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Volume 21 No. 2


Don Muret
Comcast Center is breaking into show business after the University of Maryland signed a one-year deal with Global Spectrum to book special events at the 17,950-seat arena.

The agreement was driven by the school’s effort to find new ways to generate revenue for athletics and to bring more entertainment options to campus for students, Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson said.

The university as a whole also wants the arena to play a larger role in bringing the community together in College Park, Anderson said.

The deal is a revenue share between Maryland and Global Spectrum. The school projects it will receive $1 million to $1.5 million in revenue over the next 12 months from bringing seven to 10 events, mostly concerts, to Comcast Center, Anderson said.

PREPPING PEGULA: Penn State last week readied Pegula Ice Arena for its first hockey game Friday. Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula and wife Kim gave money to the university to establish men’s and women’s varsity hockey programs and build the $90 million arena.
Ticket sales will go directly to athletics and concessions income and parking fees will be split with campus partners through existing agreements, said Zack Bolno, Maryland’s senior associate athletic director of strategic communications and media relations.

Comcast Center opened in 2002 but has played host to few events outside of men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and wrestling. It’s been mostly graduations and an appearance by the Dalai Lama last May, Anderson said.

The lack of a rigging system strong enough to support touring productions was part of the issue, he said. The school spent $250,000 to $300,000 to upgrade its system.

Comcast Center is situated on Interstate 95, 30 miles south of Baltimore and 15 miles north of Washington. Verizon Center, home of the Capitals and Wizards, will still get the acts it wants, but Maryland’s arena should be a good fit for some shows, Anderson said.

Global Spectrum primarily runs facilities but it does have booking agreements at three college arenas — Southern California’s Galen Center, Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center and Bowling Green’s Stroh Center.

In addition, Global Spectrum has worked with South Carolina on concerts at Williams-Brice Stadium.

At Maryland, bookings will be handled by Brock Jones, Global Spectrum’s vice president of bookings. Doug Higgons, one of the firm’s regional vice presidents, will oversee the account.

There are options to extend the deal with Global Spectrum after the initial term expires, Anderson said.

> BINGO WINNER: The San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino has renewed its sponsorship with AEG, a five-year extension valued at $4 million to $5 million annually that now covers three AEG facilities.

The agreement expands San Manuel’s presence to StubHub Center, where the casino replaces Farmers Insurance as a founding partner, said Bill Pedigo, senior vice president for AEG Global Partnerships.

The decision by Farmers to exit as a founding partner has no bearing on the company’s naming-rights deal for Farmers Field, the NFL stadium that AEG proposes to build across the street from Staples Center, AEG spokesman Michael Roth said.

At StubHub Center, San Manuel also becomes a new sponsor of the Los Angeles Galaxy. As part of San Manuel’s activation at the multisport complex in Carson, Calif., AEG is developing a San Manuel-branded bar that’s under construction, Pedigo said.

The casino receives hospitality and exposure on the field-level LED boards and billboard space on every major freeway in Los Angeles.

It will continue to hold naming rights for the San Manuel Club, a premium club on the suite level undergoing a partial retrofit at Staples Center.

The deal extends its partnerships with the Los Angeles Kings and with Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif., 40 miles east of Los Angeles. The minor league facility, run by AEG, is home to the ECHL’s Ontario Reign, a Kings affiliate.

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

Vulcan Sports & Entertainment, owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders, is at the top of its game right now.

Some pundits view the Seahawks as a Super Bowl contender. On the business side, Peter McLoughlin, in his fourth year as Vulcan’s CEO and the Seahawks’ president, has led upgrades at CenturyLink Field to meet the demands of 62,000 season-ticket holders, an all-time high.

The Experience Music Project Suite salutes local guitar hero Hendrix.
This year, Vulcan Sports expanded the stadium’s team store at ground level to 7,400 square feet, more than doubling the size of the old layout. Merchandise sales are up 25 percent over last year for the operation, which is run in-house.

On days when the Seahawks are playing, 70 percent of the displays are decked out in the NFL team’s gear, including quarterback Russell Wilson’s jersey, now the league’s third-biggest seller, according to The remaining 30 percent is Sounders stuff.

On Sounders match days and nonevent days, the retail mix is 50/50, McLoughlin said.

