Super panelists include Alfonso Felder, San Francisco Giants; Andy Dolich, moderator, University of San Francisco; Lou Perez, Detroit Lions; Chris Granger, Sacramento Kings; and Al Guido, San Francisco 49ers. (VT Photo)
REPORTING FROM SAN FRANCISCO — While building the new Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., the Sacramento Kings are emphasizing a civic experience. It’s about the destination as well as the event, said Chris Granger, president, Sacramento Kings, adding that with 50-plus Kings games and 150 other events, it behooves planners to build an arena that is “uniquely Sacramento.”
The new arena will be about sustainability and agriculture, Granger said. It will have local food from local farmers. And it will have a theme that is timeless to Sacramento.
The San Francisco Giants built AT&T Stadium to provide diversity of experience. “The key is that it’s different every day of a quality that makes them want to come back,” said Alfonso Felder, EVP of administration for the Giants. With 80-plus home games and 30,000 season ticketholders, the experience needs to be all encompassing.
Granger and Felder were joined by Lou Perez, SVP, business development, Detroit Lions and Al Guido, COO, San Francisco 49ers, in a discussion about enhancing the fan experience during what was termed a “super panel” at ALSD. Andy Dolich, director of career development, Collegiate Athletics Masters Program, University of San Francisco, moderated.
The 25th annual Association of Luxury Suite Directors gathering here July 6-9 posted an attendance of more than 1,200.
Panelists also addressed what’s in the future for their various venues. For the 16-year-old AT&T Park, it’s about development around the park. While land is scarce, the Giants do have a 17-acre parking lot south of the ballpark for which it has exclusive development rights and “we are in the process of housing, retail and residential proposals,” Felder said.
The goal is to shore up the environment around the building and to contribute to San Francisco, he added. Hopefully, there will be ancillary revenue streams as well.
Thought Levi’s Stadium is only two years old, the 49ers will be investing $20 million in projects this season, also on areas outside the building, as they prepare for the Super Bowl.
Ford Field has been open since 2002, noted Perez. The Detroit Lions are in the throes of collaborating with Olympia Entertainment in downtown Detroit to develop destination elements around their ballpark. With Olympia planning a major development already, the timing makes sense.
Perez emphasized that the live experience has always been superior to the in-home experience. “The differentiator is being there live and feeling the electricity,” he said, “but we have to reduce the cost. We can’t have folks checking their lifestyle at the door.”
Connectivity is a big part of that equation, Perez said. Fans are used to being able to connect with friends, family and even work, anywhere, anytime, including at the stadium.
“That’s important,” Dolich said. “Who is the end user. It’s not the team owner.”
Levi’s Stadium was built in the heart of Silicon Valley and it’s all about technology, Guido said. “We will tell that story.”
But the main goal is to keep it cool to be at the game. People need to be able to say, “I was there; I was in the venue,” and to relay that it’s a magical experience. “Football is a six hour experience, but the game itself is 21-28 minutes,” Guido said.
It will always be football first, that is the hero feature and the reason people come, and the 49ers will not distract from that, he added.
Granger semidisagreed. “Some people are more focused on telling people they are at the game,” he said. Technology to help them do that is critical to the in-arena experience.
Felder noted baseball draws a wide range of fans and “what you can experience beyond baseball is important.”The Giants put on a show at the park from the moment fans arrive till they leave, and the show caters to all subsets, from luxury suite ticketholders to fans can watch the game for free.
Because they have a very tight site, they’ve made use of every space in the downtown San Francisco ballpark, some of which may not even have a view of the field. The Gotham Club took inspiration from the Green Monster at Fenway Park in Boston, where fans pay to sit atop the iconic wall. At Gotham Club, people join the club to be able to go behind the out-of-town scoreboard or the iconic glove and Coke bottle to play games and drink drinks, without a view of the ballfield. “Club membership is sold to people who love our brand,” he said.
Dolich suggested taking fans behind the curtains and “you will have a fan for life.”
The 49ers are emphasizing innovation, technology and sustainability at Levi’s Stadium, but are not forgetting history, with a top-of-the-line museum included.
“Defining the new stadium is an ongoing process. “It takes time,” Guido said. The fans define what it is here.”
Interviewed for this story: Andy Dolich, (408) 569-3565; Chris Granger, (916) 928-0000; Alfonso Felder, (415) 972-0000; Lou Perez, (313) 262-2222; Al Guido, (408) 562-4949