To close out the ’17 AXS Sports Facilities & Franchises conference, attendees were given a tour of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Just prior to walking the massive structure, AMB Group CEO Steve Cannon, who oversees all of Arthur Blank’s businesses, took time to chat with the group the morning after the venue hosted its first concert. Cannon said of the Garth Brooks show, “It was a great night. ... It tested us across things like food and beverage and guest services. We did hear about some issues in the upper levels. Again, we’re still calibrating this building. All of our systems are still being fine-tuned and tweaked and unfortunately sometimes sound works differently when a building is empty vs. when it is full. We’ve got plenty to do to get better, but we feel really good about our first concert.” Cannon did note that ingress and egress was a successful point of the evening.
MAKING AN ENTRANCE: Cannon noted 70% of guests will come into the building via the front entrance, which features a giant falcon statue. He said, “We like that. While it does challenge the infrastructure, you want people coming in your front door, not the back door, when we welcome them into a new facility.” He also called the new halo board the venue’s “wow moment.” Cannon: “It has challenged our production team because it’s a completely different aspect ratio than a normal screen. ... So while it’s very unique and really immersive and augments the gameday production experience, it’s difficult to program. But it gives you really unbelievable opportunity with new content and content production.”
VALUE MEALS: Mercedes-Benz Stadium notably has gone with lower price points on many of its staple food and beverage items, such as hot dogs, water and soda. Cannon said of the experiment thus far, “It is transforming our fan behavior. Why would you build a $1.5 billion facility, that is spectacular in every way, and then erect a gigantic barrier at your front door, which is your concessions prices? We heard fan feedback. … Fans would stay out in their tailgate lots for as long as possible and crash the gates at the last possible minute -- putting a huge strain on our ingress process. … What (lower prices) have done is essentially invite people into our building. And they’re coming in two hours before kickoff. … Our per caps are through the roof. They’re 30% higher than they were in the Dome.” He said of the quality of food and drink at lower price points, “You can’t just flip a pricing switch and drive demand and then not be able to satisfy that demand. … So we added 55% more cooking capacity and 65% more points-of-sale than at the Dome. … It has to be fast, fresh and delicious, not just cheap. … We will absolutely make money. … I can’t wait to wait to open up the economics of this once we have the data and say ‘this is just a better business model.’”
BIG TOP: Much has been made of Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s roof, which has the ability to open and close, but it is a one-of-kind structure, and had delayed the venue’s opening a few times. Cannon said of the roof, which debuted on national TV during “Sunday Night Football” in Week 2, “The roof is operational. … We opened it for the Green Bay game and essentially said to the world, ‘Hey, can we stop talking about the roof? It works fine.’ The issue is simple -- it is a one-off roof. It has never been done before, and … with complexity comes things that are unforeseen. … Some of the construction delays took away our time to automate the roof, so we’re having to automate in the background and in between events. … No great things come easy.”