Tag Archives: Concessions

Peter Pan Creates Unique Candy Store for Patrons

13 Nov

The candy store for Peter Pan at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Costa Mesa, Calif. (Photo by Kristen Bilanko)

The team behind the threesixty presents production of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan have tweaked the merchandise and food experience for the children’s theater show to meet the style of their unique performance.

“We’re not seeking to change the business model, but we wanted to create a high-end environment that matched the uniqueness of our product,” said Ryan Martinez, the head of Revenue for threesixty presents, which has presented long runs of the show in San Francisco and is currently performing under tent at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., through Jan. 2. The show moves to Pemberton Place adjacent to the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta in late January.

Peter Pan’s most unique concessions offering is its candy store, modeled after a London sweet shop with jars of unwrapped treats. Unlike traditional candy shops where candy is weighed, the Peter Pan show sells small takeout boxes — similar to those found at Chinese restaurants — which can be filled to the brim for $6. Ryan said the candy store does between $900-$1,000 worth of sales per show.

“People come with all sorts of creative ways to fill the boxes with as much candy as possible,” joked Martinez, including one clever six-year-old, who circled the perimeter of his candy box with Pixie Sticks, giving his container an additional three inches for stacking candy.

A candy-ologist creates the candy menus for threesixty, and Patina Catering handles the concessions operations — the group works with different catering firms in each city. Martinez said between the candy shop and the food sales, the show does an average per cap between $5-$6. Capacity for the tent is 1,300. Admission ranges from $125 to $40.

Peter Pan also has a comprehensive retail store designed by Linda Berman of Team Isight, which gives the apparel and toys a very contemporary, rebellious feel. One of the top selling shirts features a silhouette of Tinker Bell with the expression “Bad Girl.” Top selling items include children’s t-shirts for $15, adult shirts for $18, fairy dust sets between $4 and $9, fairy wings for $15 and pirate swords for $5.

The items are a unique fit for a unique show, contained in its own traveling tent with a 360-ceiling fitted with a CGI-projector that allows for breathtaking sequences, from twilight flights over 19th century London to mermaid swims in the Neverland Cove.

“The show itself is very unique,” said Martinez.

Martinez and threesixty are also experimenting with other revenue enhancers. In partnership with the hotel Hanford, the show offers one-bedroom suites that come stocked with candy and Peter Pan memorabilia, plus four tickets and transportation to the show. Packages start at $289, while dinner packages include a three-course meal and start at $35 per person.  — Dave Brooks

Interviewed for this article: Andrew Martinez, (323) 954-7510

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Down with Webster and Deep-Fried Butter Offset Rain at CNE

21 Sep

Down with Webster rocked this year's CNE.

Seven days of rainy weather or the threat of rain probably will prompt a decrease in attendance compared to last year’s 1,320,000 at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto when final numbers are tabulated next month.

“I don’t think we’ll be at last year’s numbers,” said GM David Bednar. “We had really good numbers for the last two years. We were doing great this year until the last weekend. In a good year, we do 25 percent of our attendance in the last weekend.”

But the final Saturday and Labor Day Monday of the Aug. 20-Sept. 6 fair either had rain or threatened rain. “The Sunday was the one decent day and it wasn’t enough to make up for the loss,” Bednar said.

Jackson, Miss.-based North American Midway Entertainment placed 58 rides on the midway, Bednar said, including the new Zamperla Skater, as well as the Drop, the Swing Tower, the Crazy Mouse roller coaster and the flume ride.

“It was a very good line-up,” Bednar said.

Like fair attendance, Bednar expects the ride numbers to be a bit down over last year.

Gate admission of $16 Canadian ($15.56 U.S.) was up $2 Canadian from last year.

“We were planning a $1 raise but the province did a harmonization of sales tax that took the admission tax from 5 percent to 13 percent,” Bednar said.

Some tax credits alleviated the brunt of that so the full 8 percent increase was not felt, Bednar said.

“But we estimated that it was going to be $550,000 to $600,000, so we adjusted the admission fee. But we did other promotions to offer people other ways of getting in.”

Admission for ages 13 and under and 60 and above was $12 Canadian ($11.67 U.S.)

Other promotions were an opening day “$8 at the Gate,” which was $8 for everybody and essentially a half-priced deal for ages 14-59; “$5 after 5” on Mondays through Thursdays; and a “little, almost stealth, promotion we did in the local neighborhood,” which was free admission during lunchtime for patrons who are in after 11 a.m. and out by 2 p.m. Patrons actually pay admission and it’s refunded for those who leave on time.

