Businesses using corporate hospitality to woo clients get plenty bang for their buck in these stadiums.
NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Think a seat in front of a giant flatscreen with a full slate of games and coffee table loaded with snacks is the best seat in the house this year? You obviously haven't seen the NFL's luxury seats and suites.
If you want to draw large corporations into your stadium and the big money that comes with them, it helps to throw in a private apartment, food from top chefs and free beer every so often. Three-quarters of U.S. sports teams have either built or remodeled their venues in the past two decades with an eye toward increased luxury options. With suites contributing 5% to 20% of total team revenue, those high-paying playpens and other swanky seating areas have become necessities for teams looking to boost the bottom line.
We took a look around the league, consulted average luxury seating prices for NFL stadiums as compiled by Team Marketing Report and came up with pro football's Top 10 places for luxury pampering. From endless gourmet food to time on the field, these seats get corporate and well-heeled fans into the game even when the gridiron action isn't so great:
Lucas Oil Field
Average premium ticket price: $246.17
So Peyton Manning's gone, the team went 2-14 last year and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck gets the ball to start the 2012 season. Who wants seconds at the nacho bar? Back when Manning was slinging the ball to Reggie Wayne and guiding the Colts to the Super Bowl, it was a whole lot easier to pack Lucas Oil Field's 137 suites. Now those personal televisions between each showing of DirecTVs' (:DTV) NFL Sunday Ticket are a much bigger perk for fans in the stadium's dozen super suites, while the 10 feet between fans and the endzone in the stadium's eight field suites may be a bit too close for comfort this year.
FedEx (:FDX) Field
Average premium ticket price: $254.56
The Colts aren't the only team depending on a rookie quarterback to sell hundreds of luxury suites. Robert Griffin III could use more than the Hooters Club's wings and the Montecristo Club's cigars to help sell luxury tickets this year, considering how much higher the stakes are. The team has already suffered through a string of mediocre at best seasons and dropped seating capacity from more than 91,000 in 2010 to 83,000 last year. This year, capacity drops to just 79,000 after the team removed seats to put in a standing-room-only "party deck" while the top suites get some renovations. Premium Club and Dream Seat members still get premium concessions, exclusive events, memorabilia discounts, postgame parties and leather-padded seats for their trouble, but free food and drinks delivered free to Dream Seats is a fairly sweet perk.
Reliant (:NRG) Stadium
Average premium ticket price: $260.17
A team on the rise, a town stocked with Big Energy and Fortune 500 companies and a retractable roof stadium with more than 200 luxury suites to fill bodes well for corporate sports fans. Never mind the catering menus filled with taqueria, barbecue, beef, pralines and pecan bourbon pie: Giant suites between 1,000 and 1,300 square feet that pack in 60 to 100 people a pop are cushy digs for fans who want to see T.J. Yates, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson return to the postseason after last year's first-ever franchise playoff win.
San Francisco 49ers
Average premium ticket price: $275
Candlestick Park has roughly 70,000 seats, and only 2% are of the luxury variety. That's no way to host half of Silicon Valley or pry its tech prodigies from their piles of cash. Especially when the "perks" your suites tout include "excellent views of the field," "sliding windows" and VIP parking. Those are all great luxury box features ... for 1992. Perhaps the best amenity the 49ers offer for suiteholders is priority access to suites at the team's new stadium in Santa Clara when it opens in 2014. Santa Clara stadium is just a bunch of beams now, but the 49ers claim they've already sold roughly $140 million in luxury suites for it.
Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Average premium ticket price: $282.83
So Tim Tebow is gone after last year's playoff run. A capable coach in Mike Shannahan, a hall-of-fame quarterback in Peyton Manning and an eminently winnable AFC West should be more than enough to get people to shell out for premium seats, right? This team knows lean times all too well and offers its United Club members fireplace lounges, stone pizza ovens cranking out pies and calzones, flatscreens throughout the lounges and VIP parking and entrances if they pay enough. That $180 to $340 a game jumps to $450 to nearly $700 per person for suite packages that include all of that, parking passes, guest passes, private televisions with NFL Sunday Ticket and all-inclusive food and beverage. Even higher-priced executive suites and "Legends Rooms" pale when compared with the 5280 room, which seats only 52 people, includes a reserved extra-wide leather seat, indoor seating, private restrooms, personal wait service, exclusive entrance, pre-game field passes and first right of refusal for playoff tickets. The damage: $9,250 a seat per year with $1,000 deposit.
