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Volume 20 No. 46
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Rapids combining suites to create new club

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.