“It’s an idea we picked up from South Carolina,” Bednar said, referring to the state fair in Columbia. “It’s not nearly as big as theirs is, but it’s fun to do.”

Once patrons of The Ex pay their admission fee, most attractions other than the carnival are free. That includes the musical entertainment at the bandshell, where acts included Debbie Reynolds, Bobby Vinton, a Michael Jackson tribute act called King Michael and a band called Down With Webster that between the time they were signed and the CNE, were nominated for a Canadian Juno Award for New Group of the Year.

“They went through the roof,” Bednar said. “Never, never in my 12 years here have I seen this. There were teenage girls here at 8:30 in the morning in front of the stage, maybe a dozen of them. They were not moving. They were going to take turns going to get a bottle of water so they would have their position in front of the stage.”

During the concert, Bednar witnessed an estimated 8,000 of the 10,000 or 11,000 fans forming a “W” with their hands and holding their hands above their heads pulsing to the music for two or three songs. And then during one song, they asked everyone to pull out their cell phones, which fans waved in the air instead of lighters.

The bandshell seating is an open field so attendance is difficult to count, but Bednar estimates that it maxes out at about 11,000.

Other entertainment at The Ex included tribute bands nearly daily at the Budweiser Midway Stage, honoring such acts as Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Billy Joel, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, Bryan Adams, KISS, Tina Turner, The Tragically Hip, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Elvis Presley and more.

Patrons also could attend twice daily ice skating shows, “Rock on Ice,” presented by a group out of Quebec and featuring on six of those days 2002 Olympic gold medalist figure skating duo Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

Last year, the ice show, presented in the 11,000-seat Ricoh Coliseum, featured Olympic silver medalist Elvis Stojko because The Ex had gotten $3 million Canadian ($2.9 million U.S.) stimulus funds from the Canadian government, similar to what the United States government did in an effort to get the economy cranking.

In addition to Stojko, last year The Ex brought in Bill Clinton for a paid appearance, an extra $1 million for marketing, plus an International Friendly Soccer Match between Portugal and Scotland.

This year, the CNE only got $750,000 Canadian ($729,000), which officials at The Ex used to purchase five trams, with a capacity of 54 riders each, to transport fair patrons from one end of the grounds to the other.

“The old ones were dated from the mid-1980s and were pulled by tractors with manual transmissions,” Bednar said.

In marketing, the CNE has a very active Facebook page. “We had the most success we’ve had with social media,” Bednar said. “We held trivia contests on Facebook in which we’d ask a simple question and get all the answers and draw for a winner and somebody will win passes. We know from watching that that when you post something like that and get 15 answers in 20 minutes, there are people who are watching you, which is what you want.”

The year-round budget at the CNE is $22 million or $21.3 million U.S., Bednar said. About $800,000 or $777,800 U.S. was spent on paid advertising.

One food item actually turned into a huge marketing tool – deep-fried butter, which was unveiled last year at the State Fair of Texas and which Bednar saw at the Florida State Fair. He then asked concessionaires at The Ex to step up and one did, and the media attention that ensued was overwhelming. In a normal year, Bednar does maybe one, if that, French-language radio interview. This year he did three. The Toronto Star even did an article with the headline, “Did butter-balls save the CNE?”

“The deep-fried butter just took off in the popular imagination,” Bednar said. “It went nuts. I couldn’t tell you the numbers of interviews we did and the comments and the number of people who asked about deep-fried butter. It was only available at one booth and that poor guy – he was doing well financially, but he was there until an hour after the midway closed.”

Next year’s dates will be Aug. 19-Sept. 5. – Mary Wade Burnside

Interviewed for this article: David Bednar, (416) 263-3800.

From Generational Perks to Ticket Quirks, Arena Managers Cover the Gamut

20 Sep

Representing four of the five generations found in the workplace are, from left, Matt Batson, student, University of Florida, Gainesville; Colleen Byrnes, The Ryan Center, Kingston, R.I.; Ruey Peck, Spalding Basketball Equipment; Kim Bedier, Comcast Arena at Everett (Wash.); Lisa Chamness, Freedom Hall, Johnson City, Tenn.; and Kevin Twohig, Spokane (Wash.) Arena. (VT Photo)

REPORTING FROM TULSA, Okla. — Dealing with generational issues, both with employees and patrons, from tattoos to touch screens, was a running theme through the Arena Management Conference here Sept. 11-14. Communication is a new ballgame throughout the industry strata.

