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Volume 21 No. 2


American Airlines Center is building 20 theater boxes, introducing a smaller premium-seat concept new to Texas sports venues.

The theater boxes in the upper suite level replace 10 traditional suites to be torn down in early August, said Dave Brown, vice president and general manager for Center Operating Co., the facility’s management firm.

Center Operating Co., co-owned by the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars, is investing $900,000 in the project. Construction should be completed by Oct. 1, in time for the Stars’ regular-season home opener, Brown said.

The boxes, situated on the arena’s north side, face the

Behind the 20 new theater boxes at American Airlines Center is a 4,000-square-foot lounge.
stage behind the goal where the Stars shoot twice. Each box has four fixed seats with the option to add two large lounge chairs. They are all-inclusive and sell for $80,000 annually with one-, two- and three-year terms.

Those fees cover the cost of tickets to most events, including all Mavericks and Stars regular-season games, food and drink (including beer, wine and hard liquor), and VIP parking. Playoff games are not included. The arena plays host to about 200 events a year, Brown said.

Behind the seats is a 4,000-square-foot lounge with two full-service bars, two fireplaces, a chef’s buffet and four-seat dining tables.

As of last week, the arena had sold two theater boxes before officially going to market. Both purchasers are new buyers, Brown said.

Driving the retrofit was the opportunity to develop a midprice premium option between a suite and a club seat, as well as to put a fresh look on premium seating in a region of the country that until now has not offered a loge-style seat, Brown said. Some of the 10 regular suites in that space were long-term deals, and those patrons will be relocated. The remaining inventory was reserved for single-game rentals, he said.

Not even Cowboys Stadium, with its 300-plus suites and 15,000 club seats, has a loge box product, confirmed Mark Williams, a principal with HKS and the architect’s director of sports and entertainment. HKS originally designed American Airlines Center and developed the theater boxes.

Elsewhere, theater boxes are not new. Over the past five years, about 10 NBA and NHL facilities have made similar retrofits as they adjust to changing trends in the premium-seat market, charging $60,000 to $125,000 a year for those smaller seat groups.

In Dallas, American Airlines Center’s research included taking a close look at theater boxes at United Center in Chicago and US Airways Center in Phoenix. The 12-year-old arena’s new seats most closely resemble the theater boxes at those two facilities, Brown said.

“It’s a mix of a lot of products we see out there,” Williams said. “I think the market will respond to the look and feel of the new boxes. It will be an identifiable space; it will stand out in the bowl.”

Depending on the demand, there is an opportunity to build more theater boxes next year on each side of the new units, Williams said.

Don Muret
Selecting a general contractor to build a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons carries a new wrinkle compared with past NFL projects, according to industry sources.

Icon Venue Group, the Falcons’ project developer, recently selected five construction firms to receive the proposal for lead contractor after receiving initial qualifications from about a dozen companies.

The five finalists are Clark Construction, Holder Construction, Hunt Construction, Skanska USA Building and Turner Construction.

The winner, or winners, will work on the Falcons’ new stadium, shown in a rendering.
Image by: 360 ARCHITECTURE
As those five firms prepare final bids, they can respond on their own — or they can team with one or more of six firms that did not make the cut for lead contractor but remain qualified after responding to the RFQ, something that is unusual, sources said.

In addition, after receiving proposals, Icon Venue Group and Bill Darden, project executive for the new stadium, reserve the right to ask firms that it considers to be the most qualified to form a joint venture to best fit the project.

Typically, contractors know in advance whom they will be working with on a sports project, whether they pursue it on their own or team up with a competitor. In Atlanta, however, the Falcons left themselves with the flexibility to make adjustments to any proposed combinations.

“Every time you think you’ve seen it all, you peek around the corner, and there’s something you not only have never seen, but something you would never have anticipated,” one construction source said.

The Falcons’ intent is to ensure good chemistry among all members of the construction team and to provide everyone with a clear understanding of what they are trying to do, said Greg Beadles, the team’s executive vice president of administration.

“We have never built a stadium, so this is of extreme importance,” Beadles said. “We are not trying to force a joint venture. If there are folks who feel they work well together, that’s fine. There are questions about who would you not like to be paired with that we asked as part of the RFP.”

The six firms that did not make the cut include Manhattan Construction, builder of Cowboys Stadium, and Mortenson, lead contractor for the Minnesota Vikings’ new facility. The same is true for Barton Malow, builder of the $226 million renovation of Michigan Stadium.

