Gone are the days of most fans paying for a ticket, hot dog, beer and leaving a stadium and arena feeling content and happy with their experience. Fans have become more sophisticated with their tastes and now not only expect, but demand an experience worth their time and monetary investment.
Built in 1993, the newly-renamed Enterprise Center (thanks to a recently signed 15-year agreement with locally headquartered company Enterprise) had not seen any major renovations since its doors first opened and welcomed Blues fans to a game in downtown St. Louis. Now, in year two of a three-year renovation process that will see everything from the ice plant and video board replaced to refurbished bathrooms and public gathering spaces, the Blues are elevating the experience for their fans through new premium areas, upgraded concessions, brand new seating, and an expanded merchandise store.
The transition started last year when the organization took out over 400 seats and 8 suites to create Theater Boxes that allowed fans a high-end experience without having to shell out for a suite.
“We had 97 suites before we built the Theater Boxes, which we felt was too many for a market this size. Most markets of our size have about 60 suites,” said Josh Bender, Vice President, Ticketing and Guest Experience for the Blues. “We wanted to create a product for people who couldn’t necessarily use a whole suite for entertaining at every event, but at the same time wanted to create a very premium experience for 4-6 of their best clients or employees. Other venues have been very successful with this concept.”
Having the chance to attend 100+ events a year while also enjoying larger, more comfortable chairs, premium service and the best food and beverage experience in the arena, the Theater Boxes have quickly become one of the most sought-after offerings in the arena.
“We sold out relatively quickly,” added Bender. “They have been very well received and we now have a substantial waiting list for them.”
The Blues are also elevating all of their premium spaces with experiences in mind.
“We wanted to enhance the experience of a wide range of clients. When it comes to our premium clients, for example, last year we had about 1,600 Club Seats. All of these guests were serviced by a club in the end zone called the Bud Light Zone for their all-inclusive food and beverage offering. We try our best, but there are limits to the experience when you put that many people in a small space. You really want to enhance the experience of those people who are paying a premium.
Now, in one half of the new club, called the Clark Avenue Club, we are building a direct access lounge right behind the seats that will give fans a much better experience including higher quality amenities, a better F&B experience, with a capacity of only 732. We are essentially tripling the amount of square footage per person in this new Club.
On the other half of the club, we are changing to what we call Terrace seating and we are creating more of a premium value experience for our clients. They won’t have an all-inclusive offering, but they are going to have a $25 loaded ticket for every game per ticket so they can create they own food and beverage experience and the lowered ticket price will reflect that flexibility and value. They will have close access as well to a Sports Bar space we are creating on the Club level.”
Thanks to the success and demand for the Theater Boxes, part of the new renovation includes a seating area opposite the theater boxes that will provide fans with a similar elevated experience.
“We had such great feedback from the Theater Boxes that we wanted to create a comparable experience on the other side of the arena,” said Bender. “Although access will only be for Blues games, we anticipate the demand to be just as strong for this area. Clients will be able to select from a couple of different seating options, while also experiencing the same first-class service as the Theater Box product.”
If there is one trend these changes help capture is that attending games is more about the whole experience than just what happens on the ice, something Bender and his team want to make sure is the best for every fan, regardless of their price point.
“We want to give fans a wide variety of elevated experiences. We are still very cognizant of those who want to come to the game, sit in their seats, and enjoy their hot dog and beer experience. We are keeping and enhancing that experience, but we are also creating elevated experiences at different price levels all the way up to our new rinkside space where we are creating a new, event level lounge for our clients who sit close to the glass.”
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It’s these types of experiences that Tim Rebich, a Principal at Centerfold Agency, says will allow teams like the Blues to create new opportunities for brands to connect with consumers.
“Creating a variety of experiences within a stadium allows for a lot of different opportunities for the fan or even sponsor experiences. The fan can benefit from being able to ‘explore’ these neighborhoods while being connected to the overarching brand.”
From fans to brands and everyone in between, renovations like what the Blues are doing for Enterprise Center are only positives for the industry as a whole.