Asked about future trends in the arena world, answers thrown back from attendees included Ping and other technology, more social networking, more family-oriented entertainment, more reality shows on the road, and fewer stairs as an older marketplace rebels at climbing up and down. Kevin Twohig, Spokane (Wash.) Arena, envisioned multi-level arenas where no one had to climb up or down more than six steps, and he was more than half serious. The arena of the future will have larger lobbies, more storage, interactive touch screens everywhere, convenient restrooms, and friendly production capabilities.

Attendance at this year’s AMC totaled 192 including walkups, down from three years ago, but up from last year, according to Brenda Pennington of the International Association of Assembly Managers, which presents the event. The name change to International Association of Venue Managers is under construction, but this event was not so branded.

Kim Bedier, Comcast Arena at Everett (Wash.), moderated the panel on “Best of the Best of Generations A to Z,” noting that there are now four or five generations in one workplace more of the time and that leads to a wider variety of problem-solving techniques and preferences. She identified Traditionalists, born before 1945; Baby Boomers, 1946-1954; Generation X (1955-1977); Generation Y, born after 1977; and the newest, Nexters, aged 18-25 and now entering the workplace. Matt Batson, a student in Hospitality and Tourism at the University of Florida, Gainesville, represented the Nexters on the panel.

Both Matson and Colleen Byrnes, senior event manager, Ryan Center, Kingston, R.I., confirmed that their generations (Brynes qualified as Generation Y) are taught by professors and teachers that it’s normal to have seven jobs. “Every day I’m told you’re not going to find your career with your first job. You always think there is something else out there,” Matson said.

“We’re funky,” Byrnes added, though she has been at Ryan Center for five years, having started as a student. Twohig said he is astounded by that attitude and, as an employer, he has to deal with it every day. “On our staff, there is no issue until we get to the Millennials (born 1980-2000), where we suddenly drop to a 50 percent retention rate. That generation are on their second and third jobs already.” Byrnes added that she went to school to get into this industry and Batson is specializing in event management, but they appear to be the exceptions.

Each generation is defined by the media they use. Nexters have even gotten to the point they express themselves by appearance. One in three now have tattoos or piercings. Employer response varied from Twohig — “I’m not a tattoo fan. In our market it’s not the right impression. It’s a negative to me.” — to Byrnes, “It can’t be visible.”

Ruey Peck, Spalding Basketball Equipment, (Generation X), noted that his firm supplies equipment to the National Basketball Association where “some of the ink on players in unbelievable,” but for professional purposes, they still say, if you have a tattoo, you should be able to cover it up.

“This business is relationship based,” noted Lisa Chamness, Freedom Hall, Johnson City, Tenn., referring to employees and customers and clients. “Your own integrity must be intact.”

Motivating all generations of workers is also relationship based. Byrnes said she sets goals and motivates the event staff with the carrot and the stick. “If you ever want an usher position on the floor, I will consider your record,” she tells them.

“Motivation is in the trust we’re given,” Batson said.

On the client relationship side, Bedier posed the question, “How far will you go?”

Peck said his firm donated basketball equipment to President Barack Obama’s White House because they saw that it meant recognition and opportunity and “it saved the taxpayers money.”

“We’ll buy it, promote or co-promote,” Twohig said. “Right now I’m looking for a rock show for the fall. It’s what our community wants.”

“I’m not above begging,” Chamness said. Hers is a leased facility, she cannot promote, but she brings other value-adds to the table. “We’re willing to go the other step.”

Eschewing the negative, Twohig wrapped it up noting that despite the economic crisis, “we’re having the best year we’ve ever had. It’s a bright time in the industry for us.”

Not for others, though. Bob Skoney, Nashville Municipal Auditorium, and Sue DeVries, Metrapark, Billings, Mont., talked about recovery from floods in Tennessee and tornados in Montana on another panel. Skoney said he spent the week after the floods booking events from his home. Fortunately, though the arena had no power nor entry, he had a backup calendar.

The city is slowly recovering since the May 1 flood, he said. The Schermerhorn Symphony Center hopes to open again by the end of January, having sustained $45 million in damage. The Opry House, with $16 million in damage, opens this month (VT Pulse, Sept. 5), and Municipal Aud was up and running after eight days out of the building.

