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Volume 21 No. 6

Facilities

The $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, Calif., is expected to open in 2020.
Photo by: LOS ANGELES RAMS
The next generation of stadium preview centers sits in “Silicon Beach,” the high-tech community of Playa Vista in Greater Los Angeles. It’s where the Rams and Chargers display their vision for the most expensive sports development in North America.

The L.A. Stadium Premiere Center officially opened last Thursday with dozens of appointments for suite sales, and the Rams, privately funding the $2.6 billion stadium, gave SportsBusiness Journal a sneak peek at the Premiere Center prior to this week’s big reveal.

Photo by: JEFF LEWIS
Given the massive scope of the stadium and mixed-use district next door, a total project spanning 300 acres, developers faced the challenge of delivering the right message to potential stakeholders, whether they’re looking to buy premium seats, purchase naming rights and founding partnerships, or lease space tied to the retail and entertainment components next door.

Photo by: HIRO UENO
“We needed to make sure we were building something that showcased [Rams owner] Stan Kroenke’s vision for the entirety of the project,” said Chris Hibbs, chief revenue officer for Legends Global Sales, the agency marketing the L.A. Stadium and Entertainment District. “It’s very much a showcase for a transformational project across
Photo by: HIRO UENO
the L.A. region.”

Playa Vista, a hotbed for tech firms and startups, is seen as the perfect location, considering “technology is a thread that runs through everything we’re doing,” Hibbs said.

Situated on the fourth floor at the top of a building owned by tech firm Belkin International, the Premiere Center is about a 15-minute drive from the

Technology plays a key role in the new stadium premiere center, where the various features and inventory are on display. One highlight is a large model (top) that showcases the stadium and mixed-use district. Overhead projectors bring the model to life.
Photo by: JEFF LEWIS
stadium site in Inglewood and an even shorter distance from Los Angeles International Airport.

Technology plays a key role in telling the story, but it’s the touches of California flair that distinguish this project from preview centers built for the Vikings, Falcons, Dolphins and Cowboys. The ocean-wave-themed reception desk greeting visitors in the lobby on the ground floor, the open-air “discussion rooms” framed by white noise “curtains” keeping those talks private, and the outdoor deck and hospitality space facing the city that concludes the journey all brand the center with a hip, leisurely SoCal decor.

Considering the stadium doesn’t open for another three years, flexibility was a key component for the Premiere Center, which the Rams plan to operate through the opening of the NFL facility in 2020. The cost to build the Premiere Center was in the mid-seven figures, sources said.

With a heavy emphasis on digital messaging, the images and story lines can be adjusted as the stadium and mixed-use district take shape, officials said.

L.A. Stadium Premiere Center

Location: Belkin headquarters in Playa Vista, about five miles northwest of Inglewood
 Cost: Mid-seven figures
 Square footage: 20,000, including separate room for sales staff 
 Project team: Legends Global Sales, Advent, HKS, The Famous Group, RCI Builders
 Total digital elements: 52 screens, 108 million pixels of digital “real estate,” 3.2 miles of data cable
 The Suite Experience: IOMedia Virtual Venue technology, screens process 2.3 billion pixels per second
 Video tunnel: 20 screens, higher resolution than Imax
 Stadium/mixed use district model: 1,200 square feet with 12 overhead projectors

Sources: SBJ research, L.A. Rams

“The story, and the media, has to be flexible because technology and the way people consume entertainment is going to evolve,” said John Roberson, CEO of Advent, the Premiere Center’s designer.

Inside the facility, the color scheme of blue, white and steel mostly matches the hues of Rams and Chargers uniforms. After checking in at the wave desk on the ground floor, the tour starts upstairs, where visitors getting off the elevator are greeted by frosted glass doors etched with the words L.A. Stadium. Those doors open to reveal the “tunnel room,” an immersive experience featuring a curved video wall with customized content.

Depending on one’s interests, the images can be team specific, cover both teams or tell a much broader story about the entire project, Hibbs said. Visitors then pass through a second set of frosted glass doors into a room showcasing a large white model of both the stadium and the mixed-use district. At waist high, the structure allows patrons to walk through a pathway carved in the middle of the model, splitting the stadium from the district. It’s something new in preview centers. Typically, stadium models are smaller and static. In L.A., with the touch of a button, the dozen overhead projectors bring the model to life, displaying images of players on the field, roadway traffic, even planes landing at nearby LAX.

The sales process started last week with Legends marketing the first 125 suites jointly sold for both teams. Those suites, designed in four distinct styles, sell for $300,000 to $800,000 a year, starting with 10-year terms.

All told, the stadium will hold 260-plus suites with seven distinct designs. With such a large number of suites, it made greater sense to fold it all into one digital message inside the Suite Experience, a circular-shaped room with four cushy seats and a floor-to-ceiling video screen.

It’s not a mock suite. Instead, using IOMedia’s Virtual Venue touch-screen system, Legends can take prospective buyers through every piece of suite inventory on the life-size screen.

The patio room, the final piece of the tour at the back of the Premiere Center, replicates the indoor/outdoor design of the stadium’s patio suites that spill outdoors in Inglewood. The indoor portion features a video wall displaying a live feed of the construction site. Walking outdoors, visitors take in mountain views and the city itself, and the deck can comfortably fit 100 people for meetings and receptions.

“There are a lot of spaces in the stadium where you’ll seamlessly walk from inside your club, lounge or concourse and all of a sudden you’ll be outside,” Hibbs said.

Cali style.

