NFL Facilities are Finding New Life Beyond Gameday

From golf courses to gyms, stadiums have become multi-purpose.


The nature of the NFL schedule mandates that stadiums are only busy for a guaranteed ten (or sometimes nine) dates a year. Sure, several venues schedule concerts or trade shows to help fill the gaps, but what new ideas have there been in recent years to leverage stadiums, or even team facilities, beyond the status quo?

Several NFL teams are looking for greener pastures in partnering with a company to completely transform their stadiums during the offseason. Another is using part of its massive headquarters to create a greater connection to the brand. What this all means is the experiences you share with your favorite team have additional opportunities to go beyond game days in the fall.

Fans celebrate at a past Buccaneers Draft Party at Raymond James Stadium — photo via Tampa Bay Buccaneers

FAMILIAR CONCEPTS

Additional use out of a team’s stadium has not been a foreign concept in years past. What one does often provides an opportunity to benchmark for the others.

Many NFL teams have long offered stadium tours on select days and times. From locker room and luxury box visits, walking onto the field, and even a look behind the scenes where the staff works, these tours have helped expand the fan’s connection to the team while serving as an opportunity to generate some additional revenue from the facility.

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Many teams have also used their stadium for NFL Draft parties and the chance to sell some additional concessions. With what sometimes serves as additional access to the team war room, appearances and commentary from current and former players, and the ability to celebrate their team’s good fortune (or not) with fellow fans, the experience keeps fans engaged during the league’s dry spell.

Many businessmen who double as fans, or are looking to impress clients who are also fans, jump at the opportunity to host their next meeting or convention within a space at their local NFL stadium. Hosting space can provide incredible views that can make quite the impression.

The Stadiumlinks setup at Fedex Field with photo via Comcast SportsNet’s Brian Mitchell on Twitter

GREENER PASTURES

This offseason, a company called Stadiumlinks is partnering with four stadiums around the league to transform the football field into a nine-hole golf course.

In the last two weeks, Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium and FexEx Field in Landover, Maryland have both brought the experience to their fans. Later in July, the 49ers and Rams will do the same at Levi’s Stadium and the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, respectively.

Billed as a “one-of-a-kind golf experience,” the event taking place at an eighth of NFL stadiums this summer allows fans and golfers alike to compete in a nine-hole course based on tee shots taken from different locations in the upper deck of the stadium.

For those familiar with the company TopGolf, based in Dallas, the experience is quite similar. Holes are scored based on where the tee shot lands in relation to the green and pin.

Photos from the first two events show the football field transformed into very level holes as the targets from the respective tee boxes. In addition, there are chip and putt contest made available to fans. According to ABC Action News in Tampa, the total yardage of the course at Raymond James Stadium is 1,000 yards.

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Former Redskins running back and Comcast SportsNet host, Brian Mitchell, participated in the festivities at FedEx Field and shared a few views from the experience at different holes. He and his CSN colleague, Chick Hernandez, even took to social media on Facebook Live to share the experience with their viewers.

In Tampa, the course included five sand traps and a clubhouse inside the stadium, where NFL Draft parties have been held in the past.

The 49ers looked to welcome fans to a three-day period in July during a press conference announcing the event last month. In the release, President Al Guido noted the tie between golf and the Bay Area as “Northern California is world renowned for its iconic golf courses amid picturesque settings, and we’re proud to include Levi’s Stadium among them, even if just for three days.” Tee times will be available into the night with stadium lights turned on in the evening.

Photo via Styku — a company providing 3D body scanner services at Cowboys Fit at The Star in Frisco

EXPERIENCES BEYOND THE STADIUM

While every club has a stadium, or share of one, some clubs have built or are in the process of building substantial team headquarter facilities. Perhaps the most famous of these is The Star in Frisco, which recently replaced Valley Ranch as the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

In addition to opening last year with high school football games, and recently holding graduation ceremonies for the Frisco ISD in Texas, additional space on the sprawling complex in the northern suburb of Dallas has been reserved for Cowboys Fit at The Star.

Essentially a gym at the team’s facility, the objective, as shared by NFL Network reporter Jane Slater at its official grand opening, is to “train like a professional athlete.” Fans can purchase individual memberships for the three-floor facility. The first floor contains locker rooms, a recovery lounge, and group fitness and ride rooms as highlights. The second floor features state-of-the-art cardio machines, free weights, 60 yards of SportsTurf with Cowboys end zones, and even the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders training facility. Not to be outdone, the third floor houses a rooftop pool with cabanas overlooking the facility where you can actually watch the players practice on occasion.

With other teams constructing new headquarter facilities in coming years, a new bar in fan experience is being set. Of note, the Minnesota Vikings have recently received approval for a 200-acre plot of land in Eagan, Minnesota to build their new team headquarters. It will be interesting to see how the opportunity to capitalize on a team’s headquarters beyond its stadium develops in coming years.

After the lights are turned off in NFL stadiums in December and January, options for drawing fans back to the stadium have been somewhat predictable and limited in recent years. However, with new events and partnerships with outside firms, and even utilizing team headquarters as an asset, the ability of NFL clubs to strengthen the bond with their fans in the offseason and increase revenue show opportunity for growth.


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