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Top Trends in Premium Seating

Houston Astrodome luxury suite

The first ever sports & entertainment luxury suite at the Houston Astrodome in Houston, TX.

The first luxury suite was built in 1968 in the Houston Astrodome, a building visible from space and known as the 8th Wonder of the World.  It set the stage for an arms race to build bigger and better stadiums all across America.  Today, the premium seating industry – consisting of club seats and luxury suites for sporting events and concerts – is a driving force behind the growth in the live event industry.  Premium seats often account for less than 20% of the seats in a venue, but they usually generate over 50% of the ticketing revenue.  When a new stadium is built, the guaranteed income from the long-term suite leases give bankers the confidence to make the large loans necessary to finance the stadium.

I’m fresh off dozens of meetings at the Association of Luxury Suite Directors annual conference.  Here are the top 3 trends I heard at the show:

Technological Advancements

Teams and venues keep upping their game with technology and building design – the in-stadium fan experience has never been better.  The Teams understand that the experience in your living room is more compelling with each passing year.  That’s why they are designing stadiums to give you things you just can’t get at home.  At AT&T Stadium, for example, guests in the Field Suites can stand just feet away as the players enter and exit the field.  Some suite owners get to park their car underneath the stadium and take an elevator directly to their suite level.  And if you thought you had a big TV at home, fans at the game can watch replays on the center-hung video board spanning 72 feet high by 160 feet wide.  That’s hard to replicate in your living room. In addition, teams are leaning on third-party vendors to provide an added WOW factor in the suites.  For example, suites at Churchill Downs feature Monsieur machines, a robotic bartender designed to mix you a perfect cocktail.  If you get hungry in a suite during a Minnesota Wild game at Xcel Energy Center, ordering food is as simple as a few clicks on an an in-suite tablet, powered by Bypass.  The Internet of Things just might have a bigger impact on luxury suites than on your living room.


PNC Park has one of the best premium experiences in baseball

PNC Park has a world class premium seating experience

Convergence of Primary ad Secondary Markets for Luxury Suites

The primary and secondary markets for tickets have converged; suites are next.  TicketMaster now runs its own fan-to-fan resale marketplaces.  StubHub’s name will be on the Jersey of the 76ers next year.  Large brokers like Ticket Galaxy, DTI, and Dynasty have aligned closely with Teams to control secondary resale and they are sharing the data they collect with their Teams counterparts.  That same level of collaboration isn’t yet happening between the primary and secondary suite market, but having a liquid secondary market for suites is good for teams (easier to sell and renew leases, more F&B revenue, fewer dark suites), and it’s great for the suite owners (higher ROI on their suite investment).  Data from InviteManager shows that leased suites go unused or misused 43% of the time.  That number will drop as Teams begin to collaborate with the secondary suite players to provide solutions to leaseholders looking to maximize the ROI on their multi-year investment.

Impact of Virtual Reality

The post-venue world is closer than you think. Ok, maybe that headline is a bit dramatic – the game will always need to be played somewhere, after-all.  But if you listen to Andy Dolich and Wes Burtner from VHere, they make a compelling case for how VR can bring fans to places they could only dream of before. What if you could listen to Aaron Rodgers pump-up his team before taking the field, or be in the locker room for a championship celebration?  Virtual Reality has the potential to put the fans right in the middle of the action from thousands of miles away.


How will the teams continue to innovate their most premium experiences?  Touch-screen walls in the suite to monitor your fantasy team?  In-suite VR headsets for a window into the home team locker room at halftime?  Even more on-demand suite catering options at your fingertips? One thing is for certain: the best is yet to come in the world of premium seating.

About Scott Spencer, President

As the President of Suite Experience Group, Mr. Spencer oversees all aspects of the business, including sales, marketing, and operations.

