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Volume 20 No. 45


American Airlines Center has started marketing one-year suite deals for sports fans, the product of a yearlong effort to find out what Dallas residents want to see in premium seating.

Twenty of the arena’s 142 suites are part of the new SeasonPass Suites program.
Arena officials last week introduced the SeasonPass Suites, a new product tied to 20 of the 142 skyboxes at the facility. The suites are on the north end of the Admiral Level, the highest of the three suite levels.

The price of the 20 suites has been cut to $125,000 for one-year deals next season, a 44 percent decrease from the previous price of $225,000 and a change from the minimum three-year commitment. And those aren’t the only significant differences.

SeasonPass Suites include 12 tickets to all Mavericks and Stars games; previously the suites carried tickets for all events. Also, the new product includes a rotating food menu and beer, wine, soda and bottled water, along with three parking passes. In the past catering was a separate fee.

The SeasonPass program provides an option for a segment of the market that no longer could afford to buy suites at a higher price for all events, said Brad Mayne, Center Operating Co.’s president and CEO.

In many cases, premium-seat patrons have downsized from suites to club seats, Mayne said. As a result, there are open suites, but the building has not taken a big hit financially because demand remains strong for single-game rentals for NBA and NHL games.

Mayne said American Airlines Center is ranked fifth in NBA suite revenue, according to the latest internal league documents.

“This is not a fire sale,” he said.

The price adjustments reflect the dynamics of a premium-seat market in Dallas-Fort Worth that has changed considerably over the past decade, including the opening of Cowboys Stadium in 2009, said Bill Rhoda, a principal with CSL International, a sports facility research firm.

American Airlines Center opened in 2001 with 142 suites, twice the number of skyboxes at newer arenas. For example, Amway Center opened in Orlando in 2010 with 68 loge boxes and 14 MVP tables, a spin on the loge box concept, in addition to 60 suites and 1,400 club seats.

CSL consulted on the original premium-seat mix for both arenas. Over the past year in Dallas, CSL helped form the SeasonPass program by surveying existing and past suite holders and the corporate community to get a better sense of the high-end seat market locally.

Arena officials also have had focus groups at the facility to discuss new concepts such as theater box seats — groups of four to eight seats with dining space behind the seats — as Center Operating Co. considers whether it makes sense to ultimately reduce the number of suites to match the market’s needs.

About a half-dozen major league arenas have converted traditional suites into theater boxes, including United Center, Verizon Center, US Airways Center and TD Garden.
Over the past few seasons, theater boxes have sold for $60,000 to $125,000 a year depending on the arena and the market.

American Airlines Center’s Admiral Level is in the same location upstairs as areas where two-tenant arenas in Boston and Chicago completed theater box retrofits, Rhoda said. “Both have done well,” he said.

TD Garden also has the Heineken Board Room, a club seat product tied to an annual fee of about $18,000 in which members pay only for tickets they use to attend Bruins and Celtics games. That concept is also under consideration for Dallas, Mayne said.
American Airlines Center’s one-year deals provide the arena with the flexibility to eliminate suites after next season, Mayne said. HKS, the arena’s original architect, has compiled some ideas for new premium-seat options, but no decisions have been made.

“If this new product is successful, it wouldn’t make sense for us to spend the capital on something else,” he said.

Don Muret
Kansas State University has sold all 40 suites tied to a $75 million renovation of Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

The new suites are part of the West Stadium Center, a new 250,000-square-foot, four-story expansion with premium seats, retail space, team store, concessions and rest rooms, a large outdoor party deck for high-level donors and an athletics dining hall.

The suites introduce a new product at K-State, an all-inclusive package that covers the cost of food and drink served in a communal space outside the skyboxes. Alcohol is a separate cost.

The West Stadium Center expansion, shown in a rendering, will deliver new premium seating.
Generally in sports, catering is a separate fee on top of the cost to buy a suite, but the trend appears to be shifting toward the all-inclusive model in the college ranks, project officials said. Donor feedback at the NCAA Division I level indicates a desire to eliminate the hassle of managing catering orders, said Jon Niemuth, principal in charge of the K-State project for AECOM, one of two architects hired for the job.

In Manhattan, Kan., the strategy for selling suites, and the center’s 800 club seats and 36 loge boxes, both all-inclusive products, was to streamline the process and make it simple for prospective buyers to make a decision, said Laird Veatch, senior associate athletic director of strategic initiatives.

The suites cost $45,000 to $75,000 annually, plus one-time “construction gifts” that run up to six figures. Suite terms are five, seven and nine years.