The tornado in Billlings was June 20, and DeVries said it was the first F2 (scale of intensity) tornado there in 50 years. The 186-acre grounds was hosting events the day after the tornado hit, but the Rimrock Auto Arena, where it did at least $40 million in damage, won’t reopen until April 1, 2011. On the plus side, it will be a much improved arena, DeVries said, with more bathrooms, sound improvements, more than one elevator, additional signage, a new entryway and possibly a new bridge from the parking lot.

Grand openings were also revisited, including Intrust Bank Arena, Wichita, Kan., where Scott Neal, assistant general manager, said lessons learned included knowing what the venue means to the community, scheduling time in the facility before the grand opening (they had two months), managing expectations, and having a good pair of community boots on hand for construction site tours.

Steve Miller, general manager, Huntington Center, Toledo, Ohio, agreed that managing expectations is key. Huntington Center replaced the 1952-era Sports Arena, which had no air conditioning and glass that was four feet tall for hockey. The $105 million facility took 20 months to build and has hosted 425,000 people so far.

Bookings and discounted tickets were the hot topic during the Town Hall for 10,000-plus seat arenas. Some bemoaned Live Nation relations, saying the promoter apparently has “a list” of 70 buildings they regularly do business with and woe to the arena that’s not on the list.

“You have to make a co-pro deal,” said Michael Marion, Verizon Arena, North Little Rock, Ark., in response to the list worries. “Let’s not be coy.”

Marion also noted an increase in experimentation with ticket pricing. “I’m not a fan of discounting, but sometimes it happens,” Marion said.

Several were also not fans of all-in tickets, including most family show producers and those who have a fee-free box office option. Most so-called “all-in” prices are still advertising the base price on the Ticketmaster web site and there has to be at least one place where buyers can pay that price, many attendees opined.

Paperless ticketing will require a lot of education, it was suggested. Marion said people still lined up at the box office to get the “ticket” for a Brooks & Dunn paperless show to the point that they posted employees to head them off so they didn’t stand in line twice.

Alternative events are also on the rise and most of those mentioned revolved around food. Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky., did an Incredible Food Show featuring celebrity chefs and drawing 8,000 attendance in two days. Growers, producers and suppliers exhibited. Rich MacKeigan, Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Mich., hosts a Wine & Food Festival, which features 80 wineries and drew 10,000 people in two days. Jo-Ann Armstrong, Honda Center, Anaheim, Calif., said their Orange County Foodie Fest featured 50 gourmet food trucks and drew 8,000 attendance in one day (Venues Today, September 2010 issue).

“Food is a growth area right now,” MacKeigan said. — Linda Deckard

Interviewed for this story: Kevin Twohig, (509) 279-7002; Kim Bedier, (425) 322-2611; Lisa Chamness, (423) 461-4855; Matthew Batson, (239) 887-4979; AJ Boleski, (316) 440-9015; Ruey Peck, (800) 435-3865 x2406; Colleen Byrnes, (401) 788-3205; Sue DeVries, (406) 256-2412; Michael Marion, (501) 975-9030; Bob Skoney, (615) 862-6393

Cardinals Cash Creates Cuisine Currency

23 Aug

The St. Louis Cardinals have become the third major league baseball team to utilize stored value ticketing through Tickets.com.

Named Card Cash, the program allows fans to assign value to the bar codes of tickets, which can be redeemed for food, beverage and merchandise purchases. The program utilizes Tickets.com’s UpTix software, and can be used by fans who want to add food to tickets they give to their guests, or by teams as a promotion.

On July 31, the Cardinals held a pre-game ceremony in honor of former Hall of Fame Manager Whitey Herzog, whose number 24 was being retired. Ticketholders for every seat number 24 throughout the ballpark received $5 in Cards Cash added to their ticket. Each person seated in section 240 also received $5 in Card Cash, and a $5 bonus for each strikeout thrown in the third-inning (there was one). The team estimated that 75 percent of ticket holders that received “24” themed Card Cash spent all or part of their winnings that day.

“It’s a good tool to drive per caps, they get prepaid revenue and they get lift from having prepaid tickets,” said John Rizzi SVP of Product Management and Strategy for Tickets.com.

All of the POS systems at Busch Stadium in St. Louis accept Card Cash as a form of payment, along with the team store. The system can detail which fans from which sections purchased concessions from specific food stations, creating never seen before geolocational data.

