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Volume 21 No. 6


The St. Louis Blues have signed a five-year renewal with Pepsi that elevates it to a founding partner.

The renewal is a three-way agreement among the Blues, Scottrade Center and the Peabody Opera House, a 3,500-seat theater next door to the arena. Pepsi has had exclusive soda pouring rights at Scottrade Center since the 19,150-seat building opened in 1994.

Pepsi holds a spot on the Blues’ Scottrade Center.
Pepsi’s upgraded deal is valued in the mid- to high six figures annually, and it extends to naming rights for destinations at the arena and the opera house.

At Scottrade Center, the Pepsi Plaza, a 6,000-square-foot party deck, is a newly branded location in the upper deck at the arena’s east end. The concourse space has a bar, high-top tables and televisions overhead.

This is the first time it has had a sponsor attached with theming of the area, said Eric Stisser, the team’s senior vice president of corporate sponsorship.

In addition, the agreement covers the Pepsi Encore Ballroom, an event space at the opera house, which is co-owned by Blues owner Tom Stillman. The venue opened as the Kiel Opera House in 1934, then closed in 1991 and reopened in 2011 after an $80 million renovation.

It now plays host to 100 concerts and Broadway shows annually. The Blues use the ballroom occasionally to entertain their fans, Stisser said.

Pepsi also gets a new LED marquee sign on the arena’s exterior and its logo on the back of Blues game tickets. In turn, the arena and the opera house receive exposure on the back of about 100 Pepsi delivery trucks roaming the streets of St. Louis.

The terms of the agreement also call for greater activation for the Aquafina Junior Blue Note Kids Club, an affinity program, Stisser said.

The deal closed about nine months after the Blues and Pepsi shook hands in August on a renewal that did not become official until the NHL lockout was resolved in January, Stisser said.

The Blues have also renewed deals with Verizon, Ford, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, PNC Bank, McDonald’s and Walgreens.

Pepsi joins Scottrade, Verizon and Bud Light as founding partners.

Keith Melaragno, a Pepsi vice president based in Chicago who was involved in the Blues deal, did not return phone messages for comment.

Linton Hopkins sat in the stands the night Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home record at old Fulton County Stadium in 1974.

Thirty-nine years later, Hopkins, an Atlanta chef and restaurateur and a rabid Braves fan, will serve his signature double cheeseburgers at Turner Field.

Holeman & Finch cheeseburgers are a late-night tradition.
Holeman & Finch Public House, an Atlanta pub owned by Hopkins, signed a multiyear deal with the Braves and Aramark, the ballpark’s food provider, to serve the same restaurant-quality burger at three concession stands for the 2013 season.

In addition, the three parties are developing a ticket package for 24 reserved outfield seats that includes a Holeman & Finch burger.

As of last week, those ticket prices had not been established. The outfield seats typically sell for about $30 without food and drink, said Derek Schiller, the Braves’ executive vice president of sales and marketing. The burgers alone will cost $12, and Hopkins keeps a share of the revenue.

The significance of the number 24 ties back to the pub and a griddle limited to cooking 12 burgers at a time, Hopkins said. Every night, the restaurant serves a total of 24 burgers at 10 p.m. to those customers first ordering them.

The quirky tradition started years ago to meet the needs of food-service workers getting a bite to eat after finishing their shifts. It has led to a cult following for the sandwich that Food Network ranked in 2010 as the best late-night burger in America, Schiller said.

At Turner Field, Aramark will use the same ingredients to replicate Hopkins’ burgers, including his mother’s pickle recipe.

For Aramark, the Braves’ burger deal follows its deal with New York restaurant owner Danny Meyer to serve his Shake Shack burgers at Citi Field, home of the Mets. “Danny Meyer is a friend of mine,” Hopkins said, half-joking, “and I don’t want him [doing business] at Turner Field.”

The Atlanta Braves have signed a five-year deal with Superior Plumbing for naming rights to a new Turner Field club.

The Superior Plumbing Club, an 80-seat premium space on the club level on the third-base side of the press box, is a bookend to Georgia’s Own Credit Union Club, which opened last season on the first-base side.

As part of the deal for the new club, which carries an annual value in the mid-six figures, the Atlanta plumber gets exclusive use of the club to promote VIP appearances with former Braves manager Bobby Cox. Superior Plumbing, a sponsor of Braves radio broadcasts, has a relationship with Cox connected to providing free game tickets for special-needs children. Last year, some of those kids and their parents were guests of Superior Plumbing in the SunTrust Club at Turner Field.

The company will now have a private space to call its own to continue its community outreach efforts, said Derek Schiller, the Braves’ executive vice president of sales and marketing.

The Braves built the new club after seeing the Georgia’s Own Credit Union Club sell out last season. Both clubs have tables of two and four seats outdoors and package those seats with $30 food and drink credits built into a ticket’s bar code.

The Superior Plumbing Club itself has 19 four-seat tables and two tables of two seats. The ticket package averages $92 a seat per game and buyers must purchase all the seats at a table, Schiller said. The food and drink credit does not transfer to the next game.

Buyers must also commit to three- or five-year contracts. As of last week, the Braves had three tables left to sell in the Superior Plumbing Club, and Schiller expects the remaining inventory to be sold before the start of the regular season.

