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Volume 20 No. 46


Don Muret
The Atlanta Hawks are building seven loge boxes at Philips Arena, a new premium-seat product 20 rows from the court.

The loges, designed with four permanent seats and two bar stools, are under construction at the top of the lower bowl in the arena’s northwest corner. The facility, originally designed by Populous, has all suites and club seats on the west side.

The loge boxes’ 28 fixed seats are opposite the visiting team’s bench and adjacent to the Georgia’s Own Credit Union Club, said Andrew Steinberg, senior vice president and chief revenue officer for Atlanta Spirit, owner of the Hawks and the arena.

The loge boxes, shown in a rendering, have a private bar.
To clear space for the retrofit, the Hawks are removing 140 club seats in the last eight rows of the section. During the first round of the NBA playoffs, the team relocated those season-ticket holders, Steinberg said.

The loge boxes, sold as an all-inclusive ticket package, are priced in the low six figures annually with three- and five-year contracts. As of last week, the Hawks had just started marketing the new seats and had sold two of the seven boxes, Steinberg said, both to new buyers.

The agreements cover the cost of food and drink, including beer and wine, to all events at Philips Arena. Hard liquor is a separate fee.

The amenities include counter space, a private bar and dining area supporting the boxes and two iPads mounted on the front counter in each unit to view game replays and live streaming content.

The Hawks are marketing the loges as an ultra-exclusive premium seat because of their proximity to the floor, closest to the action among Atlanta’s big league sports venues for that type of seat group, Steinberg said.

The loges will provide prime sight lines for Hawks games and the dozens of concerts Philips Arena books every year.
The team’s goal is to complete loge box construction by sometime in June to take advantage of a busy concert schedule that month. Steinberg would not disclose the project cost.

The Johnson Studio, an Atlanta firm, is designing the conversion.

> THE HARTFORD: Global Spectrum’s deal to manage XL Center and Rentschler Field in Greater Hartford extends to its three sister firms as part of a joint bid by the group of Comcast-Spectacor subsidiaries.

Ovations Food Services will operate food service, Front Row Marketing will sell advertising and New Era Tickets will provide ticketing for both venues. All four deals are 10-year contracts.

Front Row is working to extend existing agreements at XL Center, including the arena’s naming rights, said Frank Russo, Global Spectrum’s senior vice president of business development and client relations. Front Row is negotiating the rights to sell inventory on signs outside Rentschler Field, where IMG holds advertising rights for the seating bowl in conjunction with the University of Connecticut, the stadium’s football tenant.

Ovations will invest about $1 million to improve the arena’s food operation, revamping concession stands, bringing new portable carts in the building and expanding menus, said Ken Young, the company’s president.

Global Spectrum takes over the stadium July 1 and the arena Sept. 1.

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

The PGA Tour took a huge step toward keeping its fans in touch when it permitted cellphones on the golf course starting in 2011. Now, some tournaments are going a step further by installing Wi-Fi hot spots around the course for the first time.

Sponsor Time Warner Cable installed two Wi-Fi hot spots at the 18th green, and a dozen others around the site, for the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte.
Time Warner Cable, a sponsor of last weekend’s Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, installed 14 Wi-Fi devices in spectator areas at the Quail Hollow Club. The hot spots — at the driving range, the clubhouse and 11 of the 18 holes mostly around grandstands near the green (the 18th hole had two) — made it easy for fans to use their phones, tablets and laptops, all of which are permitted on the course.

This week’s Players Championship will have Wi-Fi available on a more limited basis at popular gathering spots like The Grove, a highly trafficked eating area near the famous 17th hole. Each hospitality area also has its own private Wi-Fi.

“Each tournament has its own set of capabilities,” said Nathan Grube, tournament director at next month’s Travelers Championship in Connecticut. “But you’re definitely seeing Wi-Fi become more and more common across the tour.”

Across the board, some tournaments still have very limited Wi-Fi capability, mostly for media centers and clubhouses, while others are moving more aggressively in that direction. Wi-Fi typically enables the user faster download speeds, savings on mobile data plans, and the ability to use tablets and laptops, in addition to smartphones.

One of those leading the charge is the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which in February made the entire course at TPC Scottsdale a hot spot, a first on the PGA Tour. Cox Business, a tournament sponsor, created 156 access points across the course. The free Wi-Fi provides faster download speeds on the course and cuts through cellular congestion.

Often, the deployment of Wi-Fi is motivated by a tournament sponsor, such as Time Warner, Cox or AT&T. Tournaments are much more likely to have Wi-Fi if there’s a sponsor covering the cost of installation. Officials would not reveal what the cost is.

At the AT&T National at Congressional next month, Wi-Fi hot spots will be installed at hospitality areas, the media center, clubhouse and a few other public areas with high traffic for AT&T customers. A pass code is needed for noncustomers in hospitality and media center areas.

“We just don’t have the bandwidth to offer Wi-Fi to everyone on property,” said Greg McLaughlin, president and CEO of the Tiger Woods Corp., which runs the AT&T National and the Deutsche Bank Championship. “There are just too many smartphones floating around.”

AT&T also sets up “cells on wheels,” antenna towers mounted on trucks, to enhance cell coverage, which is common at many tournaments.

For Time Warner, the hot spots at the Wells Fargo Championship were part of the company’s TV Everywhere initiative. The cable and Internet distributor has been installing Wi-Fi networks in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Kansas City and Austin, Texas, as well as huge gathering spots, like shopping malls. Time Warner generally requires customers to authenticate with a password to access the free Wi-Fi, but hot spots at Quail Hollow didn’t require authentication.