The suites have 12 to 20 seats with both indoor and outdoor seats and access to the 15,000-square-foot lounge. The 32 older suites on the stadium’s east side start at $40,000 a year without tickets, food and parking, and are all interior seats.
As of last week, K-State has sold about half the loge boxes and 20 percent of the club seats. The school recently started marketing that inventory and has not yet released prices for those seats publicly.

AECOM and Heery have teamed to design the West Stadium Center, scheduled to open in fall 2013. Mortenson is the general contractor. Sodexo is K-State’s food provider.

FLY-ERS ON THE WALL: A subsidiary of the company that owns the Philadelphia Flyers would operate a proposed 20,000-seat arena in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ backyard under an agreement with the facility’s developer.
Global Spectrum, a division of Comcast-Spectacor, which also owns the Flyers, would manage the arena for GTA Sports and Entertainment.

GTA Sports wants to build a $325 million arena in Markham, Ontario, a Toronto suburb with a population of 300,000. Construction could start this summer pending local approvals of financing, said Frank Russo, Global Spectrum’s senior vice president.

The plan is to fund the project equally with private and public money. Should it move forward, Global Spectrum, a consultant for the project, would sign a multiyear deal to manage the arena, Russo said.

The arena initially would be home to a minor league hockey tenant, with a long-term goal of securing an NHL team.
Global Spectrum already runs three smaller arenas in Ontario as well as the old Maple Leaf Gardens, now an athletic center for Ryerson University in addition to housing a supermarket.

Bob Hunter, executive vice president and general manager of Air Canada Centre, home of the Maple Leafs and Raptors, said his company, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owner of the arena and both teams, was “keeping an eye on what’s happening.”

Hunter said, “We know Global … and if Markham wanted a private management firm to go into a new facility there, Global would be my recommendation.”

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

Matt Rapp, The Players Championship’s executive director, wants the new concession space near the famous 17th hole to remind fans of a New York-style lounge.

One obvious missing element will be the loud, thumping music. “Well, think New York lounge … on a golf course,” Rapp said.

Few will ever confuse the sleepy retirement area around Ponte Vedra, Fla., where the tour and its flagship tournament are based, with New York, but Nolet’s Silver Lounge is hoping to provide fans at The Players this week with a completely different feel than what they’re used to on a golf course. Only ticket holders 21 and older are allowed inside.

The new Nolet’s Silver Lounge at The Players Championship
Photo by: PGA TOUR
“It’s going to have a tricked-out bar and big comfortable couches,” Rapp said of the air-conditioned space inside Nolet’s.

Since the tournament moved out of its March date, when the weather in north Florida was far less predictable, to the warmer days of May, the PGA Tour has been challenged to keep fans cool in temperatures that often approach or exceed 90.

Rapp’s team created seven new fan areas last year, including the 10,000-square-foot, fully enclosed Stadium Village near the 18th green, the first climate-controlled space for spectators carrying regular tickets at The Players. Those types of air-conditioned giant tents are fairly rare on tour for fans without an upgraded pass.

The new Nolet-sponsored space will be the second air-conditioned space on the course that doesn’t require a premium ticket. Nolet’s lounge will be next to the covered, open-air Oasis at the par-3 17th hole. The concession areas around the 17th are always the busiest during the week, Rapp said.
These new areas are intended to be premium spaces without a premium cost. Any ticket holder of legal drinking age is permitted into Nolet’s.

The massive Stadium Village, near the 18th green, opened last year with Jeld-Wen, a tournament “proud”-partner, serving as title sponsor of the space. Jeld-Wen, however, didn’t return as the village’s title sponsor, or a tournament partner for that matter.

Jeld-Wen reached a mutual agreement with The Players Championship to end its status as a partner of the tournament a year early. The end of The Players Championship deal, however, does not affect Jeld-Wen’s position as a corporate partner of the PGA Tour.

But the loss of funding for the Stadium Village left the tournament with a need.

Instead of having one overall sponsor of the space, the tour found multiple sponsors, including Ketel One, Verizon, Charles Schwab, Nature Valley and Toyota to collectively cover the $400,000 price tag for construction of the tent and its operation.

Ketel One’s vodka bar will be a centerpiece of the area, along with Verizon’s social lounge that will include charging stations for mobile phones and Wi-Fi.

Ketel One vodka and Nolet gin are both produced in the Netherlands by the Nolet Distillery, and both brands are marketing partners with the tour.