The Seattle Seahawks and Utah Jazz have both undergone a seismic shift in food service, arriving at opposite ends of the operational spectrum.

Fifteen years after the Seahawks opened CenturyLink Field in 2002, the team made the plunge to go in-house with food and drink. The Seahawks formed a new company, First & Goal Hospitality, to run concessions and premium dining at their stadium.

The Jazz veered in the other direction, signing a joint venture with Levy to run the food at Vivint Smart Home Arena starting this fall. The deal with the Chicago concessionaire ends a nearly 25-year run during which the Jazz self-operated food under the old All-Star Catering.

A $125 million renovation to Vivint Smart Home Arena encouraged the Utah Jazz to bring in Levy as the food operator. 
UTAH JAZZ
The Jazz like the analytic insights Levy can bring to the table.
UTAH JAZZ
For both teams, regardless of the business model, the bottom line is to maintain control over the second-highest revenue stream behind ticket sales, improve the quality of food service, and meet the demand for more local flavors, said officials from the two clubs.

Teams are pushing for greater input into concessions and suite catering, said food consultant John Sergi, who worked with the Jazz to select a vendor.

“The best food experiences come from ownership being highly involved,” Sergi said. “The complexity of trying to deliver that experience to meet the demands of today’s fan has changed rapidly over the last five years, and it requires everything a team knows to meld it all together.”

In Seattle, First & Goal Hospitality, named for First & Goal Inc., parent company of the Seahawks and Sounders, launched in March at the start of the MLS season. Four months into the new operation, the new vendor now has the flexibility and freedom to experiment with new dishes, said Peter McLoughlin, president of the Seahawks.

“You don’t have to negotiate with a third party to say we’ve got some new ideas we’d like to try,” he said. “Not that we necessarily met resistance in the past, but now we can make decisions in real time, on the fly. We have much greater touch points directly with our customer.”

For the Seahawks, the expenses tied to forming a food service company are basically a wash compared with their old deals with Levy and most recently Delaware North Sportservice, the two vendors they used since McLoughlin was named president in 2010. Under those two agreements, First & Goal Inc. covered food and labor costs and paid the concessionaires a management fee, he said.

As a result, startup fees were “zero,” McLoughlin said. The management team of 15 full-timers were already on the teams’ payroll, whether they worked for the Seahawks or the previous vendors. In addition, First & Goal Hospitality rehired most part-timers from the old regime.

“We looked at the expenses as ‘net neutral,’” he said. “We generate a lot of revenue from our food and beverage operation, which provides a reasonable profit for us and we’ll continue to do that.”

McLoughlin would not disclose food revenue figures. But he said the stadium complex books about 150 events a year between the two teams, concerts, corporate events such as the recent two-day Amazon conference for 32,000 employees, and trade shows filling the exhibit hall next door.

The Seattle Seahawks brought food service in house to gain more control.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
“We’ve had a lot of success managing the two teams’ business, so we really like our chances of being successful in the food business,” he said.

First & Goal Inc. made the decision to go in-house midway through 2016 and made some moves toward that end last year, which included forming a partnership with local steakhouse operator John Howie as part of upgrading the club level. Doing their research, the Seahawks spoke with the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots and Vancouver Canucks, all of whom run food in-house at their facilities. McLoughlin said their feedback was unanimous in that “the teams that are doing it [themselves] would never go back to not doing it, for all the reasons we stated.”

First & Goal Hospitality has three seasoned executives in charge: David Young, the stadium’s vice president and general manager; Zach Hensley, the facility’s vice president of venue operations and guest experience, and Centerplate’s old general manager at Levi’s Stadium; and Dawn Wheeler, managing director of hospitality, who previously worked at the stadium complex for both Sportservice and Aramark. On his own, Young worked at Disney World before getting into stadium operations.

“We have three highly skilled, professional people who are managing the business day to day which allows us to hire and train people with a heavy emphasis on customer service and quality,” McLoughlin said.

In Salt Lake City, the arena’s $125 million renovation played a key role in the Jazz’s decision to bring in Levy as the food operator after issuing a proposal to multiple vendors, said Jim Olson, the team’s chief operating officer. The ability to tap into E15, Levy’s analytics group, was another driving factor, Olson said.

Last month, the Jazz announced the move, teaming with Levy to brand the business locally as Salted Honey Hospitality. The name reflects two natural resources in the region plus the Salt Lake City Bees, the minor league baseball team owned by Larry H. Miller Entertainment, owner of the Jazz.

The deal extends to Smith’s Ballpark, home of the Bees, where Levy-owned Professional Sports Catering runs the food, and the Tour of Utah professional bike race, where Levy took over the catering deal. Olson would not discuss specifics of Levy’s overall agreement.

The teams are also hoping for more flexibility when it comes to trying new concepts.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
The makeover of the 26-year-old arena encompasses several new concession stand concepts, including local barbecue, pizza and Mexican brands, some of which the Jazz brought into the building last season and worked into Levy’s agreement moving forward, Olson said.

The renovations, designed by Brisbin Brook Beynon/Stadium Consultants International, “kick-started” the process for hiring a third-party vendor, he said, but the Jazz also felt there was real value in getting to know best practices across Levy’s 20-plus NBA accounts.

The move brings “more depth and bench support” to the Jazz, plus Levy’s comprehensive data program, Sergi said.

Having that knowledge and support in hand from other NBA markets was something the Jazz missed during all those years of running food on their own, according to Olson.

“It’s your operation, you’re calling the shots and making the decisions,” he said. “There’s some control there, but I think you lose the ability to tap into expertise and best practices.”