“The biggest difference was, in the old store, we had eight points of sale with a fixed cash register,” he said. “Lines were 40 to 60 deep. Now we have 32 points of sale, the same eight permanent ones but now we have 24 handheld devices that take credit cards. It’s much better.”

Delaware North Sportservice is the new food provider at CenturyLink Field, and as part of its first year of operation, all concession stands have new digital menu boards.

For Sounders games, the boards’ technology enables Sportservice to run some food and drink discounts before matches and adjust prices to their normal levels during the game, McLoughlin said. Harris Corp. produced the digital screens.

In other stadium upgrades, Sportservice runs the new Brougham Beer Hall, a 175-seat public destination on the south side of the main concourse. The team and the vendor converted dead space into a bar and restaurant tied to a menu heavy on microbrews and German sausages.

The beer hall is a convenient gathering place for the Emerald City Supporters, the group of Sounders fans that occupies the stadium’s south end. The retrofit is named for the late Royal Brougham, a Seattle sportswriter for 68 years.

The stadium’s 107 suites reserved for long-term deals are sold out, including 12 Red Zone Suites in the north end zone.

Those suites, the first version of field-level premium seats in the NFL, sold for $80,000 a season when CenturyLink field opened in 2002. Eleven years later, the range is $125,000 to $140,000 a year for Seahawks games only, McLoughlin said. Sounders games are a separate charge.

The Experience Music Project Suite on the stadium’s north side is also new this season. Vulcan Sports took a single-game rental unit and themed it after the EMP Museum, the music history museum in town that Vulcan Sports’ Paul Allen founded.

The suite’s walls contain vintage photographs of rock guitar god Jimi Hendrix, a Seattle native and one of Allen’s heroes. A portion of one wall is adorned with the same shiny metallic material that is on the museum’s exterior.

The suite rents for $15,000 to $20,000 a game for Seahawks games, plus food and beverage. The museum gets the use of the suite for one game a season, which it auctions for charity, McLoughlin said.

“We’re all part of the same oversight company in Vulcan,” he said. “We want to help promote one another.”

Future improvements to CenturyLink Field could potentially include an all-inclusive club at field level.

“You wouldn’t be able to stand there during the game, but you could see warmups.,” McLoughlin said. “We’re being creative about how we can develop new products and amenities to drive incremental revenue.”

All Husky Stadium photos by: KAREN DUCEY

Three years ago, before renovations at Husky Stadium, concession stands were outside the building, exposed to the weather. And this being Seattle, “weather” means considerable helpings of rain.

But early in the Arizona-Washington football game late last month, when a mini-typhoon blew in and disrupted hearty fans accustomed to a kinder, gentler downpour, the renovated stadium provided them space to duck the high winds, dry off a bit and slurp down some Ivar’s clam chowder before returning to their seats.

“We would normally be soaking wet on the old concourse getting popcorn out there,” said Chip Lydum, the University of Washington’s associate athletic director of operations and capital projects. “Now, it’s under cover.”

ABOVE: The Touchdown Terrace supports 20 patio suites at field level in the east end zone.
BELOW: Dawg Bites stands are open on all sides, a design encouraging interaction.
Moving everything inside and making “the stadium itself the edge of the experience,” Lydum said, was a key piece of the $280 million project to improve the 93-year-old stadium, where capacity stands at 70,138.

Once, stadium staff took tickets in the parking lot, whose perimeter had been surrounded by barbed wire and chain-link fencing. Some welcome mat. Now the fencing is gone, liberating a stadium perched in one of the most beautiful settings in sports, on Lake Washington with views to the Cascade and Olympic mountains.

Fans walk right up to the stadium doors and get their tickets scanned for their seats, now much closer to the field after the running track was removed. The retrofit ratchets up the crowd’s roar at what was already one of college football’s loudest stadiums.

At the west end, students pass through their own exclusive gate marked by the statue of a husky dog. They have their own concession stands, Dawg Bites, adorned with photos they submitted of themselves. Students can approach the stands from all four sides, the function of a design encouraging social interaction.

The 7,210 bench seats in the Dawg Pack, their section in the lower bowl of the west end, face HuskyVision, the high-def video board stretching more than 100 feet wide.

Those amenities were added after UW students and school officials reached a compromise over the relocation of student seating, Lydum said.