The Houston Astros utilize a stored value system on the Ticketmaster platform, and the Philadelphia Phillies run a similar program on Paciolan. The San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics — both Tickets.com clients — also use UpTix.

“Rather than using discounts to move tickets, we’ve found it is a great way to add value” to distressed inventory, said Steve Fanelli, the team’s director of ticketing.

The team rolled out the platform this season, replacing its $35 all-you-can-eat section with a $6 ticket that came preloaded with $6 worth of food, priced at $12. The 990-seat section typically moves 650-700 seats per game, Fanelli said. The section has a value menu with $5 beer and $4 pulled pork sandwiches.

UpTix has also helped with some group sales, and the team hopes to roll out the program for season tickets next season.

Oakland also puts an expiration date on unspent value in the gift card, but Fanelli said the goal isn’t to keep unspent money, known as breakage, but to encourage people to spend more than the card’s value, a practice known as lift. — Dave Brooks

Interviewed for this article: John Rizzi, (714) 327-5469; Steve Fanelli, (510) 563-2270

Record Crowds ‘Taste the Fun’ at the San Diego County Fair

10 Jul

Tim Fennell at the San Diego County Fair, Del Mar, Calif.

REPORTING FROM DEL MAR, CALIF. – It was a case of a record year following a record year at the San Diego County Fair here June 11-July 5, despite high unemployment and a economy that is upside down. “People are hurting,” said Tim Fennel, fair CEO and general manager. His goal, accomplished, was to make lemonade out of lemons.

The 2010 fair drew 1,338,500, up from 1,274,384 last year. Promotions included Furlough Fridays, offering civil servants who are being forced to take furloughs by the state and cities in the state, two free admissions; and Unemployment Day, offering free admission to those with an unemployment check stub.

From June 1-July 5, the fair Web site, www.sdfair.com, received 808,285 visits, up about 20 percent over same period in 2009.
The fair’s mobile-phone Web site, m.sdfair.com, received 39,710 visits, up 172 percent, and
Facebook has 6,114 friends;
Twitter, 1,443 followers, and
YouTube, 12,976 views of Fair videos, reported Linda Zweig, fair information and media relations.

The theme, Taste the Fun, was enhanced with a $2 “Tuesday Taste of the Fair” promotion during which fairgoers could enjoy small portions of a variety fair food for just $2 at participating stands. Normal admission price was $13 for adults, $7 for seniors and kids.

The theme and the discounts resulted in a record food and drink gross (numbers are still preliminary) of $12,407,000, up from $11,178,000 last year, Fennell said. Premier Food Services, year-round concessionaire at the venue, grossed another $2,007,000, up from $1,837,000, he added, also unaudited numbers as are all dollar figures he quoted.

There were 110 food booths booked into the fair. Sales included 12,000 Fried Klondike Bars,
10,000 Fried Twinkies,
5,000 Fried Avocados,
8,000 Fried S’mores, and
6,600 Fried Butters.
The biggest day for food sales was Saturday, July 3, with $852,351 in gross sales, Zweig said.

The independent midway suffered the first week, tracking below 2009, but that was attributed to the fact schools let out later than anticipated. Fennell said the final numbers were up slightly, with rides grossing about approximately $6,549,000, compared to $6,291,000 last year. Games are booked on flat fee basis and that number was static, $590,000 compared to $580,000, he said.

Discounts on the gate also included the second annual “22 days for $22” promotion, dubbed the “Best Pass Ever” and sold only in advance. It’s basically a season pass for fairgoers, Fennell said.

The net result of the ubiquitous discounts was increased revenues, he said. Gate income this year was $5,407,000, up from $5,104,000 last year. Fennell added that the average per cap is in the $30 range.

Sponsorships were also up considerably, bringing in $1,277,000 in cash and kind, up from $890,000 last year. Mark  Entner’s new firm, Absolute Event Solutions, debuted at the fair this year with showbags sponsored by 7-Eleven. The chain provided 125,000 reusable show bags, valued at $85,000-$100,000, which were advertised in advance and given away on specific days at the fair, Entner explained. With 200 stores in the San Diego area, 7-Eleven also provided a marketing outlet for the fair where brochures and posters were prevalent leading up to the event.AES then sold local businesses and some fair vendors into a coupon book, which was in the bag.

