STADIUM VIEW: New York Islanders fans at MetLife Stadium celebrate the venue’s first NHL outdoor games on Sunday. (Getty Images)

DNC food, retail per caps equate to $7M in gross sales

Delaware North Sportservice capitalized on fierce hockey rivalries in the Northeast and a thirst for the NHL’s outdoor version to post strong food and retail sales for a pair of Stadium Series games at MetLife Stadium.

Last weekend, the New Jersey Devils played the Philadelphia Flyers (Feb. 17), followed by the New York Islanders-New York Rangers matchup (Feb. 18).

Combining the two games, the $53 average spend for food and drink ($40) and merchandise ($13) was tied to turnstile attendance of 135,000, according to DNC officials, which translates to more than $7 million in gross sales. Official attendance for both games was 150,018.

All told, the food and retail numbers are on par with a prime time NFL game at MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Jets and Giants, according to Sportservice General Manager Bill Lohr.

For a more equitable comparison, the average spend was about $20 higher than the 2022 NHL Winter Classic at Target Field, which generated a combined food and retail per cap of $33.24, given the Wild-Blues matchup was played in subzero temperatures, DNC officials said.

The contests marked the first time MetLife Stadium has played host to NHL outdoor events since the first Winter Classic was held in 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, now Highmark Stadium. (MetLife opened in 2010).

For the 2024 Stadium Series, it was the first time the NHL held back-to-back outdoor games at the same venue.

“Every department was working on all cylinders,” Lohr said. “It was one of the best events we’ve ever done. Sales exceeded our projections by more than one million dollars.”

The average merchandise transaction of $96 was a big number, as fans gobbled up Stadium Series items, including special edition jerseys for the four teams, Lohr said.

The peak hour of 2 to 3 p.m. on Sunday saw 2,300 transactions. Gross retail records were set for NHL outdoor games. The top-selling item was hooded sweatshirts with 1,428 units sold.

PUNCH OUT: New Amsterdam branded bars outside MetLife Stadium featured Tri-State Punch, a new adult beverage. (Courtesy Sportservice)

At MetLife Stadium, things ran smoothly with temperatures mostly in the 30s. It was colder for Devils-Flyers since that game was played at night. Sportservice made club spaces and heated bars available for fans to warm up between their hunger for buying all things related to Stadium Series, Lohr said.

There were no real hiccups tied to running concessions and premium dining, considering the stadium’s last event before Stadium Series was the Giants-Eagles game on Jan. 7.

“We’re used to having a long hiatus between huge events, but have to be careful, because now you’re turning water on and the pipes are susceptible to the extreme cold, especially in the middle of the night, but we didn’t experience issues with any of those things,” Lohr said.

DNC corporate has been involved in seven Winter Classics and three Stadium Series events, extending from food and retail to participation by the Boston Bruins, which are owned by Jeremy Jacobs Sr., chairman of DNC.

As part of running Stadium Series retail, the team store inside MetLife Stadium was restricted to employee check-in and warehouse space to store items. Merchandise was sold at three new 32-foot trailers set up on the plazas.

On the east side, outside the Coaches Club at field level, Sportservice sold autographed memorabilia from current players on the four teams and their alumni at a new secondary retail location, spanning 3,000 square feet.

BLANKET COVERAGE: One fan kept warm with a Stadium Series blanket purchased at the Devils-Flyers night game.(Getty Images)

Most retail items contained the Stadium Series patch, and could only be purchased at the event, which helped drive that piece of business, Lohr said.

In the parking lots, Sportservice introduced a new adult beverage, New Amsterdam Tri-State Punch, served at portable bars as part of a large hospitality village that extended to a 100-foot-long tent.

The $14 vodka punch drink was served in one of three souvenir cups sold during the Stadium Series. Most everyone at the bars were purchasing their limit of two punch drinks per transaction, Lohr said.

About 50 front line employees bused in from UBS Arena, home of the Islanders and a Sportservice account, worked the tent.

A total of 2,100 part-timers staffed the Stadium Series games, on par with sold-out NFL games and concerts, Lohr said. Sportservice brought in three chefs, two from Lambeau Field and one from Globe Life Field, to support the premium dining effort.

Catering for teams, NHL and broadcast personnel was another substantial part of Sportservice’s operation for the Stadium Series.

Before the games were played, players brought their families to participate in skating sessions, followed by post-activity meals.

The Flyers alone held a private party for 300 people at the Coaches Club. Catering extended to crews disassembling the ice rink on the field and all of the tents and sponsor activations in the parking lots that included a street hockey setup and a giant air hockey game.