Premium seating: Industry perspective
WHAT ARE THE TRENDS?
Dan Meis: People are far less interested in being secluded in the traditional suite with rows of fixed seating in front of a mostly enclosed “box.” We are designing premium areas with a much more communal experience with different types of free seating, stand-up tables and often open loge concepts out in the bowl itself. There is also a huge trend in courtside/pitchside boxes across all sports. While not considered the best viewing perspective, these fans value the exclusivity, proximity to the game and connection to the players through pitch-level clubs and boxes.
Chris Giles: I’m most interested in flexibility. Are teams offering their highest-value clients the ability to move across premium products and move in and out of games?
Dan Meis, managing principal, Meis architects
Chris Giles, COO, Oakland A’s
Anthony Jones-DeBerry, vice president of premium seating, Portland Trail Blazers
Gerardo Prado, sports group director, HNTB
Jake Reid, president and CEO, Sporting KC
Lonny Sweet, CEO, The Connect Group
Ryan Gedney, senior principal, HOK Sports + Recreation + Entertainment
Scott Rovn, vice president of sales and marketing, ISM Raceway
Kevin Camper, senior vice president, Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Anthony Jones-DeBerry: There definitely seems to be a move toward both smaller spaces, i.e. theater boxes, as well as more quarter and half-shares of leased products. It seems consumers are looking for more “bite-sized” ways to entertain as opposed to spending all of their entertainment dollars in the same place. From a food and beverages standpoint, local and sustainable food and drink options seems to be the hottest currently.
Gerardo Prado: We see three categories that are being expanded in the future: inside the venue, outside the venue and virtual. Fans have greater access than ever before to stats and team info through their mobile devices. The fan experience is expanding to a multiday experience with hotels, bar districts, retail and residential complexes being developed around the venue hub. All of these spaces ultimately drive team revenue and bring people out from their in-home theaters to join in the fun. The thought that you can control your experience with your fingertips is only progressing to develop the ultimate fan experience.
Jake Reid: Variety in premium seating is key, as no one size fits all. Stadiums need to provide a mix of all-inclusive spaces, a la carte areas, standard suites and more intimate premium options, such as terraces, table tops and small-group VIP spots. Premium VIP seating continues to be extremely popular, as does fieldside and courtside seating. Food and beverage has become more important than ever for fans seeking a premium experience. They want high quality, locally sourced food from local chefs, and plenty of variety. We would recommend a high percentage of premium seating within any new building. Children’s Mercy Park currently sits at around 20 percent premium, and we wish we had more.
WHAT ARE THE AMENITIES?
Lonny Sweet: Not only do I think access to better ingredients, chef-driven restaurants and exclusive areas are important during the games, but how and what you can offer a premium-seat holder on non-game-days has become an important part of the overall relationships teams have with their premium-seat customers. Be that celebrity chef/athlete experiences during the offseason, access to cultural destinations/restaurants or fan club-type engagements, teams are doing a better job of thinking about how they can engage with their premium-seat holders year round.
Ryan Gedney: Mobility and choice will continue to shape the fan experience. Perhaps during a single event, a spectator may be able to experience the event from four or five different locations because of innovations in how tickets are sold and premium is packaged.
Prado: In-seat ordering and local restaurant involvement has elevated the food service experience. Bringing in top-tier chefs for customized menu options is drawing in more diverse appetites and furthering the range of price points for all fans. We are implementing more self-serve food and beverage concessions that cut wait time and are easier on the capital investor.
Meis: The premium customer is often younger and far more savvy about exclusive experiences than in past generations. The premium experience has to compare well to a high-end experience in a great hotel, restaurant or club with unique, authentic food, high-end liquors, craft beers, etc. Same for access to unique/authentic team merchandise. They consume not only the game/event they are attending but are often following other games/events/social media across several platforms. Connectivity and technology is critical. While a bit harder to define, a clear “cool” factor is critical. The days of leather club chairs and a photo of a player on the suite wall doesn’t cut it any more.
DeBerry: The Portland market is unique and doesn’t respond very well to cookie-cutter approaches to most anything. For that reason, we lean toward more individual, custom amenities tied to our Pacific Northwest culture.
WHAT’S THE FUTURE?
Gedney: The technology shaping the way we communicate and engage with one another and an event will have the most radical impact on the sports and entertainment experience. If the smart phone is replaced with the next type of technology, we’ll be designing premium spaces to embrace that. I anticipate premium seating will have digital offerings that are sold as part of the experience — perhaps you’re sitting in a loge box but are able to “upgrade” to a virtual seat on stage using VR. There will be this blending of the real and virtual environments, allowing fans to interact with athletes and artists in new ways.
Reid: We don’t envision the product offering to change very much. Suites are still commonly used and very well-liked by team partners and other companies. Premium clubs and fieldside/courtside seating remain in high demand, even if it’s a smaller offering of four- to eight-seat boxes or tables. Having said that, the experience and expectation level of what comes with these products will continue to evolve. Food and drink variety — ranging from decadent and indulgent to healthy and organic — will continue to become more and more important. Utilizing technology to enhance this experience will be instrumental in the coming years. Can you view the team walkout from a player’s perspective from your seat wearing a VR headset? Can you choose one of the stadium cameras as your live feed? These are the things that will continue to differentiate and enrich the experience for fans.
Scott Rovn: Premium seating will continue to bring fans closer to the action than ever before. Whether it’s through increased access, advanced technology or an elevated social experience, fans will have more unique opportunities to connect with their favorite sport.
Kevin Camper: Total buy-in options should abound where you purchase a package at any level from personal pickup at home to helicopter to the event and back with all the bells and whistles included, with very communal areas available, but small intimate breakout areas for them to use privately.
Prado: With generating a diverse menu of premium options we predict there will no longer be a general fan but there will be premium amenities available to all fans. With that said, developing hyper-
exclusive experiences and creating opportunities for fans who desire to take part in those experiences will further change the game day and drive revenue. This hyper exclusivity can be driven by sight lines into clubs, creating a “jewel box” effect, or club within a club and will make the average fan desire to be a part of that exclusive group.
Meis: I think the trend toward openness will continue, and the desire to be closer to the action. This creates a challenge in how we design the typical lower tier in any venue. I think we will see the experience feel much more like the lobby of an Ace Hotel or a cool tech startup than the typical suite product we have seen for the last 20 years. I think we will see a greater sense of personalization in the premium areas. People want to feel they “own” that space. I suspect that will lead us to look to ways we can customize much like a premium customer does when they order a car.
Giles: They won’t require purchasing a full-season plan and amenities will include premium, flexible viewing spaces. All premium amenities will be exclusively available to members and their guests. Buyers of premium tickets on the secondary market will get the ability to sit in the seat but will receive no additional amenities. Premium amenities that accompany premium tickets today will be exclusively available to members and their guests.