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Volume 21 No. 2


Don Muret
The Phoenix Coyotes’ ownership situation was finally resolved last week after the NHL completed its sale of the team to IceArizona Acquisitions Co., a group headed by Canadian businessmen George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc.

In a separate deal tied to the Coyotes’ $170 million sale, facility management firm Global Spectrum takes over operations of Arena after forming a partnership with the new team owners. The city of Glendale owns the arena and signed a 15-year lease with the two parties.

Last Monday, just after the transaction was officially announced, Global Spectrum Chairman Peter Luukko discussed why it makes sense for his firm to do business with a club that the NHL bought out of bankruptcy four years ago in a nontraditional hockey market.

Global Spectrum runs University of Phoenix Stadium across the street from Jobing.Com Arena, and Luukko believes the company could assist the NHL after the league failed in several previous attempts to sell the Coyotes.
Luukko, who also serves as president and alternate governor of the Philadelphia Flyers, said he emailed NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman shortly after the commissioner gave an update on the Coyotes’ situation during a board of governors meeting June 27.

“One of our ideas was to combine some of the staff and buying power for events and there could be some synergy there,” Luukko said. “We’ve been managing University of Phoenix Stadium [which opened in 2006] and have had a lot of success there. Obviously, we think we could increase bookings.”

Bettman agreed with Luukko’s assessment and put him in touch with LeBlanc, the Coyotes’ new alternate governor and CEO. Over the next six days, Global Spectrum and IceArizona, whose Renaissance Sports and Entertainment is the team’s operating entity, hammered out a deal, four weeks before the NHL closed on the team sale Aug. 5.

Now it’s up to Global Spectrum to help the Coyotes’ new owners turn things around at the 10-year-old arena. Greater Phoenix counts two major league arenas, including, and two major league stadiums among its venues, making it a highly competitive market for concerts and other special events.

At this point, Luukko refused to disclose his company’s financial risk and the finer points of the arena management deal. Peter Sullivan, general manager of University of Phoenix Stadium, will oversee both venues.

“Having stable [team] ownership is very important,” Luukko said. “Now the marketplace knows there is a long-term agreement and it gives fans an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, this team is staying. We can support it.’”

> PELÉ PAYS: The heritage of the old New York Cosmos paid off for the new Cosmos in stadium merchandise sales.

Throwback jerseys sold well at the stadium for the Cosmos’ return.
On Aug. 3, the new version of the Cosmos played its first NASL game in 29 years in front of a sellout crowd of 11,929 at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. The retail per cap was more than $6, said Paul White, in charge of the team’s licensing, merchandising and retail development.

Doing the math, total retail sales were about $72,000.

The team and vendor Gameday Merchandising capitalized on the club’s storied history by selling throwback jerseys for Cosmos legends Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia and Carlos Alberto. Those items, priced at $90, were a huge hit, White said.

“Gameday executed beyond our expectations,” he said. “They were able to develop product and expertly merchandise the program in a relatively short period of time.”

The Cosmos and Gameday are searching for ways to add kiosks to the three temporary sales locations to meet the demand for the next home game, Aug. 24 against the San Antonio Scorpions.

The Cosmos have proposed building their own privately funded, 25,000-seat stadium on a site near Belmont Park just outside New York City. In January the Cosmos submitted a proposal to the Empire State Development Corp., a public authority, to develop the property, said Erik Stover, the team’s chief operating officer. As of last week, the development group had not selected a proposal from among the four submitted, Stover said.

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

The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed a three-year deal with Legends to run retail at EverBank Field as the team moves toward using one vendor to manage all food and merchandise operations at the facility.

Legends replaces Gameday Merchandising, which had one year remaining on its stadium contract. The Jaguars reached a financial settlement with the Denver-based firm, said Hussain Naqi, the team’s senior vice president of fan engagement.

“We had a strong partnership with Gameday, but with the introduction of our new logo we felt what Legends had to offer was compelling from a customer service standpoint,” Naqi said.

