Kansas City’s Sprint Center opened in 2007 with a premium mix of 72 suites and about 1,400 club seats. (Getty Images)
Loge boxes part of ‘wish list’ for upgrades at Kansas City arena
Sprint Center could add new loge boxes as part of future improvements at the 18,972-seat arena, which has thrived for a dozen years in Kansas City without a primary sports tenant.
It’s part of a “wish list” of upgrades pending approval by the city, which owns the building, said Brenda Tinnen, AEG’s general manager at Sprint Center. As of late June, no decision had been made on the project.
AEG would share the cost of the retrofit with the city through the public-private partnership agreement they signed 15 years ago to develop the arena. Under those terms, the city pays for 65% and AEG is responsible for the remaining 35% of capital expenditures, Tinnen said.
Sprint Center opened in 2007 with 72 suites and about 1,400 Founders Club seats. There are no loge boxes, which is a hybrid product combining small groups of four seats with suite like amenities such as counter space, small video screens and storage areas.
The loges would provide something new for premium patrons and boost revenue for AEG and Sprint Center, which hosts 130 events annually and this year had its busiest March, with 250,000 attendees for concerts and college basketball, officials said.
Most big league arenas built over the past decade feature loge boxes, and in many cases the midpriced inventory has been among the first premium seats to sell out for NBA and NHL teams. Loges hit the sweet spot for smaller firms that can’t spend six figures a year for a suite but still want to entertain clients in a premium setting.
Fiserv Forum, for example, opened in 2018 with a loge box product called the West Bend Lofts. The Milwaukee Bucks run the arena in one of the NBA’s smallest markets and may build more lofts after quickly selling all 33 units, team officials told VenuesNow shortly before the building opened.
In Milwaukee, the lofts start at $80,000 a year and include tickets to Bucks and Marquette University men’s basketball games, plus first rights to buy tickets for other events.
Brad Clark, a senior principal with Populous, worked on Fiserv Forum, and in Kansas City, he was part of the Downtown Arena Design Team, a group representing four architecture firms, formed in 2004 to plan Sprint Center.
For the loges, Populous conducted a quick study for AEG and developed initial renderings for what are initially called cabana boxes on the west sideline where the lower bowl meets the concourse, Clark said.
AEG declined to release those images because it has yet to present a formal plan to the city, Tinnen said.
The cabanas, designed in groups of four seats, could tie into an existing concourse bar at the top of the lower bowl. The upgrade would most likely eliminate a few rows of regular fixed seats, Tinnen said.
The percentage of accessible seats required by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act “has been reduced a bit,” she said. “We’re not at that number, so I have some of those locations I can convert in that space.”
AEG is also looking at space on the south end behind the stage for some loge boxes that could be sold for the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament, which will be played at the arena through at least 2024, and NCAA Tournament regionals, plus concerts with in-the-round configurations, Tinnen said.
All told, the retrofit would encompass 70 to 80 total seats, she said.
“The one thing that we suggested that’s part of our study is if you could get the right sponsor like a craft beer, you might implement a beer tap into the box itself as a unique amenity,” Clark said. “It’s an idea we threw out there.”
Apart from Sprint Center, more big league arenas are considering similar retrofits, he said.
In general, the loge box model falls in line with the industry trend for designing arenas with smaller capacities and a multitude of premium seat products such as theater boxes, which have replaced traditional suites in many venues.
In many cases, loge boxes are sold as an all-inclusive product with the cost of food and drink folded into the cost to buy those seats. Sprint Center does not now have an all-inclusive option, Tinnen said.
“It makes a lot of sense to take buildings like Sprint Center, which is 12 years old, and find a way to take it into the future in a way that has some revenue generation positives as well as changing the fan experience and expectations of folks that visit the venue,” Clark said.
Despite Sprint Center’s lack of an anchor tenant, demand has been strong for premium seats, especially considering increased competition from new and renovated venues in the Kansas City market over the past decade.
AEG has now completed one full cycle of renewals of suites after the initial five-, seven- and 10-year contracts expired for the 64 units sold on long-term deals. All but one suite have been renewed, said Shani Tate, Sprint Center’s vice president of sales and marketing.
Suites run from $103,000 to $187,000 annually. The 10-year renewals account for roughly 50% of total suite inventory and came up after the Kansas City Royals won the 2015 World Series and as the Kansas City Chiefs became a playoff team, Tate said.
In addition, more than 90 percent of the club seats are sold, Tate said. Those patrons pay a yearly fee of $4,000 plus the cost of tickets.
“When we opened the doors to Sprint Center, we didn’t have Children’s Mercy Park (home of Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC) and the Chiefs and Royals stadiums had not had a refresh in years,” Tinnen said.
“Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence (which opened in 2009) is smaller, but it’s still competition,” she said. “Starlight Theatre did a refresh for an outdoor venue the city runs that does 10 to 17 concerts a year. There are a lot of other entertainment venues in town.”
Said Tate: “When you ask what keeps us up at night, for me, it’s how do we refresh and reinvest in a market that’s completely different. Over the past 12 years, so many things have changed, (including) how we communicate with decision makers and continue to attract new clients.”