Parking income was also up slightly, Fennell continued, to $3,022,000 from $2,903,000 last year. On the biggest day, they leased additional parking to accommodate the crowds. Parking was $10 general, $15 preferred.

The key to success this year was in responding to the challenges, Fennell repeated. Last year, he recalled, Michael Jackson passed away during the fair and they brought entertainment in that was a tribute to Jackson and set up a mini-wall exhibit where patrons could write notes and testimonials. The one-year anniversary of Jackson’s death was Friday, June 25, and to commemorate that, the fair staged “flash mobs.” It was basically a scheduled impromptu event, where suddenly trained dancers and singers separate from the crowd and perform to Jackson tunes.

The San Diego County Fair produced eight stages of entertainment, the vast majority of it free, Fennell said. New to the fair, in honor of the theme, were celebrity chefs. Guy Fieri, a Food Network Chef, played the grandstand, drawing 5,000 people, he added. Paid shows included Sammy Hagar & The Wabos, One Republic and Jeff Dunham. Dinner packages were offered for several shows. For $100-$166, buyers received floor level seats, dinner at the Turf Club, fair admission and preferred parking.

“There’s no better value, I think, than this fair,” Fennell said. His annual operating budget is $58 million, of which $22 million is fairtime. Last year, the fair netted over $3.5 million after depreciation, and Fennell predicted that would grow to close to $4 million this year.

Dates for 2011 are tentatively set for June 10-July 4. – Linda Deckard

Interviewed for this story: Tim Fennell, (858) 792-4200; Linda Zweig, (858) 792-4262; Mark Entner, (949) 650-8385

A few questions with Liza Cartmell

2 Jun

RECALIBRATION IN THE FUTURE FOR CONCESSIONS BUSINESS: LIZA CARTMELL, GROUP PRESIDENT, ARAMARK SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Liza Cartmell

Venues Today discussed the state of the industry with Aramark’s Liza Cartmell, who is also one of our three 2010 Women of Influence, announced today. Following are some of her observations on changes and trends in food and drink concessions.

If you were going to predict what this business would be like in five years, what would be the major change?

I think you will see a lot more partnerships between concessionaires and owners of facilities and sports teams. It’s not so much about the margins as it is about being able to operate in an environment of shared interests. The expectations of the fans and the flexibility the team needs to adapt to what’s going on in the marketplace mean they need us to be more flexible. If they’ve put us in a box that says you’re vanilla, and the market is looking for chocolate, we can’t meet their needs. We’ve mutually agreed in a growing number of places to migrate to that.

What are the major changes in concessions this season for baseball?

There was a little more of a seismic shift last season because of the economy and there is more of a continuation now. We went very aggressively last year and continue this year into more packaging, value-oriented offerings. We continuously upgrade the core product because we find it’s not so much about people not being willing to spend. They want to make sure they’re getting value. We can get them to continue to spend by introducing more fresh hamburgers, higher quality sandwiches, and select specialty items like the gluten free. These are not big money makers, but they take care of a niche in the market excluded previously.

Is the all-inclusive ticket going to grow in this marketplace?

We continue to roll out the loaded ticket technology. Every team is at a different level as far as utilization of it as a marketing tool. It’s one of those things like nobody used to use credit cards in the facilities and it took about 10 years to really get the momentum of people even thinking of taking out their credit card at the game. Adults who went to sports always brought cash. The longest line in the building for the last 10 years wasn’t the bathroom; it was the ATM.

What about using your cellphone or some other kind of electronic wallet at the concessions stand? How far down the line is that?

The capability exists today, but the willingness and that pioneer group is a very small percentage. If you’re talking 40,000 people and it’s two percent, that’s 800 people; that’s just not a lot. We have that with loaded tickets, where the dollars and percentage are very, very small. We’ve had loaded tickets since we opened the Phillies six years ago. They’re the largest users, the most forward-thinking in introducing it and making it available, but it’s still under five percent dollarwise.

When will you see a return on investment?

ROI can be consumer satisfaction and the team’s capacity to offer a variety of packages for people. One of the big successes in loaded tickets for the Phillies has been in their premium areas; the ability for their premium ticket holders to provide as an amenity a complete experience. That the entrepreneur knows that’s a great value because they’re able to entertain yet they don’t have to go to 81 games is big. Do I get the value because I can eliminate my cash counting and my run to the bank? I’m never going to get the ROI on that. It’s a totally different ROI for different people if they use it in the right way.