The city of Jacksonville owns EverBank Field and had to approve the retail contract, said Dan Smith, president of Legends Hospitality. The city is Legends’ client for special events at the stadium such as the annual Florida-Georgia college football game.

The Legends deal expands the relationship between the Jaguars and Legends that began in May 2012, when the NFL team hired the company’s sales division to help sell season tickets. Legends Sales & Marketing’s Chad Johnson continues filling that role this year, Naqi said.

On the concessions side, the Jaguars feel having a single stadium concessionaire puts the team in position to get “the best deal for us and our partner, both from an economic and efficiency perspective,” he said. As a result, the team issued a proposal this year to vendors working all aspects of sports food and retail (Gameday is not in the foodservice business).

In addition to Legends running the retail, Levy Restaurants manages EverBank Field’s premium dining and Ovations Food Services operates its general concessions. The Levy and Ovations deals expire after the 2015 season, and the Jaguars’ intent is to tie all three pieces of business to one company starting with the 2016 season, Naqi said.

Levy and Ovations both have experience managing team stores at sports facilities, but it is a small percentage of their business relative to food. Legends, co-owned by the Cowboys and Yankees, launched five years ago to run food and retail at their new stadiums.

From an industry perspective, retail sales for the small-market Jaguars are not on par with high-profile NFL teams such as the Cowboys, Patriots, Giants and Packers. But the club has seen a big lift in sales tied to its new logo, and NFL apparel suppliers have struggled to keep up with demand at Jacksonville retail outlets, according to local reports. For Legends, the same has held true during Jaguars training camp, where the vendor has more than doubled last year’s average sales at a tent set up next to the stadium, Smith said.

To keep the momentum going, Legends has committed to upgrading the 4,500-square-foot Experience Store on the main concourse in the stadium’s west end to improve lighting and circulation, Smith said. The company’s total investment runs in the six figures, he said.

The team store is not a year-round business, but the Jaguars plan to extend its hours of operation to Fridays on home-game weekends this season, Naqi said.

The Utah Jazz has signed a five-year deal to install Sporting Innovations’ Fan360 platform, new mobile technology designed to improve the fan experience and provide a deeper understanding of customers’ spending and social media habits.

The team’s investment runs in the high six figures, keeping in mind the Jazz caught a price break by stepping forward as the first big league team to sign a deal, said Asim Pasha, managing partner of Sporting Innovations. The tech firm is owned by MLS’s Sporting Kansas City.

The Jazz bought the technology after seeing an earlier version at Sporting Park, the soccer team’s stadium, said Craig Sanders, Jazz senior vice president of marketing.

The Jazz has the ability to take the technology one step further with Fan360, which combines a mobile application, CRM and data collection tied to ticketing and concession point-of-sale systems at EnergySolutions Arena, said Andy Tretiak, Sporting Innovations’ vice president of marketing.

Sporting Innovations, whose competitors include Willow Tree, Yinzcam, MLB Advanced Media, Kore Software and Microsoft Dynamics, among others, labels its mobile application as Uphoria.

When the Jazz activates its free app in October for the regular season, it will be branded for the NBA club and replace the team’s current app, Sanders said.

Jazz fans can download the app and join the team’s loyalty program. The technology tracks fans’ purchases of tickets and concessions through their mobile devices or through scanning their membership cards.

After the game concludes, the technology has compiled multiple points of information based on fan behavior during the game and builds upon those individual profiles as they attend more events and make more purchases, Pasha said.

In addition to pushing mobile offers on food, retail and ticket upgrades, the technology, for example, can pinpoint the time a fan tweeted a photo and the number of followers retweeting the image. The Jazz can then pursue those followers as potential sales leads, according to a tutorial on Sporting Innovations’ website.

The platform also serves as a CRM system with tools for the Jazz to aggregate information and produce marketing programs targeting groups and individuals.

The technology gives the team the information necessary to send targeted messages to individuals rather than bombarding them with mass emails, Sanders said.

