Chance to Capital-ize on Stanley Cup
The weeklong party that erupted as soon as the Washington Capitals won their first Stanley Cup title in franchise history — the first major pro sports championship for a team in the nation’s capital in 26 years — showed no signs of slowing down when Monumental Sports Chief Commercial Officer Jim Van Stone was asked what the next few months will be like for the team.
“It’s going to be a transformational summer for us,” said Van Stone, who oversees the business operations for the team. “We felt it had already been a really great year, starting with our naming-rights partnership with Capital One [in August], but the way our market has responded during this incredible run is more than anyone could have ever predicted. Moving forward, we feel like we have an incredible opportunity.”
Much of that will come via a more than $40 million renovation of Capital One Arena that will replace all of the seats and the stadium’s sound system, redesign all of its concessions, create a new Fanatics-operated team store that will be open year-round and renovate and build several new club spaces.
That renovation will also change all static signing in the arena into LED video walls — an increase of more than 1,200 new screens — as well as create six new activation areas for partners, which will have locations for fan engagement and digital displays. The team has already sold three of those spaces on its 100 seating level, according to Van Stone, who wouldn’t disclose the partners but said that the combination of new and elevated deals will boost the team’s partnership business. He also noted that the Capitals are in the market for a non-luxury automotive partner and are further exploring the government contracting space in general.
It’s going to be a transformational summer for us. … We feel like we have an incredible opportunity.
The team’s merchandise business exploded during its run to the Stanley Cup Final, with league sources saying the Capitals were seeing upward of $500,000 in sales during home games — which is 10 times more than the regular season and equal or better than that of their championship round opponent, the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who also had per caps that were near-unprecedented for an NHL team. That momentum carried over into Washington’s championship gear, which is seeing sales increases of more than 25 percent over that of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017.
One area the Capitals do not need a boost is on the ticket sales side. Van Stone said the team is going on more than 10 years of consecutive sellouts, is sold out of full-season tickets and has a renewal rate upward of 90 percent for next season. Still, he expects the championship will drive more interest in the few remaining partial plans, as well as the group allotments the team sets aside, and in the team’s suite and premium seating. Between full and partial plans, the Capitals have more than 14,000 season-ticket holders.
Overall, Van Stone said it was still too early to estimate what winning the Stanley Cup will do for the team’s bottom line, noting that some of the effect might not be seen for several years.
“It’s tough to put an exact number on it, but it really gives us the ability to develop long-term, passionate fans; that’s where the true opportunity is,” he said. “The amount of people that I’ve come across that said they’ve always liked hockey, but this final run got them committed, has been staggering.”
To illustrate that passion, he noted that even though the clinching Game 5 was played in Las Vegas, the team estimated that 50,000 people watched it outside Capital One Arena, on top of the more than 18,000 who were inside the venue. Tens of thousands watched the team’s victory parade on June 12.
That rise of interest in the team combined with the arena renovation has also opened a new line of business that Van Stone never expected — collectibles.
“With the timing around the renovation, now there’s demand for seats that we were going to be taking out anyway, as well as any other souvenirs around the Stanley Cup Final,” he said. “Our fans just can’t get enough.”