“Students used to sit at midfield, but to pay for the stadium, they were moved to the end zone to [market] the 50-yard line,” he said. “It wasn’t easily done because they are passionate about their experience. But there was good dialogue with our department and the administration.”

Other college stadiums recognize their student fan base, but UW went the extra mile to meet their needs in the west end, said Brad Schrock, a senior principal with 360 Architecture, Husky Stadium’s architect.

“The kids own it,” Schrock said.

The first 41 patio suites, built along the sidelines, were the first new premium seats to sell out.
The stadium’s theme revolves around the legacy of Washington football displayed on the concourse walls. The 16 greatest moments in Husky football history are celebrated through images framed in native pine. Visitors are reminded of UW’s tradition of producing top quarterbacks such as Sonny Sixkiller and Warren Moon. The look and feel is reminiscent of TCF Bank Stadium, the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ 4-year-old facility, which honors its football greats with concourse banners. Washington used that stadium as one model for upgrading Husky Stadium.
Club Husky supports most of the stadium’s new premium seating.

“I think we struck the right balance between the traditional University of Washington spirit and modern amenities the fans demand,” Athletic Director Scott Woodward said.

The school’s goal was to brand the stadium appropriately with the right amount of corporate and philanthropic resources without going over the top, Lydum said.

“The culture in Seattle is different than the rest of the country,” he said. “We settled on a term called Northwest sensibility. It’s not Las Vegas.”

To Lydum’s point, branded pillars tastefully showcase corporate partners such as Coke Zero and UW Medicine, whose orthopedic unit leases space from the university to operate a new 30,000-square-foot medical clinic beneath the stadium. The clinic is open to the public five days a week.

The natural wood finishes extend to above the seating bowl entrances, highlighted by the block “W.” The seating bowl itself has a clean look with no fixed signs. It comes alive on game days through digital ads on the main video screen, corner boards and LED ribbon boards.

Scoreboard maker Daktronics and technology firm Harris Corp. teamed to produce an IPTV system connected to the stadium’s 700-plus television monitors that has the flexibility to show commercials, change menu prices and update game statistics in the press box.

“It was a massive part of this project,” Lydum said. “Coming in, we underestimated the technology investment in every way, financially and as far as performance. It was much more robust than we thought. We felt we better get there … just to be relevant and modern.”

The subtle branding extends to the new premium seats on the stadium’s south side, which was torn down and rebuilt. Lexus sponsors Club Husky, the lounge supporting 2,500 club seats, 27 suites and 41 patio suites, Washington’s version of loge boxes.

The Lexus sponsorship, a five-year agreement, is valued at about $400,000 annually, a deal that covers football inventory in addition to the club lounge, said Jen Cohen, senior associate

athletic director in charge of development.

Toyota has branding in the Touchdown Terrace, the lounge supporting 20 patio suites at field level behind the stadium’s east end zone. The same is true for Cobalt Mortgage on the suite level. Miller Lite and Seattle-based Redhook have signs above Club Husky bars.

IMG College, the school’s multimedia rights holder, brokered the agreements.

The name Husky Stadium stays intact. An attempt to sell naming rights to the field fell through after school officials could not reach an agreement with a company to pay $1.5 million a year. The school could still sell those rights,

but at this time it is not actively marketing them, Cohen said.

Twenty-two of the 27 new suites are sold for three- and five-year contracts, she said. The suites are priced at $60,000 annually, plus the cost of tickets and food and drink. The five remaining suites are sold for individual games. All suites have 18 seats and room for six guests.

The club seats and patio suites on the south side and the east end zone are sold out with waiting lists, she said. Club seats are tied to annual donations of $1,500 to $1,950 a seat depending on location. Season tickets, priced at $499, are a separate fee.

The patio suites — with circular tables, four chairs and a small television — are outdoors and have roof cover. The cost is $10,000 to $15,000 a year on top of season tickets. They are Husky Stadium’s version of loge boxes at Minnesota and Oregon State’s Reser Stadium, Lydum said.

The 41 patio suites were the first new premium seats to go to market and first to sell out, leading to Washington’s decision to add more patio suites at field level in the east end. The 20 additional units, which have their own dedicated lounge, hit the market in February and sold out in six weeks, Cohen said.

