NHL shifts focus to ’15 Stadium Series
According to a league source, with one game still to come, the four games of the series are expected to bring in more than $50 million in revenue, derived primarily from ticket and sponsorship sales. Those results have the league thinking big again for 2015, with a version of the series that could include a game at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.
All four games of the inaugural Stadium Series — the two played last week at Yankee Stadium, the one on Jan. 25 at Dodger Stadium, and the one still to come at Soldier Field (March 1) — were sold to capacity. Those 220,000 tickets distributed resulted in more than $40 million in revenue. The average ticket price for the Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium games was $195; the average price for a seat at Soldier Field is $180. As is the norm for events like these, some complimentary tickets were provided for some of the participants, business partners and other guests.
Another $10 million-plus of the revenue sum draws from sponsorships and other business, with that sponsorship figure including revenue from companies not on board at the league level as sponsors but paying for a presence at the series games.
As for expenses, the estimated cost to produce the four games, according to an industry source, is $35 million. The result is a profit that’s in the millions for the league. That amount comes on top of the profitable Jan. 1 Winter Classic and with the additional Tim Hortons Heritage Classic outdoor game in Vancouver still ahead (March 2) as well. Also significant, of course, is the media exposure the NHL received last week in Los Angeles and New York and undoubtedly will receive when the series moves to Chicago next month.
So where does the NHL turn for Stadium Series II?
|Dodger Stadium (above) and Yankee Stadium produced an average ticket price of $195.
According to NHL sources, the league’s outdoor schedule for next season is likely to consist of the already-announced Winter Classic in Washington, D.C., plus three or four games that will make up the Stadium Series. Hockey-mad Minnesota is a favorite to host one of the games, at either 40,000-seat Target Field, the Minnesota Twins’ ballpark, or 50,000-seat TCF Bank Stadium, which is home to University of Minnesota football and a facility that attracted 45,000 fans for a Minnesota-Ohio State college hockey game on Jan. 17. Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold has been pitching the league to host a Winter Classic game but is said to welcome a Stadium Series game in the interim.
After the success of the Dodger Stadium game, the NHL also is considering heading north in California for a San Jose Sharks-hosted game. AT&T Park, the San Francisco Giants’ 40,000-seat home, is viewed as the most scenic option by the league.
Denver is under consideration for a stadium game, as well. Greg Feasel, chief operating officer of the Colorado Rockies, said the club has had several conversations with officials from the NHL and the Colorado Avalanche, as well as with MillerCoors representatives, about potentially hosting a game at Coors Field.
“The stars are kind of aligning,” Feasel said about bringing a game to the Rockies’ home ballpark. “Coors sponsors the Stadium Series, so it’s a natural fit for us, and we would love to do it at the ballpark.”
Coors Light’s title sponsorship of the Stadium Series continues beyond this year; it’s part of the brand’s seven-year, $375 million sponsorship signed with the league in 2011.
The Rockies sent Kevin Kahn, the team’s vice president of ballpark operations, to Los Angeles to observe the Kings-Ducks game.
“We needed a senior person to go out there,” Feasel said. “He shadowed his counterparts [at the Dodgers] and was there from start to finish.”
Fulfilling the need for a major market after this year’s games in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, a Gillette Stadium game between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens also has been discussed. As was demonstrated by the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich., between rival franchises across the U.S.-Canada border (Detroit and Toronto), an Original Six matchup with the Bruins and Canadiens at the 68,000-seat NFL stadium could be a box office and television ratings bonanza for the NHL.
■ RED EYE TO THE RED LINE: In order to get many of its top executives, partners and broadcasters from Los Angeles to New York for the Sunday afternoon game, the NHL chartered an aircraft. In addition to NHL personnel (including Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and COO John Collins), the guest list included CNN talk show host George Stroumboulopoulos; Joel Darling, “Hockey Night in Canada” executive producer; Jon Miller, NBC Sports president of programming; and Adam Dettman, MillerCoors director of sports and entertainment marketing.
“There was a real espirit de corps over those two days,” said Brian Jennings, NHL senior vice president and chief marketing officer, who also was on the aircraft. “We landed in Newark at 8:30 in the morning, everyone went home or to their hotels for a quick clean-up, and then everyone was in Yankee Stadium a little bit later. It was crazy and busy, but also a lot of fun.”
|Devils Arena Entertainment exec Hugh Weber rode in one of 16 buses taking Devils fans from Prudential Center to Yankee Stadium.
“We knew that a lot of our fans wanted to be with each other for the journey,” said Weber, who joined the Devils last summer (when Josh Harris and David Blitzer purchased the club) after serving as president of the New Orleans Hornets. “We didn’t make money off it. We just wanted to provide a good time for our fans.”
With plenty of tickets and sponsorships left to sell, Weber has been ultra-accessible to fans. He hands out his business card to many fans that he meets and invites them to call his cellphone if he can assist them.
“We have to be accessible,” Weber said. “We’re here for the fans. We also have to convert more people into hockey fans. It’s a privilege to do what we do. If we don’t have the fans completely on board with us, we’re dead.”
■ SCENE & HEARD: Among the industry executives who attended the Rangers-Islanders game at Yankee Stadium: HBO Sports President Ken Hershman; Mark Lerner, Washington Nationals owner and Monumental Sports and Entertainment partner (Nationals Park is the top candidate to host the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic); TBS President David Levy; Randy Freer, Fox Networks Group president and COO; Bruce Campbell, Discovery chief development officer and general counsel; and Condé Nast President Robert Sauerberg. MLS Commissioner Don Garber attended the Rangers-Devils game on Sunday, while former Fox Sports executive Ed Goren, CAA Managing Partner David O’Connor and Genesco Sports Enterprises CEO John Tatum were among the executives at the Dodger Stadium game.
AEG President and CEO Dan Beckerman walked the grounds of Dodger Stadium on game day beginning at 10:30 a.m., taking a seat in the last row of the upper deck near the right-field foul pole. “I wanted to experience everything for myself, including the sight lines,” he said. “When I was in the top row, I could see all the fans already lined up outside in the activation space, having a great time. The entire day was awe-inspiring. It was a testament to the work of the league and to what hockey has become in Southern California.”
Staff writer Don Muret contributed to this report.