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Volume 23 No. 1
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Dolphins boxes to offer comforts of home

The Miami Dolphins will introduce a new premium seat product at Sun Life Stadium this fall that can best be described as loge boxes on steroids.

The spacious living room boxes, part of the stadium’s two-year renovation costing more than $400 million, make up the 72 Club, named after 1972’s undefeated Dolphins squad. The club’s gold-plated amenities include optional black-car service provided by the Dolphins, thought to be a first in the NFL.

The 72 Club will feature oversized recliners and optional car service.
Rendering: COURTESY OF MIAMI DOLPHINS
The 72 Club season-ticket price is $1,875 a person per game — the Dolphins’ most expensive non-suite ticket and on par with some NBA teams’ courtside seats. The cost covers all food and drink, including beer, wine and alcohol. Buyers get exclusive access to a field-level lounge with the look and feel of Miami Beach’s SoHo House hotel.

The amenities are similar to those offered by some other teams, but it’s the design of the living room boxes themselves that stands out in an open-air stadium, with plush oversized chairs and multiple televisions flanking midfield in the lower bowl.

Designed by HOK, they serve as one of the NFL’s first outdoor loge box products, a hybrid between a club seat and a suite. Beyond the NFL, the living room boxes provide a peek at what the next generation of premium seats could look like at the highest level of sports.

Tom Garfinkel took over as Dolphins president and CEO in September 2013. Since then he’s been working closely with HOK and The Rockwell Group, the New York designer of club spaces at MetLife Stadium, to revamp the team’s premium seat program and elevate the overall game-day experience.

Over the years, Garfinkel has led upgrades to Chase Field and Petco Park in MLB. Now he’s putting his stamp on the Dolphins’ facility by re-creating a mix of premium seats heavy on smaller groups such as the living room boxes and the Kia 100 Level corner terraces, another spin on loge seating.

The Dolphins did not use other sports facilities as a model for reinventing the premium experience, Garfinkel said. It was more about what he personally would prefer as a fan and what he was hearing from Dolphins season-ticket holders, he said.

The Dolphins’ research showed that price was no object for a select group of individuals and corporations in search of the highest-quality experience available at an NFL game. The living room boxes meet their needs, Garfinkel said.

Team officials have yet to start marketing the living room boxes but feel strongly they won’t have trouble selling the new inventory.

“For these customers, it’s about the convenience — this is what they really want,” Garfinkel said. “They can have a few drinks in the club without having to worry about driving home. They’re not fighting traffic. We wanted to make it as comfortable as we can from end to end.”

Other teams have valet parking and deals with Uber but not to the extent that the Dolphins are doing to pick people up at their doorsteps, said sports consultant Bill Sutton, who has been working with the Dolphins on sales and marketing.

Garfinkel said the Dolphins are talking to three companies that have shown interest in signing a sponsorship to be their official black-car service. Whoever gets the deal will charge a separate fee for living room box holders at a deep discount per its agreement with the team, he said.

The black-car service is a key piece of the ticket package considering the challenges of driving in and out of Sun Life Stadium. For years, stadium traffic flow has been a deterrent for all fans, Garfinkel said.

As part of the facility upgrades, the Dolphins are addressing the traffic issue by building new pedestrian bridges and tunnels from parking lots to the stadium. 72 Club members using the car service and those driving their own vehicles have a private parking lane to enter and exit the stadium.

“They will have a defined parking space like the Hertz lot at the airport,” Garfinkel said. “Every club member will know where their driver is and walk out to their numbered spot after the game.”

The 32 living room boxes along the south sideline are positioned at the 35-yard lines, starting at the field wall and going back to the 100 level concourse.

The cushy recliners stretch 32 inches wide, providing a greater comfort level far surpassing the typical stadium seat that is 19 to 21 inches in width, said Bill Senn, the Dolphins’ senior vice president of stadium renovation.

Living room box holders have the option to install four TV monitors or one 32-inch screen in front of their seats to view replays and highlights and watch other NFL games and NFL RedZone. The typical arena loge box has one small screen set up on counter space.

“The way the Dolphins are packaging the amenities, it’s more than just the best seat in the house,” said Jeff Sittner, HOK’s senior designer for the project.

Sutton thinks the team has set a new benchmark for premium seating that will inevitably be copied by other NFL teams.

“I’ve sat behind home plate in Anaheim eating a steak on a table top,” said Sutton, the founding director of the sport and entertainment business management MBA at the University of South Florida. “It’s all about how teams can get you to leave your living room and sit in theirs. The chairs [in the living room boxes] are ridiculous. Everything there is wired to plug in your own device.”

The Dolphins’ living room boxes and other new premium seats are part of a post-Marlins stadium reconfiguration that brings the front row 25 feet closer to the field and adds nine new rows of seating downstairs, Senn said.

The total project, to be completed before the 2016 season and topped off next year by a new roof canopy covering 90 percent of all seats, including the living room boxes, is being privately financed by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

The improvements are key to the team’s effort to get the Super Bowl back to South Florida as well as other special events such as the College Football Playoff title game, international soccer matches and concerts, Garfinkel said.