Contact Scott

Posted in Industry News

5 Key Trends in Premium Seating

The premium seating market as we know it continues to evolve and grow at a rapid pace. Here are five observations on the state of the premium seating market inspired by discussion at this year’s Association of Luxury Suite Directors conference in San Francisco:

  1. De-Couching is a top priority for venues. Teams know their biggest competition for your time and money is actually the comfort of your living room. Innovations such as NFL Sunday Ticket and DVR have drastically improved the in-home viewing experience. The venues’ goal of getting you off your couch and to the game has spawned significant continued investment. From in-stadium WiFi, mobile apps that allow you to order food right to your seat, special exit routes from premium parking lots, expansion and upgrades of comfortable stadium clubs, and more. Levi’s Stadium even has a garden on the rooftop in case you need a little nature in your life during halftime.
  2. Experiences Trump Possessions. Companies and individuals are once again spending more freely as the US economy has recovered from the doldrums of the recession. However, there has been a marked shift as people seek unique experiences over material goods. This trend is particularly relevant in corporate entertainment, as expanding budgets allow for ‘bucket list’ experiences to be fulfilled. Want Joe Montana in your suite for the game? Want to get dropped off at the Masters with your best client via helicopter? All it takes is money and connections. 
  3. There is a new definition of luxury. When it comes to luxury experiences, high-end furnishings and free-flowing Dom Perignon are now just table-stakes. According to Dimensional Innovations, when it comes to experiences, true luxury is when the rules don’t apply to you. The Global Entry program that speeds Trusted Travelers through customs while others wait in lengthy lines is a great example of this. And when it comes to stadiums, it’s the symbolic touches like having a parking spot right in front of the stadium with your name on it that is just the sort of thing that makes you feel different than the other patrons. True luxury is when the rules don’t apply to you and the premium seating market is finding new ways to make their most important patrons feel special. Now VIP ticket holders can get pre-game field passes to an NFL game, cheerleader visits in a suite, access to the tunnel at an NBA game… the limit is usually one’s imagination. In the years ahead, the definition of luxury will continue to push the boundaries.
  4. Ticket Market Consolidation. Big ticket brokers are squeezing out the little ones (exhibit A: PrimeSport and Stubhub’s deal at the Super Bowl). Primary market players (teams, venues, TicketMaster) are directly competing with the big secondary players (Exhibit B: Stubhub’s lawsuit with the Warriors). There is serious money to be made and the days of getting tickets from the shady broker on the corner have been replaced by mobile tickets and sophisticated pricing algorithms. Expect to see the delineation between the primary and secondary market converge as teams embrace variable pricing strategies and secondary companies partner with the ticket rights holders (e.g., ScoreBig has become a reliable channel for the teams and TicketMaster to sell distressed ticket inventory, but ScoreBig also relies heavily on broker inventory). What does this mean for the customer? Most likely it means higher-prices and fewer ticket sources for the events they want to attend. But customers are also getting more savvy and they are armed with information to help them find the best source for their tickets (as evidence of this, SeatGeek has raised over $100M to be the Kayak for event tickets).
  5. Markets trend towards transparency. The premium seating market is the last frontier for teams and VIP brokers who claim to provide unique and otherwise unattainable access to front-row tickets, luxury suites, and celebrity experiences. StubHub long-ago made sure that you can get a ticket to nearly any major event in America, as long as you’re willing to make liberal use of your credit card. But just as the other segments of the economy have been transformed by collaborative consumption and sharing (think NetJets, Uber, Rent the Runway), so too is the premium seating market being transformed by efficient market forces. At Suite Experience Group, we’re making it easier to get a luxury suite for any event that you want. And we’re hearing incredibly positive feedback from both buyers and sellers. Customers love the fact that they can now rent a luxury suite for only the games they want to attend. Teams and suite owners love that they can monetize suites that would otherwise go unused or underutilized. Markets become more efficient over time and we’re doing our best to be a catalyst in this trend.

As a consumer, you can expect continued innovation in the premium seating and luxury suite markets.  Here’s to the suite life.

About Scott Spencer, President

As the President of Suite Experience Group, Mr. Spencer oversees all aspects of the business, including sales, marketing, and operations.

Contact Scott

Posted in Industry News