The success of the original club and the positive reviews of those seat buyers prompted the Braves to remove about 200 regular seats and two suites to build the new space. The same thing was done before last season to develop the Georgia’s Own Credit Union Club.

Each table has a small television to view game replays. In addition, those club-seat holders receive valet parking behind Turner Field, one of the best amenities tied to the club, Schiller said.

Don Muret
The Houston Astros are renovating the Diamond Club at Minute Maid Park as part of a comprehensive rebranding of the 13-year-old facility under new team owner Jim Crane.

The Astros are investing $2.5 million to expand and refresh the premium club, which supports 330 seats behind home plate, said George Postolos, the team’s president and CEO.

Those seats, priced at $375 a game as a season ticket, have been sold out since the stadium opened in 2000, Postolos said.

Working with local design firm Kirksey Architecture, the Astros have added 7,000 square feet to the club by consolidating some hidden spaces, including an old smoking lounge and a room devoted to phones and fax machines for use by companies doing business in the club. By knocking walls down and activating dead space, the club can now comfortably accommodate all of the club seat holders. All told, the club now encompasses more than 17,000 square feet, and for special events, it can fit 400 people, Postolos said.

Work continues on the Diamond Club in Houston.
The renovation covers the food operation as well. Aramark, the Astros’ food provider, has replaced the Diamond Club’s old buffet lines with cooking stations with multiple service points.

In addition, the club has a new bar; an open-hearth oven for cooking pizzas, calzones and flatbread sandwiches; and a wine display along one wall. New fixtures and furniture, plus higher ceilings, give the club an upscale but still casual restaurant feel, Postolos said.

The centerpiece is a new video display feature that gives Diamond Club seat holders the feeling of standing behind home plate and watching the game, said Twila Carter, project manager for the Crane Group, the holding company for Jim Crane’s business assets. Three projectors, connected to stationary cameras set up on the field beam live images of the game onto a wall toward the back of the club. The image fills a space 30 feet wide and 6 feet tall, Carter said.

The video feature was a less costly option than “tunneling” through the club to provide an open view to the field from inside the club, which would have been a “larger project than we wanted to take on,” she said.

The Diamond Club renovation will be completed by March 29, the date of the Astros’ first of two final exhibition games against the Chicago Cubs at Minute Maid Park.

> NEW GROUP: Aramark is doing its part to upgrade the premium food experience at Minute Maid Park, forming a partnership with the Astros involving two local food operators.

Houston Astros Hospitality Group, the name of the new company running the food at the ballpark’s suites and clubs, reflects a group effort with Aramark, local caterer Jackson and Co. and Houston chef Bryan Caswell, who runs Reef, a high-end seafood restaurant in town.

Together, they have partnered to improve higher-end food service and bring new food themes to the club level, including Big Daddy Caz, a new burger grill concept named for Caswell with homemade milkshakes and his “four-minute” French fries, voted among the best in Houston.

A new bloody mary and margarita bar and a customized sushi stand where patrons select their own ingredients “Chipotle-style” are also part of the premium food revamp on the club level, said Carl Mittleman, an Aramark regional vice president.

The Houston Astros Hospitality Group follows similar partnerships Aramark has with the Cleveland Browns and New York Mets. In Cleveland, Aramark’s new venture with three local chefs generated 20 percent growth in revenue over the 2011 season.
“Aramark shared with us those numbers,” Postolos said. “It’s all in the execution, but they had a good outcome in Cleveland.”
Those initiatives are also geared to expanding non-game-day business with corporate functions, Mittleman said.

> ROCKY MOUNTAIN WAY: The Colorado Rockies, in conjunction with Blue Moon Brewing Co., are developing a new microbrew tied to the MLB team’s 20th anniversary.

The details of the promotion are still being worked out, but fans will be engaged in the process for developing a special brew to be served at Coors Field this season, said Greg Feasel, the Rockies’ executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Blue Moon, a brand owned by MillerCoors, the company holding the stadium’s naming rights, was born at Coors Field in 1995 at a brewery in the right-field corner. The ballpark is still the only MLB facility with a working brewpub on site, an element folded into the park’s original design.

In a region where people take their craft beers seriously, the Rockies think it’s a novel way to recognize the team’s two decades in Denver, Feasel said.

> CITY-WIDE: Orlando City, a member of the United Soccer Leagues targeting a move up to MLS, recently hired Woods Bagot to design a new stadium in downtown Orlando.

Orlando City now plays at the Florida Citrus Bowl but plans a new home.
In turn, Woods Bagot, whose sports practice is run by veteran architect Dan Meis, has hired Jan Szupinski from NBBJ.

Before NBBJ, Szupinski was employed by Rossetti, where he designed new MLS stadiums for the Chicago Fire, Real Salt Lake and the New York Red Bulls.

In Orlando, the club is developing a 19,000-seat stadium with a budget of $95 million excluding land costs, said Phil Rawlins, the team’s president and part owner.

Financing has not been approved. The team has committed to paying $30 million for the project plus any cost overruns. The balance would be funded by the city, county and state, Rawlins said.

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