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Volume 21 No. 2


Don Muret
Akey developer for AT&T Park in San Francisco says the Golden State Warriors have picked the right time to build a new arena in town.

The NBA team wants to construct a privately funded waterfront arena in the next five years, but there will be many political hurdles to overcome before it can break ground on the $500 million facility. To drum up support for the project, the Warriors can rally around two points, said Pat Gallagher, the San Francisco Giants’ former senior vice president of business operations.

In two years, the 49ers are moving to a new stadium under construction in Santa Clara, leaving a sports void to be filled in the Bay Area’s cultural center, Gallagher said. More important, San Francisco remains the nation’s largest market without a modern arena. Positioning it as a new landmark — “San Francisco’s version of the Sydney Opera House” — would help form a long-term vision for the project, he said.

“If you design it right and look at it, you know exactly where you are,” Gallagher said.

Pat Gallagher helped the Giants build a local classic, AT&T Park, and he thinks the Warriors can create “San Francisco’s version of the Sydney Opera House.”
As the Giants pulled together plans for privately funded AT&T Park, Gallagher developed the Charter Seat License program, secured the park’s naming-rights deal with Pacific Bell and signed other deals for the facility’s Coca-Cola Fan Lot and Old Navy Splash Landing. He created baseball’s first secondary ticketing program, Double Play Ticket Window, the forerunner to StubHub. Later, as president of newly established Giants Enterprises, Gallagher developed a special-events division to supplement the baseball side of the business.

“If enough people care about this [arena] project, it will happen,” Gallagher said. “Any big idea has to have the right players behind it.”

For the Giants, the right person behind the ballpark project was a pastor, not a politician. After four unsuccessful attempts at the ballot box to get a stadium finance deal approved with public money, the MLB team decided to pay for the $357 million park on its own.

Facing a fifth public vote in March 1996 tied to an exemption for waterfront height restrictions, the Giants used three high-profile community leaders to support their cause, including the Rev. Cecil Williams, a minister whose church ran a local soup kitchen.

The Giants surveyed city residents to find out which person was most trustworthy in their minds and Williams “came out No. 1,” Gallagher said. Williams volunteered his services and the vote passed, clearing the way for the Giants to build a new waterfront park that opened in 2000.

“The plan was to seek out the right opinion leaders to help us convince the community that this is the right plan,” Gallagher said. “San Francisco functions through a lot of community activism. There is a basic mistrust of wealthy people who come in with big ideas, and the key is getting the community to accept it.”

TIDBITS: Sports designer 360 Architecture, arena manager Global Spectrum and Consulting Merengue are consultants for developer Chris Hansen as he pursues a privately funded new NBA and NHL facility in Seattle. The three firms are working on preliminary design and development for a new $480 million to $500 million arena after completing an assessment of KeyArena operations, where a basketball and hockey tenant would play for two years while a new venue is built. Consulting Merengue’s David Perez previously worked for International Facilities Group, whose principals include Michael Reinsdorf, president of the Chicago Bulls. … Dave Cohen has left the Atlanta Falcons to start his own consulting company, Cohen Consulting Group, with expertise in season-ticket sales, marketing premium seats and concessions. Cohen was with the Falcons for 10 years and most recently served as their vice president of sales and service. He also worked five years for the Portland Trail Blazers, and before that, with baseball’s Brett brothers in Spokane, Wash. … Chris Bigelow is consulting for the Edmonton Oilers to select a food provider for their proposed $450 million downtown arena.

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

The Colorado Rapids have signed a five-year deal with a tech firm to sponsor a new all-inclusive club at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

The Summit Club powered by 2lemetry, named for a Denver tech firm, is planned as an all-inclusive club restricted to 200 members.
The new club, the Summit Club powered by 2lemetry, is named for a nine-month-old Denver developer of technology for mobile applications. The deal is valued in the low six figures annually, said Tim Hinchey, president of the Rapids.

Construction will start this month when crews tear down the walls of four suites on the building’s northwest side to build the roughly 4,500-square-foot indoor lounge.

By Aug. 1, the club will serve as a temporary sales center to market the new space. It should be completed by January, at which point the Rapids will have a grand-opening event. The new club will not be fully operational until the 2013 season.

The investment by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Rapids and operates the stadium, is “north of $250,000,” Hinchey said.

As part of its activation, 2lemetry will develop exclusive game content on iPads distributed to club members before every match. In addition, 2lemetry will work with the Rapids to design upgrades to the team’s digital game program tied to a QR code download, Hinchey said.

The club is restricted to 200 members paying $2,500 to $3,500 a season tied to commitments of three and five years.

The 100 members who pay the high-end fee get a seat in the bowl, food and drink, including beer and wine, valet parking, access to a private team event, and first right to buy tickets for special events such as Phish’s three-night stand in late August and early September.

The remaining 100 members paying the low-end fee get access to the club, but their seats are elsewhere in the stadium.

The suites to be eliminated for the new club sold for $20,000 annually, Hinchey said.

As the project kicks off, there is a waiting list of 20 people to buy into the Summit Club. The team is using the stadium’s party suite to entertain those individuals with coaches’ chalk talks and opportunities to meet the player of the game after every match.

The Rapids are the latest major league team to fold vacant skyboxes into an all-inclusive club as the premium-seat market shifts from the traditional suite and club seat model to an expanded model offering both flexibility and customization.

In MLS, the Chicago Fire opened the new 164-seat Second Star Club this season after consolidating eight suites at Toyota Park. Members pay $6,500 to $7,500 a year for midfield seats, a private dining room and bar, and access to concerts and other special events. To date, half of the new club seats are sold, Fire spokesman Brendan Hannan said.

In Denver, the Rapids had struggled to sell the 20 original suites at their five-year-old facility as the team competes against the Avalanche, Broncos, Nuggets and Rockies for premium customers, Hinchey said.

Underscoring their uphill climb is a 2011 study that found Denver to be the most overextended market in pro sports with regard to personal income required to support the city’s major league teams, according to the Business Journals, which like SportsBusiness Journal are part of American City Business Journals.

The Rapids started reducing the stadium’s suite total last year, consolidating two units at midfield into the Porsche Chairman’s Club, reserved for visiting team officials and midlevel corporate executives.

Both clubs are modeled after the European style of entertaining clients in a communal setting, said Hinchey, who spent three years overseas with Derby County Football Club in England before the Rapids hired him as chief marketing officer in 2010.

“This is how you consume the sport overseas,” said Hinchey, who was promoted to team president in December.

For 2lemetry, its first sports deal fits with its business, which extends to a data gathering system similar to the Adidas miCoach program that tracks soccer players’ performance in real time, said Kyle Roche, the company’s founder and chief technology officer.

“It’s perfect for sports,” Roche said.