The new Boston Pro Shop Powered by ’47 has been closed since March, but sales continue online. (Courtesy Shawmut Design and Construction)
The Hub on Causeway district at TD Garden stays in the game
Delaware North Cos. has gone the extra mile to help keep Boston’s big league teams top of mind for Beantown sports fans during the national shutdown of arenas and stadiums.
Delaware North, the owner of the Bruins and TD Garden, their home ice, has used The Hub on Causeway, its $1 billion retail and entertainment district tied to the arena, to help keep fans of the Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox engaged during the pandemic. As of this week, the Celtics remain in the league’s playoff bubble in Orlando and in contention for the NBA title. Tampa Bay knocked the Bruins out of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs at the Toronto bubble in late August.
Playoff games for both clubs, along with Red Sox games, have been broadcast at Banners Kitchen & Tap restaurant. It’s part of the Hub and open for business while TD Garden is closed. Patina Restaurant Group, which operates Banners and is part of DNC, presells tables online for two to six people at a cost of $60 a person, which covers appetizers, entrees and dessert.
Reservations extend to a complimentary “surprise and delight” retail item delivered to customers as they enter the restaurant, said Josh Brickman, vice president of business strategy for the Bruins and the arena.
Boston Pro Shop Powered by ’47, the new $4.5 million team store that opened in October at the Hub, has been closed since March. To help fill the retail void, DNC sells “Watch at Home” packs for the Bruins and Celtics through its e-commerce platform.
Those “mystery” boxes, priced at $20 to $50 and premium items for $100 to $150, were full of merchandise such as pennants, hats and T-shirts. Fans ordering those packs weren’t sure what they would get, which added to the fun of promoting retail while the shop is closed, Brickman said.
The idea was to get the teams’ gear in the hands of fans to wear and display as they watch the playoffs at home.
Delaware North also carried on the tradition of distributing playoff rally towels, something it’s done historically in the venue. Fans buying merchandise on bostonproshop.com got a 2020 rally towel thrown in with their purchase, Brickman said.
Delaware North runs the website, which is separate from Fanatics, the NHL’s official online retailer.
“We’re doing things like that to continue trends and traditions while maintaining revenue, which has been successful,” Brickman said.
Boston Pro Shop remains closed because of the lack of foot traffic in North Station, the transit hub whose concourse is beneath TD Garden. During the pandemic, the typical stream of commuters has slowed to a trickle, so there’s less of a need to keep the team store open, Brickman said.
Things are different across the country in sports retail for concessionaire Sportservice, a Delaware North subsidiary.
Sportservice runs 11 team stores at MLB, NFL and NHL venues, all of which are open for business, said Jeff Hess, the firm’s vice president of retail. The list includes the Grand Slam Gift Shop, which is part of Globe Life Field, the Texas Rangers’ new $1.2 billion ballpark in Arlington.
As part of running team stores during the pandemic, Sportservice launched Play It Safe, a cleaning and sanitation program. It extends from frontline workers to shoppers. Officials are doing everything traditional retailers have done to protect patrons and staff, from requiring masks to applying floor decals to dictate proper spacing.
Most retail spaces are restricted to 25% to 50% of total capacity. Limiting the number of people inside the team stores and the mask requirement haven’t been an issue at what are otherwise empty venues, Hess said.
“Most of our team stores on the baseball side are pretty good size,” he said. “Globe Life Field’s store is over 10,000 square feet. Same thing with Busch Stadium. There’s enough room to make it comfortable. One thing that’s been interesting is our guests’ buying behaviors haven’t changed. If you want a jersey, you buy a jersey.”
Similar to the Hub, Sportservice looked at the markets where it runs team stores before reopening those doors About half of the locations are tied to mixed-use and downtown districts to support retail during the shutdown.
Ballpark Village in St. Louis, across the street from Busch Stadium, and Nashville’s Broadway district surrounding Bridgestone Arena are two examples. Sportservice runs retail and food at both venues.
“We looked at which restaurants were around there and what was going to be open,” Hess said. “We took that into consideration across the board.”
In Arlington, the Grand Slam Gift Shop has been open since June 1, the same time that the Rangers began public tours of the ballpark. The tours, which begin and end at the team store, have been popular among local residents, which helps generate retail sales, Rangers spokesman John Blake said.