By DON MURET
The first major premium seat upgrades at the Edward Jones Dome since it opened in 1995 have paid big dividends for the St. Louis Rams.
The field-level seats, all-inclusive club and loge boxes opened in 2009 and every piece of additional inventory is sold, said Bob Reif, the Rams’ Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer.
The 48 field-level seats, 24 behind each end zone, cost $5,000 for the season and are available exclusively to suite holders as an add-on to their skybox purchase, Reif said. The cushioned, swivel chairs, protected by a railing, are just nine feet from the back of the end zone. Field-level patrons walk through the same tunnel the players use to reach the field. Reif got the idea for the seats from his days working at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“One product I thought was great was the pit and garage passes, where you leave your suite and go down to the pit,” he said. “This is a similar product; these seats are only eligible to people who own suites. It gives you a different perspective.”
The 48 field-level seats are an add-on to skybox purchases.The all-inclusive club, sponsored by The Sports Nook, a local ticket broker, was created by tearing down the walls of four suites in the northeast corner. Those skyboxes were previously reserved for community programs and did not typically generate revenue, Reif said.
The ability to sell two- and four-seat packages in the club provides an option for companies that don’t need a full-scale suite, he said. The Sports Nook seats cost $525 a game for the season. Food and drinks, a pregame field pass for one game, and a chair massage are part of the package.
The loge boxes, marketed as four-person mini-suites with club chairs and two televisions, cost $18,000 a seat for the season, including food and drinks and private parking. “Park your car, take a private entrance, go up the elevator to the third floor and walk 10 steps into your club,” Reif said.
The loges are part of the Clarkson Jewelers Club in the south end zone. Loge box holders can hang out and shoot pool, play Xbox games and browse Clarkson’s display case, which contains about $1 million in jewelry, watches and accessories. It’s all brought in by security three hours before kickoff and removed within two hours after the game. Clarkson associates are on hand for those fans interested in making a game-day purchase.
Other NFL teams visiting St. Louis have seen the appeal of the loge boxes and the affordable prices compared with six-figure suites, Reif said.
“The irony of all this is … NFL television ratings continue to increase because the experience in-home is so much improved over what it was in the past,” he said. “So many teams are trying to replicate that … all the creature comforts … the ‘man cave,’ if you will.”
For the Rams, selling naming rights for two premium areas to the ticket broker and jewelry retailer was icing on the cake, he said.
In another project completed in 2009, the Rams pushed the price of their most expensive regular seats between the 40-yard lines from $100 to $120 a game after replacing hard plastic with cushioned chairs for the best seats in the house.
“Those are the only tickets we have increased in price in five years,” Reif said. “We did a study with the NFL and found there was great elasticity for those seats.” The 99 percent renewal rate indicates to the Rams that they could charge more money for those seats in the future.
Fifty-three of the dome’s 121 remaining suites were up for renewal this year after their 15-year leases expired. To date, the number of unsold units is fewer than 20, not bad considering the Rams’ on-field performance of late, Reif said.
“It’s been a challenge coming off the toughest stretch of any team in NFL history with only six wins in three years,” he said. “On top of that, with everything else happening in the economy … we have sold pretty well.”