be completed for the 2015 season, K-State officials turned their attention to expanding the sold-out family seating section in the north end zone, as well as the Vanier Football Complex behind those seats.

    “We had five architects that came in and made pitches on this thing, and at first, all of them talked about the different revenue opportunities we could create in the end zone,” said K-State Athletic Director John Currie. “But we had to remind them that this end zone is not about that.”

    About 1,800 general admission seats are tied to the family section and have sold out over the past several years. The expansion will likely push the number of seats to 3,000, Currie said. The school sells those seats as season tickets in groups of four as family packs. For the 2014 season, the cost is $649 for four season tickets.

    Families are attracted by the opportunity to be close to field level, where they can slap high-fives with the players as they enter the field from the Vanier building, Currie said. To get in that prime position, when the stadium gates open two hours before kickoff, moms, dads and their children can be seen hustling to the front row of the section and both sides of the team’s entry walkway.

    “It’s become one of the real hallmarks of K-State football … that grassroots experience we have kind of become known for,” Currie said.

    The family section seats were originally built on a flat grade and do not have the best views of the game, said Ben Stindt, a principal at Populous, the sports architect that won the north end zone project after completing the stadium’s master plan in 2010.

    To improve sight lines, a new grandstand structure with all new bench seats will be constructed at a steeper angle, along with a 4-foot-high limestone wall in front of the section. As part of the project, Vanier Football Complex will be replaced by a new building measuring 132,000 square feet, more than twice its size.

    The additional space will lead to larger support facilities such as an academic learning center, strength and conditioning center, sports medicine and hydrotherapy and locker rooms. The new building also will address critical storage issues, Stindt said.

    Over the next two years, the master plan calls for developing a 360-degree concourse around the stadium and two new video boards in the corners of the north end zone, Currie said. The north end zone upgrades are being paid for through a $50 million fundraising campaign and $15 million in operating revenue, Currie said. To date, $37 million has been raised in philanthropic gifts.

    All told, K-State will have invested $160 million in stadium improvements by the time the north end zone expansion is completed by Sept. 1, 2015. Total stadium capacity will remain about 50,000. Of that total, about 34,000 seats are tied to season tickets.

    “We will refund season-ticket orders for the first time in our history this year,” Currie said. “We think we have the right balance. We don’t want to overexpand.”

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