The three remaining firms, all local, are Brasfield & Gorrie, now building the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta; Panattoni Construction; and DPR Hardin, builder of the Arthur M. Blank Family Office Building, which is named for Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

The locals could be part of multiple proposals. Some have worked together with national firms to build non-sports projects in the Southeast, Beadles said. Also, two experienced builders of sports facilities could form a joint venture to compete for the Falcons job, he said.

Proposals are due today and a selection is scheduled to be made Friday, according to the RFP. The winning construction team will work with 360 Architecture, the Kansas City firm designing the $1 billion project.

> THUNDER ROAD: As the Charlotte Bobcats embark on an 18-month journey to rebrand themselves as the Charlotte Hornets, at least they don’t have to worry about tearing up a terrazzo floor.

By comparison, the rebranding of Chesapeake Energy Arena for the Oklahoma City Thunder included embedding the NBA team’s logo in the terrazzo floor of the facility’s southwest lobby, said Gary Desjardins, SMG’s general manager of the venue. The Thunder obviously has no plans to change its name, so that floor is safe.

In Charlotte, considering all the marks that must be changed over at Time Warner Cable Arena, the Bobcats can be thankful their logo was not part of the terrazzo strip inside the main entrance. Most floor surfaces are bare concrete at the team’s arena, built for $200 million in hard construction costs.

At the recent news conference announcing the Hornets’ rebrand, Pete Guelli, the Bobcats’ executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer, said he has not come up with a complete list of inventory affected by the change.

“I think that would be a separate press conference,” Guelli said.

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

Barclays Center has signed a multiyear deal with NeuLion to provide exclusive digital streaming of live events at the Brooklyn arena, NeuLion’s first agreement directly with a sports facility.

The technology company, owned by New York Islanders owner Charles Wang, has leaguewide streaming deals with the NFL, NBA, NHL and the NCAA, among other sports properties.

NeuLion tested the service in December.
The new service provides a “digital ticket” for fans who do not have a ticket for a Barclays Center event to watch it on their personal computers, tablets or smartphones, said Chris Wagner, NeuLion’s executive vice president and co-founder.

There are restrictions to the service tied to the rights holders of events. Brooklyn Nets games are not available due to existing deals in place with the NBA, said league spokesman Mike Bass. Those include NBA League Pass International, powered by NeuLion, providing content to more than 200 countries outside of North America. As a result, the Nets are excluded from the arena’s deal. But for college basketball games, boxing and concerts, the arena could sign streaming deals with promoters, said Fred Mangione, the Nets’ executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

Barclays Center, run by the Nets and AEG Facilities, is responsible for signing streaming deals with rights holders. In turn, the arena would pay NeuLion a fee from the revenue it generates from those agreements, Wagner said.

The arena can select a business model that works best for the rights holder, Wagner said, whether it’s pay-per-vew, subscription, or free views supported by live commercials and sponsorships sold by the arena and the promoter.

As of last week, Barclays Center had not signed any streaming deals. Arena officials plan to wait until they have more than one event committed to using the technology before making an announcement, Mangione said. The arena, which opened in September, will play host to about 200 events, including Nets games, in its first full year.

Rather than driving revenue, the Nets see the NeuLion service as an add-on for promoters as they book events at Barclays Center. It’s also part of the arena’s marketing strategy to offer something new in its second year of operation, he said.

Some arena managers question the value of streaming live events. Concert acts determine whether content can be streamed, and many artists are against it because they feel promoting out-of-venue technology diminishes the experience for paid attendees, one facility manager said.

Others, such as Joe Ferreira, chief content officer for Learfield Sports — a company that manages sports media rights for 50 colleges, including partnerships with NeuLion at several schools — see streaming of live events continuing to escalate as more consumers turn to mobile devices as their screen of choice.

NeuLion tested the service at Barclays Center for the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational, a college basketball event in December. It was a free offer, using the arena’s video feed plus audio feeds tied to the six schools who agreed to stream game content, Wagner said.

The event was one of 40,000 live sports events NeuLion streams annually, he said. In addition to the audio feeds, viewers have the ability to choose multiple camera angles, instant replays and related content.

“It’s not just about streaming … it’s the experience we’re creating,” Wagner said.