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Volume 21 No. 2


Don Muret
Alabama State University is building a new football stadium on campus, a key piece of the school’s long-range plan to become the first historically black college to compete at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Athletic department officials view the $50 million project opening next fall in Montgomery as the school’s “front porch” and the first step toward advancing to college football’s highest level.

“One of the ways to do that is to provide state-of-the-art facilities,”said Stacy Danley, Alabama State’s athletic director and a former Auburn running back.

Alabama State hired GSP Consulting of Pittsburgh to sell the stadium’s 18 suites, 750 club seats and 25 eight-seat loge boxes. In turn, GSP partnered with Bruno Event Team of Birmingham to help market premium seat inventory for the 30,000-seat facility.

Together, they have compiled a list of season-ticket holders, donors, alumni, vendors and businesses as potential customers, said John Swiatek, director of GSP Consulting’s sports group. They will start making sales calls in mid-October.

Selling every premium seat in the building would generate $1.1 million in annual revenue, Swiatek said.

GSP and Bruno are also teaming up to sell stadium sponsorships. Collectively, they are pitching a 10-year, $5 million naming-rights deal and four founding partnerships tied to naming rights for the field, suite level, loge level and the east gate facing campus.

All told, that inventory would generate a total of $14.8 million to help pay construction debt. The stadium site is on Interstate 85, where thousands drive by every day, Swiatek said.

Alabama State, a member of the Southwest Athletic Conference, plays home games at the Cramton Bowl, a city-owned stadium with 20,000 seats that recently completed an $8.5 million renovation. Last season, the Hornets averaged about 14,000 fans, Danley said.

The new stadium, plus other new venues for baseball and softball and the football team’s new $7 million training facility and academic center, are part of $250 million in campus construction. Over the next 30 years, Alabama State is targeting $600 million in new projects.

All that growth supports Danley’s belief that an FBS conference will extend a “bona fide” offer to Alabama State, an NCAA requirement.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said.

The stadium will open Thanksgiving Day 2012 for the State Farm Magic City Classic presented by Coca-Cola, the annual rivalry game between ASU and Tuskegee University.

Wine was sold by the bottle or glass at a new store in Petco Park.
Brown Chambless Architects of Montgomery is the architect with consultant David Greusel of Convergence, formerly with Populous.

CALIFORNIA WINE: The San Diego Padres, in conjunction with their concessionaire Delaware North Sportservice, opened a new wine store at Petco Park for the final homestand of the season.

Wines at the Park opened Sept. 23 in what was once a small retail space behind home plate on the main concourse.
It was the first time in MLB a fan could buy a bottle from a wine list and have it poured through an aerator into a plastic carafe that fits into a seat cupholder, according to Sportservice research.

In the first weekend of operation, the wine store averaged $3,500 in sales a game, double the initial projections, said Tom Garfinkel, Padres president and chief operating officer.

Prices ranged from $9 for a glass of 2009 Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay to $275 for a bottle of 2002 Dom Perignon. The highest-priced red is $199 for a bottle of 2009 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay and Cabernet are from Sonoma and Napa, respectively.

After noticing wine lovers socializing inside the store on opening night, officials set up tables outside the store.
Donovan’s steak house, a Padres partner, is presenting sponsor of the wine program. Wine selections are priced the same as they are in Donovan’s restaurants.

In New York, Aramark, in a deal with local liquor distributor Zachys, sells specialty wines at Citi Field, home of the Mets.

In San Diego, Wines at the Park resumes operation next season with the possibility of opening a large wine bar elsewhere in the stadium, Garfinkel said.

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

Changes at Augusta National happen at a glacial pace, but Masters Chairman Billy Payne continues to pull the club into the modern ages with a luxurious new hospitality clubhouse that’s expected to be among the most lavish in golf.

The new permanent structure, which will be called Berckmans Place, will debut at the 2013 Masters and resemble a stately Southern mansion on the exterior with white columns framing the expansive front porch. Passes for the week will run $6,000 each, according to golf industry sources, creating new revenue for the club and a top-of-the-line entertainment setting for the Masters’ partners.

Part of the sales materials for Berckmans Place
It is being constructed along the right side of the fifth hole on course property next to Berckmans Road.

Though Berckmans Place won’t open for another 18 months, the club has begun distributing sales materials to some of its closest partners within the last few weeks. Club officials did not return calls seeking comment.

“The renderings give the appearance of something that will rival anything in golf,” said one golf industry expert. “You’re seeing what happens when you have a sports marketing expert in charge of the Masters.”

The new hospitality venue represents another major step forward for the tournament under the guidance of Payne, Augusta National’s chairman since 2006. Payne, president and CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, has overseen new or upgraded hospitality along the first and 10th holes since taking over the club’s leadership.

Berckmans Place, however, will be the club’s strongest statement thus far that it is ready to embrace bolder hospitality options. For the longest time, hospitality was limited to a makeshift area off the first fairway with limited food options and shared bathrooms, which made hospitality off course property — like Intersport’s Double Eagle Club — an attractive alternative.

Augusta National, under Payne’s leadership, upgraded that area off the first fairway and introduced three new private cabins to the left of the 10th fairway for the 2009 Masters. Those areas were new options for the Masters’ global partners, AT&T, ExxonMobil and IBM, as well as its broadcast partners, CBS and ESPN, even though some of them still took their hospitality to venues away from the course to meet demand.

The first round of sales for Berckmans Place has focused on “friends of the Masters,” according to industry sources. That circle would include AT&T, ExxonMobil and IBM; additional partners, Rolex and Mercedes-Benz; and CBS and ESPN.

It’s possible that sponsors such as Barclays, Samsung and Zurich Financial Services, which support the Asian Amateur Championship, an event co-sanctioned by the Masters, could purchase passes as well.

Most hospitality throughout golf is confined to a portion of the clubhouse or tents along fairways to take advantage of outdoor space and views of the course. Augusta National’s new hospitality clubhouse will be unique in that it’s a permanent space with no other shared purpose.

Augusta National doesn’t reveal any details of its business, making specifics about the structure’s size and cost difficult to obtain. But industry sources say each pass will be good for three practice rounds, the Par 3 Contest, and all four rounds of tournament competition. Badges will be issued as single-day passes, which will provide companies greater flexibility when they distribute passes to guests.

A typical badge for the four days of competition runs $200.

Will Jones, who runs Masters marketing, sponsorship and broadcasting, is spearheading the sales effort.

An Oklahoma City firm, Tom Hoch, is handling design of Berckmans Place, a source said. Tom Hoch, a nearly 40-year-old business that also works on restaurants, resorts and hotels, is known mostly for its craft and architectural work on golf clubhouses. Efforts to reach Hoch were unsuccessful.

The richly decorated interior will share many of the features normally associated with a lavish clubhouse, as well as a business center, bag check and other amenities.

Berckmans Place dining will offer a sprawling burger and raw bar in one section, while another area will be more traditional seated dining. A lobby and lounge area will provide guests an area to relax, have a drink and watch the tournament on TV.

A covered back porch will feature al fresco dining overlooking a huge putting surface that will enable guests to experience some of the fastest greens in golf.

All food and beverage throughout the week is included with the pass.

The location next to No. 5 provides the club with a number of advantages, industry sources said. Berckmans Place patrons will have preferred parking across the street from Gate 9, which faces Berckmans Road, and there’s an easily accessible guest drop-off area closer to the facility.

It’s a short walk from Berckmans Place across the back of the property to Amen Corner (Nos. 11, 12 and 13) or the 15th green on the course’s back nine.

Berckmans Place also will give guests a convenient path to a part of the course that is often overlooked, holes No. 4 through No. 6.