Wi-Fi gives Time Warner subscribers the ability to access sports programming from ESPN, the Big Ten Network, the Pac-12 Networks and other channels with TV Everywhere capabilities.

“With the explosive growth of Wi-Fi-enabled devices, customers want to take their Time Warner experience outside of the home,” said Rich Ruggiero, vice president in Time Warner’s Charlotte office.

So spectators at the golf tournaments this month might also be watching a baseball game on a tablet while they’re sitting next to the 18th green.

Many tournaments also are producing their own mobile app in addition to the one offered by the tour. The tour’s app features live scoring, news and updates, all produced by the team, while the tournament apps are more specific to the event, with information on concessions, restrooms and ATMs.

For example, the Waste Management Phoenix Open’s first-year app, developed by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based AGN Sports, carried video of the caddie race on the raucous 16th hole.

“I don’t really know if there’s a big Wi-Fi demand for spectators or not, but most people now understand they have the ability to use their mobile device,” said Clair Peterson, director of the John Deere Classic in July. “It’s certainly something that we’re all watching.”

The PGA Championship is the only major that allows mobile devices on the course during competition rounds. It has not made any decisions on expanding Wi-Fi for spectators across the course.

Legends, co-owned by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees, has signed a multiyear deal with the Washington Redskins to cater the 280 suites at FedEx Field, its biggest food account beyond Cowboys Stadium and Yankee Stadium.

Officials with the Redskins and Legends Hospitality, the company’s food and retail division, would not disclose contract terms. Legends will invest a “substantial” amount of capital to upgrade the premium side of the business, said Mike Phillips, the firm’s senior vice president, but he declined to specify dollar figures.

FedEx Field has 280 suites, second in sports to the 300-plus skyboxes at Cowboys Stadium.
The high-profile NFL account is a big victory for Legends, whose owners also include the Checketts Partners Investment Fund. The growth of Legends Hospitality has lagged behind that of sister division Legends Sales and Marketing, which has expanded through deals to sell premium seats for the 49ers, Jaguars and Jets, among others.

Since Legends’ founding in 2008, it has signed smaller food deals beyond Cowboys Stadium and Yankee Stadium, adding MLS franchise FC Dallas and minor league baseball clubs affiliated with the Yankees.

That dynamic has now shifted. The Redskins agreement comes a few weeks after Legends signed a deal with the Cleveland Browns to run the team store and other merchandise stands at First Energy Stadium and the club’s online retail business.

“It has to be a big plus for Legends,” food service consultant Chris Bigelow said. “NFL teams [looking for vendors] want to talk to their peers and ask, ‘Are these guys good?’ Now they can call the Browns and the Redskins. They had to break out of that shadow.”

Legends replaces R&R Catering, a small local company that fed suite patrons the past four NFL seasons. Before 2009, Ridgewells Catering, another Washington-area firm, had a 10-year run at FedEx Field.

Centerplate, which opened FedEx Field in 1997 running all aspects of food service under its old name, Volume Services, remains the general concessions vendor.

Redskins officials refused to say what drove their decision to change suite caterers. The team owns and operates FedEx Field, and there was no formal proposal issued to vendors.

The Redskins chose Legends after having discussions with R&R, in addition to Aramark, Centerplate and Levy Restaurants, which has deals at D.C. venues Nationals Park and Verizon Center. Another large sports concessions company, Delaware North Sportservice, did not speak with the Redskins, company officials said.

Redskins executives visited Yankee Stadium to see Legends’ operation and met with Legends officials at Cowboys Stadium when Washington played Dallas in December, Phillips said. Legends was informed of its selection about a month ago, he said.

Legends takes over a facility with the second-highest number of suites in sports behind Cowboys Stadium’s 300-plus skyboxes.

Before the Cowboys opened their $1.2 billion facility four years ago, FedEx Field produced the highest suite revenue among all NFL stadiums, generating an average of $4 million a season, according to industry sources. The bulk of FedEx Field’s suites are distributed on the stadium’s fourth and fifth levels. The second level, also serviced by the premium food provider, has two Owner’s Club lounges, Daniel Snyder’s suite and the corporate suite reserved for stadium naming-rights holder FedEx.

The stadium’s suburban site just off the Capital Beltway, one of the most congested roadways in the country, also lends itself to generating revenue. Legends can expect to see its alcohol per caps get a boost from suite holders sticking around long after the game is over to avoid the notorious traffic jams around FedEx Field, sources said.

With those huge numbers, though, comes the challenge of meeting the demands of Snyder — the Redskins’ owner known for being tough on the help, one former FedEx Field food provider said. One factor working in Legends’ favor is Phillips, who is supervising the vendor’s transition at FedEx Field and a sports food veteran who knows the stadium well. About 20 years ago, Phillips, then employed with Volume Services, was principally involved in negotiating the facility’s original food deal with the late Jack Kent Cooke, the Redskins’ owner at the time.

In addition, Legends President Dan Smith was a regional vice president with Volume Services at the time FedEx Field opened.

The vendor plans to upgrade the suites with induction cooking equipment to deliver fresher food more frequently, officials said. The same cooking systems are in place at Yankee Stadium and newer sports facilities.

“No more food sitting in chafing dishes for three hours,” Smith said.

Legends also plans to develop a program with local chefs serving their signature recipes at FedEx Field, similar to what the concessionaire does at Yankee Stadium and Cowboys Stadium, Phillips said.

Legends officially took over the premium food operation last week. Most of the upgrades should be in place by Aug. 19, the date of the Redskins’ first preseason home game.