The field-level premium seats call to mind the Red Zone Suites at CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks and the NFL stadium that introduced the concept when it opened in 2002.

Elsewhere, patio suites are part of new stadiums 360 is designing for the San Jose Earthquakes and Atlanta Falcons, Schrock said. “It’s the idea that when you’re in a suite you’re not really watching the game,” he said. “These are loungy and they’ve really become popular.”

All told, the renovation, built by Turner Construction, has pushed Husky Stadium, a facility built in the same era as Fenway Park and Wrigley Field  to a higher level.

“This is a mindblower … we’re almost in another stratosphere,” Lydum said.

The Class AAA International League’s Charlotte Knights last week announced that Toshiba will supply the video boards and concourse displays at the team’s BB&T Ballpark, which is scheduled to open in April.

The total video package is valued at about $3 million, Knights general manager Dan Rajkowski said. The primary video board in left field — 30 feet tall and 82 feet long — will be the widest screen in Minor League Baseball, he said. A smaller screen attached to the ballpark’s exterior will face new Romare Bearden Park to promote nonballpark events. Toshiba has several major league clients, but the Knights represent the company’s first minor league sports account.

Toshiba also signed a sponsorship with the Knights covering primarily hospitality with use of a suite. TSE, a software consultant, is designing the video board control room and is Toshiba’s partner on the project.

On a Friday night in late September, the margaritas were flowing at Edgar’s Cantina and the kitchen was backed up with orders for carne asada tacos.

This is no ordinary Mexican restaurant in Seattle. Edgar’s, tucked in the left-field corner at Safeco Field, opened this past season. It is the newest addition to The ’Pen, the revamped outfield concessions space that first opened three years ago at the Mariners’ ballpark.

The outfield is “in” at the home of the Mariners.
The ’Pen is one of the liveliest social scenes in Major League Baseball, and Edgar’s is at the heart of the action, though having dinner there comes with its own risks. Come first pitch, the batting practice net comes down in front of the cantina’s home run porch and diners must be alert for dingers splashing in their salsa. Sometimes, the net makes no difference and hard-hit BP balls crash the party, to the delight of those arriving early to observe the pregame ritual.

The retrofit has paid off handsomely for the Mariners, concessionaire Centerplate and local chef Ethan Stowell, the culinary expert behind Edgar’s Cantina. For 2013, there was a 42 percent increase in per caps at The ’Pen over last year, primarily because of the addition of Edgar’s, said Rebecca Hale, a team spokeswoman.

Two years ago, the first year for The ’Pen, per caps jumped 87 percent before a modest 10 percent increase last year. The old layout, called the Bullpen Market, was a dark, unwelcoming place, said Scott Jenkins, the Mariners’ vice president of ballpark operations.

On this final Friday of the regular season, the Mariners lost their 90th game a few hours after Eric Wedge announced he would not return as the team’s manager in 2014. The ballpark was half-full, but it was Fan Appreciation Weekend on top of College Night ($5 beers and a DJ) and there was a whiff of celebration in the air. Felix Hernandez, the club’s star pitcher, made his final home appearance of the year, and a section of his loyal rooters wore yellow “King Felix” T-shirts and flashed K cards for every one of his strikeouts.

Many in the crowd of 23,014 headed for The ’Pen, open to all ticket holders, to hang at Edgar’s or stand at a drink rail adjacent to the bullpens. Some were oblivious to the game, texting and flirting at the field-level space. In the visitors’ bullpen, an A’s pitcher came over to greet a toddler.

Safeco’s recent upgrades extend to a public fireplace in right field, a new wine bar on the main concourse and MLB’s biggest video board, which debuted in April.

A new cellphone charging station in The ’Pen co-branded for the Mariners and MLB’s mobile applications was installed during the final homestand.

Next summer, Safeco Field turns 15 years old after opening midseason in 1999. The Mariners run the only stadium with a roof in rainy Seattle and the machinery operating the retractable structure is rusty and needs repairs. The team has hired Skanska, the same construction firm that built MetLife Stadium, to replace the wheel assemblies on the roof, Jenkins said. The first 16 of the 128 wheels will be replaced this offseason for a project that will last eight years.

The Mariners will pay the $8 million total cost of the project and be reimbursed by the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District, the trust leasing the ballpark to the team, Jenkins said.