SBJ/July 28-Aug. 3, 2014/Facilities

At Rapids’ club, members now have their own liquor lockers

Don Muret
The Colorado Rapids’ alcohol sales have multiplied after the team introduced new liquor lockers as a club amenity at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Taking a cue from a Denver steakhouse, the Rapids had 80 custom lockers built for all members of the Summit Club powered by 2lemetry.

Those members pay $175 a game for access to the all-inclusive club, a 4,500-square-foot indoor lounge along the stadium’s northwest side. The fee covers game tickets plus food, beer and most wine but not hard liquor, and during the club’s first year of operation, team officials noticed several members reaching into their pockets to buy drinks.

Lockers at the Summit Club powered by 2lemetry have room for several bottles of hard liquor and premium wine.
Photo by: GARRETT ELLWOOD

To generate more revenue and provide a convenience for those premium patrons, the Rapids had the lockers built this season, the club’s second year of operation. They debuted for a match June 4, and that night Aramark, the Rapids’ concessionaire, sold more than $6,000 in hard liquor plus a small amount of higher-end wine not available in the ticket package.

Previously, Aramark sold an average of $300 a game in hard liquor and higher-end wines, said David Burke, the
Rapids’ chief revenue officer.

Since the lockers were introduced, every club member has bought at least two bottles of liquor, Burke said. Each locker can hold four bottles of liquor and two bottles of wine. Club members can now enjoy having drinks over the course of the season and store them in a safe place, rather than having to dump what’s left in a bottle after a game.

The lockers, made of Colorado wood, are set apart from the bar and accessible only to Aramark servers because of state liquor laws.

Members’ names or companies and a number are attached to their lockers, and tags inscribed with their names hang around the necks of the bottles they buy from the bar. There are no additional fees to use the lockers and they lend an elegant touch over the old cash bar format, Burke said.

“We saw club customers wanted more liquor options, and the question was how do we continue to present a premium experience and give them something nobody else has?” he said.

The light bulb went on after Burke and Rapids President Tim Hinchey dined together at a local steakhouse and observed the restaurant’s liquor lockers. They both thought it would work well in a sports setting.

Cerén, a 7-year-old vodka brand from El Salvador imported locally by Rio Blanco Spirits, paid for the cost to build the lockers. In return, Cerén has a deal pending to become the team’s official vodka supplier, Burke said.

The path to landing Cerén came through a Rapids club member who owns a bar in Denver and is an investor in the vodka company, he said.

Next year, the Rapids plan to expand the club by roughly 30 seats, Burke said.

> KRUSH CLUB: The University of Illinois is the newest school to build an arena club exclusive to students attending basketball games.

As part of the $160 million renovation of State Farm Center, formerly Assembly Hall, sports architect AECOM is designing a 2,000-square-foot club a half-level below the main concourse.

As it stands now, students must wait outside the arena hours before tipoff to get seats on the floor, often during harsh Midwest winters. After the opening of the new Orange Krush club, named for the official student cheering section and the charitable group for which it raises money, they can enter the arena much earlier through their own private entrance leading to the club, project architect Greg Brown said.

Because most students fall under the legal drinking age, the club will serve sodas and pizza instead of beer and pretzels, Brown said,

They will also enjoy a much better vantage point for the game upstairs in the seating bowl. There will be about 1,200 retractable seats reserved for Orange Krush members hugging three sides of the court. The old setup had folding chairs filling “dead zones” inside the oval shaped arena, Brown said.

The multiphase project will be completed in fall 2016.

In Tampa, the University of South Florida became one of the first schools to develop a students-only club, tied to the Sun Dome’s facelift. The arena’s $35 million renovation, designed by Populous, was completed in 2012.

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

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