On the industry's radar
We asked executives in the sports facilities industry to identify the trends they’re watching and to give their predictions on where the industry is headed. The following are highlights of what they had to say.
Aramark Sports & Entertainment
■ Fans become foodies: Fans’ tastes have become more sophisticated, which will lead to expanding the presence of specialty foods, like ethnic cuisine, street food, food trucks, gluten-free and allergen-free items, and healthy fare, to ensure menus have something for everyone. Look for an elevated dining experience, where simple comfort foods have been turned into premium quality fare.
■ Going local beyond the farm: Fans are also more mindful of where their food comes from and greater emphasis is being placed on connecting with the local culinary scene by working with local farmers and featuring microbrews and craft beers. PNC Park’s pierogi stacker sandwich in Pittsburgh is a local culinary specialty and there are growing opportunities to partner with local restaurateurs and celebrity chefs.
Vice president of retail
Delaware North Companies Sportservice
For stadiums and arenas, that will mean maximizing retail space to enhance fans’ emotional connection to the game. Teams and their partners become mainstream retailers and not simply concessionaires. It will be increasingly important to follow fashion and retail trends and provide customers with a targeted selection of merchandise.
To provide the space needed, some venues are already developing large, iconic stores for a more exciting and memorable shopping experience. The large stores feature dramatic décor with eye-popping visuals and lighting. … In addition, leveraging licensed partners to create brand- or item-specific shops and portable kiosks will create a more personal shopping experience.
Targeted marketing programs and new e-commerce technology and mobile applications will increasingly be used to reach fans beyond the gates of the venue. Customized merchandise will be available throughout the stadium, and on non-game days, to offer the convenience fans will look for.
Venue Research and Design
The fan is expecting the visual of the living room with the communal vitality of the event. This will be a two-way experience with an unrestricted social media experience and an enhanced and memorable event. Fans are the early adopters of technology. They will also be the early exit if the brand is unable to deliver. The fans will be both a consumer and creator of content.
Using a remote method to order food, the fan base is asking for greater convenience. Removing the human interaction of a cashier translating your order to a register and then filling that order while you wait is desired. The implications are to design outlets that are not relying on the standard queues. Facilities will also have to deal with the fact of BYOD such as battery life and where does the fan set the device.
A key element of new experiences is technology integration. It has increased dramatically in recent years, and we believe it will be integral to the future of sports design. Likewise, sponsors and corporate partners are looking for fresh alternatives to static advertising. Populous is helping integrate sponsors into facility design with sponsor-activated fan zones, interactive media and new kinds of experiences that are tailored to engage fans and express strong brand personalities.
Lastly is the growing importance of urban planning. The substantial community and private investments required by these large structures demand greater justification than simply a suitable place for watching a sporting event. Going forward, existing stadiums and arenas must include a much broader community vision for benefiting the surrounding area with economic growth and regeneration opportunities.
Vice president of sales
Rose Bowl Revitalization Project
■ Product trends: All inclusive pricing is here to stay on club seating and the wave of the future for suites on both the consumer and building side of the sale. Value-added selling is prevalent in every aspect of the economy now. Adding food, access to special events that once were incremental, is the wave of today and I cannot see that changing. Product diversity is also critical; the one-size-fits-all mentality [has] passed us by. … The placement of the products has not changed too much, closer is better in almost all cases, but exclusivity to lounges and special events is more important than ever — people need more of a reason to buy than they ever have in the past. Season-ticket selling and packaging today, especially in the indoor sports and baseball, is so competitive with club-seat selling, it has become a real challenge to differentiate to the buyer where the value is in these seats. The smaller club-seat buyer has to be made to feel extremely special these days.
■ Things to do: Pricing appropriately and packaging and locating the products effectively are the key to the success. Additionally, creating that sellout, high-demand mentality is critical as well. If the buyer senses the demand is soft or supply is high, one will be in a tough position to get sales in this economy.