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Volume 21 No. 26
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Plugged In: Danny Boockvar, NFL Times Square Experience

Danny Boockvar, 46, spent years entertaining New York City tourists as CEO of New York Cruise Lines. A year ago, he shifted to run the new NFL Times Square Experience, which opened last month. A 40,000-square-foot, four-floor spectacle — think Pro Football Hall of Fame meets Disney World — the Experience is designed to engage fans and lure new ones. It boasts a 180-seat, 4-D theater featuring an NFL Films piece where it snows on the audience; interactive skills contests; and a traditional Hall of Fame display for all 32 teams. The Experience is a joint venture between Cirque du Soleil and the NFL. SportsBusiness Journal caught up with Boockvar to ask him about the new attraction.


You get snowed on, blowed on, smelled on and shaken as you experience life as a player.

Boockvar, at center.
GETTY IMAGES
What is the difference between entertainment on the waterfront and the NFL Times Square? You know I would say it is still, particularly if it’s Circle Line and the NFL, it is still a high-touch consumer services business; and making joy and memories for people. … Naturally the hero on the waterfront is the skyline, and the history of the city, and the hero at the NFL Experience is the NFL and football, and as you go from fan to player to champion. The narrative is a bit different, but to me honestly it is still just about fun and family and joy and memory making.

Who do you work for? The paycheck comes from an LLC called CDS NFL LLC. In that LLC is a partnership between the NFL and Cirque du Soleil and the investors. On a day-to-day basis I report into Cirque du Soleil; technically, they are the lead investor and manager of the project. But this is the NFL’s IP and the NFL’s brand and we are here to share the NFL with the world and develop that fan engagement, so I spend as much time with our friends at the NFL, [CMO] Dawn Hudson and the marketing team and the experiential marketing team and the consumer products team and the sponsorship team and the event team.

In New York, both the Sports Museum and ESPNZone Times Square did not succeed. Why will you? They weren’t rallied around one common theme. In this case it’s the NFL and that journey from fan to player to champion and celebrating all the NFL and the 32 clubs in one venue. … It is a 4-D theater that is more like a ride … and it’s got physical challenges, so you can actually block and throw, and that’s what I think makes it different. It’s a real blended attraction.

The $39 to $44 average price, with no child discounts, seems high: We did quite a bit of market research, we benchmarked similarly situated attractions in Times Square whether it is Circle Line, Madame Tussauds or some of the other attractions. … We have gotten the consumer feedback and past practices. We think the price is a good one.

What’s your favorite attraction? Nothing beats throwing a real football at a real target for the team that you love. But the 4-D theater pretty much is the coolest thing I have ever done and I watch it four times a day and still see something new every time. I got to say it is a tie.

— Daniel Kaplan