While Cleveland Cavaliers Chief Marketing Officer Tracy Marek has been with the organization since 2003, the finalization of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse’s $185 million renovation this offseason has even her double-checking where she is.
“It really feels like a brand new building,” Marek said. “I’ve worked here for a long time and it takes me a minute to get my bearings straight because everything is so dramatically different.”
In February 2018, the Cavaliers began construction on the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Transformation project. While it didn’t affect the annual slate of Cavs and Monsters hockey – the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets – it did close all event activity during the summers of 2018 and 2019.
Now, after almost two years of renovations, the updated Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse had its “Welcome Home” grand opening on September 28. The public was admitted free of charge to see what new features the 152,970-square foot arena held. Nearly 30,000 people showed up for the occasion, said Marek, getting a preview of what to expect for the Cavs’ 50th NBA season.
“The two-year transformation of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse is complete and we can’t wait to open the doors to the community and invite everyone in to see it, experience it, and take pride in it,” said Cavaliers and Rocket MortgageFieldHouse CEO Len Komoroski in a press release regarding the grand opening.
When laying out plans for the newly renovated Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the Cavs focused on how it could improve the fan experience through bigger spaces, said Marek.
Last season, Cleveland drew an average home attendance of 19,349 to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. In total, it attracted 793,337 fans to its 41 home games – the eighth-highest mark in the NBA. With the newly renovated Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the team already expects to at least match those figures in 2019-2020, said Zack Yohman, the team’s senior manager of corporate communications.
One way in which it plans on improving the experience for the 19,000 plus fans every night was through its newly designed atrium, said Marek. Inside the atrium is an aluminum wall made up of over 1,400 glass pieces and a 77,000-square-foot curtain for LED light projections. On the outside, its added space helps protect fans from the inclement weather often associated with Cleveland.
To accommodate the city’s frigid winter months, the Cavs also added 42,530-square feet to their open sidewalk space. It not only is aimed to get fans into the arena faster, but the area also educates them on every team that’s played at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Once visitors navigate through the atrium, they enter what the Cavs have dubbed the “power portal,” said Marek. It’s a 360-degree tunnel consisting of 2,200-square feet of LED panels backed by an “all-immersive video experience” that’s supported by a surround sound system called Soundscape.
“I think we have a lot of content within the facility that is there to build energy and get you excited for whatever event you’re going to participate in,” Marek said. “On top of that, it just feels like Cleveland. Wherever you are in the building, I think that there’s this dynamic feeling of our city and a lot of that has to do with the artwork and branding that we’ve added to the facility.”
Another important feature in the latest version of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse is the Budweiser Brew House, said Marek. Along with the Overlook Bar, the duo are the latest additions to the arena’s refurbished First Energy – Loudville section. Before them, the floor merely consisted of standard concession stands; with the Budweiser Brew House, it overlooks the basketball court – allowing fans to follow the action from there.
“There’s a lot of neighborhoods and there’s a lot to experience in this building,” Marek said. “If the events that we’ve had to this point are any indication, fans are soaking it up and finding new things every game.”
While it offers great amenities off the court, the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse won’t make up for the Cavs’ on-court performance. They finished 2019 with a 19-63 record – 14th in the Eastern Conference standings – and are projected to finish with anywhere between 22 and 26 wins in 2020.
To balance the team’s rebuilding mode, the Cavs have a new Moviepass-type subscription model to complement its Wine & Gold United season ticket platform. The Wine & Gold United season-ticket platform offers full-season, half-season, and 11-game membership plans. Heading into the 2019-2020 season, the Cavs are at approximately 10,000 full-season equivalents, said Yohman.
With the Cavs Monthly Pass, subscribers are guaranteed seats to as many games in a given month as they’d like – as long as seats are reserved at least 24 hours before tip-off. Seats in the lower bowl are selling for $89 per month and $49 in the Loudville/upper bowl section.
With 12 games in the first full month of the season, fans could attend for as low as $4.08 per game and as high as $7.41 per game. After the first month, the plan renews automatically – unless subscribers cancel at least five days before the start of the following month.
For the first month of the 2019-2020 season, the Cavs have sold nearly 1,000 monthly passes – and even sold out in the Lower Bowl, said Yohman. Of those purchases, at least 50% of them are from buyers who never previously purchased a Cavs ticket before from the team website. If that monthly subscription figure continues for the remainder of the season, it would exceed 42,000 tickets sold.
From the first month alone, Marek sees a new era of Cavs fans visiting Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse this season. With the Monthly Pass subscription, it has given more people easier access to games – and more chances than past years at connecting with the franchise.
“Right now, the appetite is there,” Marek said. “A big part of our job is to make sure that we’re creating the ticket opportunities and also promoting the events and the games in such a way that those fans recognize that there is a seat here in this building for them and that there’s an easy way to buy tickets.”