Is it true major concessions companies work on two and three percent margins these days?

Pretty much. And it’s not sustainable. People need to make operating decisions that aren’t great and that’s not good for anybody. In the last couple of years, we’ve walked away from a number of deals because we were not willing to be in that environment where the only way we could not lose money was to do the wrong thing. We’ve lost some market share, but that’s okay.

Will there be a correction?

There’s one already underway. The economy is forcing people to think differently about what they need to do to succeed. I don’t think the suite model as it was configured will survive. The basic deal was to charge you a set fee, say $250,000, for the suite. Then you will go to 10 football games or 81 baseball games and I may or may not charge you extra for the concerts and, by the way, I’m going to charge you an arm and a leg to have food in the suites. You are going to be outraged at the prices you are going to have to pay in order to entertain properly in accordance with the suite environment you are trying to set. But you are going to have an administrative assistant to the president who will balk at the price and order popcorn and peanuts, hot dogs and a couple of beers. All of a sudden, the experience is nowhere near what it was designed to be.

How did it get there?

For a long time, people were willing to spend whatever price it took to be able to touch the sports world. It was a corporate item; that’s what it cost. Now people are looking at $300,000 and saying that’s big, I’m going to have to cut six people. And, by the way, at StubHub I can buy that suite for two big meetings and I’ll spend $40,000 and that’s all I care about; I’ll bring all my best customers. There’s this whole recalibration. People are bringing the analytical, disciplined part to the value proposition and not saying it’s sports, I’m going to buy it. — Linda Deckard

Interviewed for this story: Liza Cartmell, (215) 238-3000

Concessions: San Francisco’s AT&T Park Goes LEED

24 May

The city of San Francisco is typically known as a bellwether to eco-consciousness.

But in becoming the first previously existing major league stadium to attain Silver Certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the San Francisco Giants had to address a number of environmental challenges. Existing facilities have to meet separate requirements from new buildings to achieve LEED certification.

“I think it’s infinitely harder for existing ballparks to effectively retrofit their facilities to incorporate current trends and technologies into their existing practices,” said Jorge Costa, Giants senior VP of Ballpark Operations. “And there’s also an awareness that has to be created with the vendors and the public in making them know of the changes.”

Since the first stages of planning LEED certification two years ago, Giants staff and AT&T Park vendors, including Centerplate, Pacific Gas & Electric Company and Linc Facility Services have made a concerted effort in evaluating everything from waste management, recycling programs, lighting, water usage and even products and packaging.

The systemic approach brought a new attitude to AT&T Park, even though it has won Major League Baseball’s Green Glove award for recycling the past two years. The seventh-inning stretch, for instance, now includes an announcement from Giants manager Bruce Bochy asking fans for help picking up recyclables. Ushers wearing “Green Team” vests go into the stands, collecting any recyclable items the fans have collected up to that point in the game.

“I think the public awareness and education is pretty key to succeeding, and getting the numbers,” Costa said.

The team also installed new compact fluorescent lights throughout the park, and built a solar energy system which it plans to soon deploy. Low flush toilets were installed throughout the park, along with a powerful new Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision HD Scoreboard, which is 78 percent more efficient than its predecessor.

The park also dramatically increased its waste diversion numbers, with 67 percent of the ballpark’s waste being diverted from going to the landfill through an aggressive recycling and composting program. At a couple points last year, AT&T Park reached as high as 70 percent waste diversion, Costa explained.

“It’s a difficult standard to achieve and you couldn’t get there without the awareness of the fans and staff and all of the vendors,” he added.

Costa noted a particularly strong relationship with Linc Facility Services, which handles the stadium’s HVAC and engineering, and Giants hospitality partner, Centerplate.

While he didn’t disclose the total expense for the project, Costa said it was costly.  While ballparks like Target Field in Minnesota and Nationals Park in Washington were built with LEED certification in mind, Costa believes it was more difficult to achieve the high standard in a 10-year-old stadium.

Though the busy regular season schedule has kept Costa from speaking with many of his counterparts at other stadiums, he said sustainability has been a big initiative in Major League Baseball for several years.

“It’s about innovation and technology, good hard work, practices and awareness that are the key if you’re really going to try and accomplish this, and to maintain it long term,” Costa said. — Matt Gunn and Dave Brooks

Interviewed for this article: Jorge Costa, (415) 972-2496