Raymond James (:RJF) Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Average premium ticket price: $293.30
Will promising NFL Sunday Ticket in suites work if the team on the field is blacked out? Ask folks in the Bucs' club seats, who enjoy free food, alumni autograph sessions and pregame entertainment while watching games no one else within a 75-mile radius can see, only to go to their exclusive lounge and miss the action on the field because the game is blacked out. The Bucs have spent much of the past two seasons off local television thanks to low home game attendance, but that hasn't stopped the team from trying to lure high-end customers with $150 to $400 club seats. While folks in the suites get all of those club perks plus air-conditioned rooms, extra-wide seats and access to other stadium events such as University of Southern Florida games and the Outback Bowl, the "preferred parking" still falls short of amenities offered by other teams and may partially explain why Tampa seems just fine with watching whatever game is on at home.
Average premium ticket price: $340
Jerry World's $100,000 to $500,000 suites are stocked by the same catering service used by the new Yankee Stadium. For a $150,000 "seat option" and $3,400 in season tickets, however, the members of the stadium's Founders Club are treated like the new oligarchy with seats right on the 50 yard line and all-access passes that include VIP parking inside the stadium, entry to a field-level club and all-inclusive dining.
What's on the menu? Carving stations of New Zealand baby lamb chops and Kobe beef; a truffled macaroni and cheese bar with fontina, jalapeno havarti and white cheddar; a full quesadilla station with beef tenderloin; and free beer and wine. The pricing doesn't always make sense, as buyers have to leapfrog the parking-privileged loge seats ($12,000 down payment with $1,240 a year) in the upper deck to get private lounges and first dibs on concerts in the parking-deprived lower-level sideline Club Seats ($16,000 to $50,000 up front and $3,400 annually).
Average premium ticket price: $389
Has it really been six years since that last Super Bowl appearance against the Colts? Ask folks in the Zurich Skyline Suite, who've been parting with $8,750 per seat per year of their four-year commitment, plus a $5,000 membership fee, to watch their team finish behind Green Bay and Detroit. Maybe the climate-controlled suites, open bar, buffets, carving stations, in-seat drink service, alumni player appearances, 46 high-definition screens, two free laptops, pregame field passes and free parking for every two seats makes it hurt a bit less. Maybe it just makes folks wonder why they didn't just go in with some friends on a $17,000 suite or sacrifice a little personal space for the United Club's Three-level climate controlled indoor lounge area, private entrances and restrooms, 138 TVs and two 20-foot video screens showing NFL Sunday Ticket and eight full-service bar areas.
Met Life Stadium
New York Giants and Jets
East Rutherford, N.J.
Average premium ticket price: $464.75 for Giants games
When your stadium clubs are named after Chase (:JPM) and Lexus, that should be your first hint premium seats may get a little pricier than average. The Chase and Lexus clubs give ticketholders access to one of two 50,000-square-foot clubs, wider cushioned seats in the second tier and a private stadium entrance. Those will set a buyer back $7,500 to $12,000 just for the right to buy season tickets, then another $4,000 to $5,000 per season. That's still a somewhat better deal than fans are getting in the Toyota (:TM) Coaches Club, where fans pay $20,000 for a personal seat license and $700 per game for a field-level view and access to premium food and drinks. Even that's nothing compared with the "we'll give you a quote" costs of the stadium's more than 300 suites and massive Commissioner's Club suite that consider VIP parking, private lobbies, private entrances, multiple televisions and a wet bar as base amenities. Want a discount? Wait for a Jets game, when average premium ticket prices drop to $291.90.
New England Patriots
Average premium ticket price: $566.67
This is one area in which the Patriots refuse to finish second to the Giants. The Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl since 2005, but being in the hunt every year means New England companies are still willing to pay Super Bowl prices for their luxury seats and suites. Putnam Club members are more than willing to part with their premium for great views of the game, VIP parking, private access, wide padded seats, flat screen HD TVs and video walls in the club, club-exclusive game-day mobile apps, high-end food and beverage options, first right to buy playoff and Super Bowl tickets and other stadium event tickets, 365-day access, exclusive press conferences with current Patriots players and coaches and post-game field visits.
Folks in the EMC (:EMC) luxury suites get all of that and private entrances, suite attendants and restrooms. Even if fans can't pay tops-in-the-league prices for those premium services, the Patriots offer single-game seating at their pre-game field house tailgate party and at VIP facilities in Gillette Stadium's adjacent mall.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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