“What really excited me is the relevancy in understanding the needs and requirements of what is important to the fan, from start to finish,” he said. “It helps us change our approach a little bit with a customizable program. The more they are engaged with us, the more we know what they want.”

The Fan360 platform has a mobile video element that the Jazz plans to activate later, Pasha said.

Editor's note: This story has been revised from the print edition.

As the massive renovation of Madison Square Garden draws to a close over the next 12 weeks, arena officials are introducing three new premium-seat products at the arena’s highest level.

The new lounge club seats, group hospitality lounges and Chase Bridge seats open this fall on the 10th floor as MSG officials put the finishing touches on a three-year, $980 million makeover.

New hospitality lounges will offer a new experience for groups.
Before the upgrades, the 71 suites on the 10th floor were among the worst locations for skyboxes in major league sports, and many were unsold before the renovation, sources familiar with the situation said. Now, those have been removed to make way for the following three offerings:

LOUNGE CLUB SEATS: The 68 wide, cushioned seats are situated in the center section of the east balcony, rebranded by Anheuser-Busch as the

Eighteen76 Balcony. The seats are connected to table tops with in-seat beverage service and a high-end lounge behind the section.

MSG tied the seats to partial season-ticket plans. They are sold out for New York Rangers games, sold in pairs for $115 to $120 a seat per game with no multiyear commitments required, said Dave Howard, president of MSG Sports.

MSG officials began selling the seats for Knicks games after the NBA announced the schedule for the 2013-14 season last week.

GROUP HOSPITALITY LOUNGES: Bookending the lounge club seats are six new group hospitality lounges. Each lounge has 28 fixed seats and 14 bar stools, and they can be combined into larger spaces, Howard said.

The lounges are reserved for Knicks and Rangers game packages and single-night rentals. The starting price is about $4,000 a game for Knicks and Rangers games, a cost covering tickets, food and nonalcoholic beverages.

“We do a good group business but we haven’t had a dedicated section with lounge space to mingle,” Howard said. “Before, we put groups in general seating sections and gave them as much personal attention as we could. This new product will elevate the hospitality experience.”

CHASE BRIDGE SEATS: The new Chase Bridge seating platforms have drawn the most attention in New York because of the catwalk-style design and unusual views those patrons will enjoy suspended above the crowd.

The north bridge has 355 ticketed seats. The south bridge will have 75 seats available for purchase and a portion reserved for media, Howard said.

As of last week, MSG had not announced bridge seat pricing. Because of the uniqueness of the seating product, the Garden made the decision to go through its normal season-ticket renewal process before putting the bridge seats on sale, arena officials said.

Similar to the group lounges, the bridge seats will be made available for partial ticket plans, group packages and single games. They will also be sold for concerts.

“No other arena has a seating configuration like this,” Howard said.

One level below, on the ninth floor, the 18 Signature Suites on the arena’s east side have been renovated and are starting to hit the market, he said.

MSG does not make suite pricing public, but those units cost $500,000 annually before the improvements, sources said.

The final phase of renovations extends to the arena’s front door, repackaged as Chase Square, the new two-story, glass-enclosed grand entrance on Seventh Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

The indoor space will feature a new LED video board in the ceiling that can be programmed in creative ways with Knicks and Rangers themes as well as images of the New York skyline and simulated fireworks displays, Howard said.

Southern Cal has selected Legends Hospitality to operate concessions and premium dining at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Los Angeles Sports Arena, according to industry sources.

The two venues previously ran food in-house for many years.

Legends’ multiyear deal coincides with USC’s taking over management of the two facilities in late July after signing a 98-year lease with the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission. It also ties in with the opening of a Legends West Coast office under the supervision of Shervin Mirhashemi, the company’s new president and CEO.

Legends’ first official event is a Black Sabbath concert Sept. 3 at the sports arena. The first Trojans home football game is Sept. 7 against Washington State at the coliseum.

For Legends, the USC deal is its first college sports food contract. Legends is co-owned by the Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees and the Checketts Partners Investment Fund.

— Don Muret