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Volume 23 No. 18
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Niners split up suite to accommodate smaller groups

The 49ers are selling one 20-person suite in four-seat increments.
Photo: getty images
The 49ers are selling one 20-person suite in four-seat increments.
Photo: getty images
The 49ers are selling one 20-person suite in four-seat increments.
Photo: getty images

The San Francisco 49ers have taken one 20-person luxury suite at Levi’s Stadium off the market and broken it up into four-person packages this offseason, sensing a shift in demand toward smaller groups in premium seating.

Called Club 100, the product offers buyers the same amenities as a full suite, but buyers control four seats within a large suite that they’ll share with others. Like in the full-size packages, four of the 20 seats will be held back for standing-room-only add-ons as necessary.

“We took a look at the market, and we have competition from the Warriors and the Sharks, and they’re creating products that are a little bit smaller,” said Nana Yaw, the 49ers’ director of premium and suite sales. “Plus, we’re also hearing from people who say, ‘Although we love the suites, we don’t need 20 seats, so do you have anything that’s a little smaller?’”

The 49ers join other NFL clubs, including the Vikings and Dolphins, targeting premium packages for small groups. The need varies by market; Yaw said the Bay Area has more small-scale buyers of means because of the proliferation of wealthy individual investors and entrepreneurs. “Whether it’s private equity, wealth management, venture capitalists — these are the people really doing a lot of one-to-one engagement,” Yaw said. In Miami and Minneapolis, club executives say their targets are small- and medium-sized businesses and families.

Yaw declined to disclose pricing for Club 100, or say exactly how many have been sold. But they are starting modestly, using just one out of 174 suites across the entire stadium for the experiment.

In Miami, Hard Rock Stadium has included two different suite products with four to six seats since its 2015-16 renovations. They’ve sold well, said President Tom Garfinkel, particularly among families that know each other — people who might want a smaller group of seats but also social interaction with similar groups.

The Dolphins expect demand for traditional big suites to decrease over time, in part due to the 2017 tax overhaul that limits write-offs for hospitality. “Demand for the traditional corporate suite product is decreasing generally, certainly in this market,” Garfinkel said. 

In Minneapolis, most of U.S. Bank Stadium’s premium options include between 10 and 24 tickets, but the Vikings offer six-, eight- and 10-seat reserved couches in Mystic Lake’s Club Purple, which are separated from other groups by low glass barriers and include food and beverage, said John Penhollow, vice president of corporate and technology partnerships.

The variety speaks to the Minneapolis economy, which includes Fortune 100 giants UnitedHealth Group, Target and 3M, but also a range of mid-sized companies. “We have the biggest of the big, but we also have some small but very powerful regional/local companies, some maybe you’ve never heard of but have a big role in their industries,” Penhollow said. “We needed to have something that would address all of the above.”