The wine is exhausted. This is not a reason to be alarmed. The butler can pick up another bottle from your private safe a few feet away or dive into the full cellar valued at $ 450,000, also available to you. While you wait, a cocktail created by a James Beard Award nominated bartender and dinner to savor on the pristine white quartz table surrounded by walnut cabinetry. But don’t dwell too long, you don’t want to miss a tip. You are here for the game, after all. Luckily, on the nine TV screens spanning one wall, a camera returns a live view of the pitch, which is just steps from this sequel inside the Golden State Warriors’ gleaming new arena in San Francisco. It’s a reminder that this is a sporting event and not a night out with friends at Soho House.
This season, the Warriors’ Chase Center will provide some NBA fans with one of the best gaming experiences in the sport. And this is not an anomaly. Across the world, bleachers and hot dogs have been replaced with well-appointed suites and artisan dishes.
A new era of sports venues and hospitality has arrived, pointing to the future of attending a game. As fierce as the competition on the court and the field may be, the teams have realized that their most important fight is to create a game day experience that surpasses all other entertainment options in town and on the huge HDTVs out there. the House. And they need it, because they are looking for a clientele that is more demanding than ever.
This premium era of the sport – taking the largely populist experience of going to a match and turning it into a luxury match – began out of necessity. As player salaries rose in the 1970s, so did teams find new ways to generate income. They began to design a ring of suites and / or club seating in venues, increasing comfort and perhaps adding better food, or at least a few more options.
It quickly turned into teams realizing how extremely valuable suites and seats near the action could be, especially in basketball. “The NBA is really interesting. I think we do what I would call the “Robin Hood School of Pricing,” says Warriors President and COO Rick Welts. “We are able, for very few customers, to charge extra for a true premium experience. And that, in effect, subsidizes the cost of all the other seating in the building. But to charge the higher price (field sequels cost between $ 1.5 million and $ 2.5 million per year), in-game experience had to be more than just a closer seat. Teams that didn’t realize it suffered the consequences.
In the mid-1990s, the Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA worked with the city to renovate and modernize the Seattle Center Coliseum, an arena built for the 1962 World’s Fair. The Sonics introduced the newly-christened KeyArena as an intimate place to stay. watching a game, convinced that he had solved his venue problem. It only took about a decade for the team to realize that they had built an arena for an outdated model.
Of course, there was a ring of the usual sequels, but the premium experience ended there. Season pass holders on the court – people who could pay over $ 60,000 a year for a pair of seats – were lucky enough to have Coors Light out of the kegerators in a concrete crypt hidden in the bowels of the arena at halftime and not much more. The Coliseum couldn’t compete for entertainment dollars against the brand new stadiums the Seahawks and Mariners had erected a few years earlier. Without an arena capable of competing economically, Starbucks impresario Howard Schultz sold the Sonics and the new owners moved the team to Oklahoma City.
Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber faced a similar problem when they bought the Warriors in 2010. “We had the oldest arena in the NBA. It was a great place to play. It’s always like that. And we love Oracle in a lot of ways, but the modern equipment wasn’t there, ”says Lacob, who made his money as a venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins. “There was a kitchen to serve 19,596 people. Ultimately, food and all the other things that come with an arena matter. “
This especially matters because the Warriors are part of a new paradigm of privately funded sites. “Cities, counties and states started to pull back from building stadiums and arenas, and once that happened there was a significant debt service on the building that needed to be covered.” said Ron Turner, a four-decade stadium designer. veteran of Gensler architecture firm. This change accelerated, turning participation in a match into a premium product to increase income.
So, in all sports, you are witnessing an escalation of luxury equipment. “While box office revenues are expected to increase in America’s top five professional leagues over the next five years, luxury and bonus revenues are likely to triple,” said Matt Cacciato, director of the Masters of Sports Administration program at Ohio University. “Teams depend on luxury revenues to exceed normal door revenues. Since 1995, the inventory of premium seats in the NBA, MLB, NFL, MLS and NHL has nearly doubled and now accounts for 40% of all ticket revenue, according to a 2016 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The secondary market for tickets to the Warriors’ opening night at Chase Center is an indication of how much money premium seats can make compared to seats elsewhere: on-court seats cost up to $ 19,000.
In many places, this award doesn’t just give you a seat. In Jacksonville, the Jaguars have cabanas with pools; in Miami, the Dolphins have “Living Room Boxes,” where fans sit in lounge chairs at the 35-yard line with TVs; Arthur Ashe Stadium, home of the US Open tennis tournament, has a suite with a private sushi chef; and London Football Club Tottenham Hotspur’s new digs include among its amenities a members-only club where a few can dine behind one-way glass next to the players’ tunnel, so you can watch the squad prepare for the game before walking on the field.
The crown jewels of the Chase Center are its court-side lounges, which cost up to $ 1.5 million more than traditional high-level suites and serve as private havens for people purchasing some of the best seats in the area. House. The team went even further in the design of the arena. “In the past, whether you’re in a stadium or arena, they offered two premium experiences,” says Turner, referring to the seats and boxes at the edge of the court. “At the Chase Center, there are 17. It’s the evolution of the premium experience. There must be variety because not everyone wants the same thing. So the Warriors have built new levels of offerings for small groups, such as “theater boxes,” where a private dining table for four (with waiter service) sits on one side of a wall. and on the other side four seats facing the court, or the open-air Modelo Cantina, where reservations include a more comfortable seat and food in the club’s shared space.
And now we’ve come to a time where teams have incorporated the first wave of luxury amenities, from better physical spaces to better food. The next phase will focus on service and the strategic deployment of technology to improve everything from Wi-Fi that actually works to apps for ordering food to one-on-one interactions between helpful staff and demanding fans.
“We’ve invested a lot in training employees, myself included, to the level of service you expect before entering a Disney theme park,” says Welts. “Because that’s the most important thing we can deliver, except maybe the winning team. While the Warriors haven’t had that problem lately, these new stages and services can also isolate boom and bust teams from winning one season and losing the next. “Some underperforming teams are supported by the match day experience in the stadium,” Cacciato said.
The Warriors’ bet to preserve that experience might be Chase Center’s most forward-thinking design element. The team took the counterintuitive step to offer fewer tickets to some of the Bay Area’s most popular tickets. When Oakland moved to San Francisco, the Warriors downsized the arena by 1,500 to make it more intimate and exciting. It has also made it possible to have more common areas such as court side suites and large lounges where court side ticket holders can meet for dinner before the game. “We are finding smaller and smaller stadiums. But the spaces for socializing in the stadium are getting bigger and bigger, ”says Turner. “People want to move. They want to text their friends and say, “Look, I’m here at this club. It’s cool, why don’t you come? This is how people want to take advantage of these events. Ironically, the future of buying a good seat in a stadium may be the freedom to sit in that seat as little as you want.