On fall Sundays sometime in the future, fans will show up on Sundays for Rams or Chargers games at Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium. They might show up on a Tuesday, too. As teams get more creative selling access to their increasingly expensive stadiums, SoFi Stadium is uniquely promoting a benefit for its suite owners: year-round access to their luxury boxes.
In a rare if not unprecedented offer for a major American sporting venue, therams.com mentions holding business meetings and private parties as potential off-day uses for their boxes, which can come with “365-day access to SoFi Stadium.” It’s unclear what limits may be put on the offer; many other NFL teams allow access to suites with advanced permission.
In Phoenix’s Talking Stick Resort Arena, Suns global partner PayPal has special access to its corner box even when the building is empty, where it has created a so-called “innovation center.” They used it roughly 100 times (not including the 100-plus events the arena hosted) during the first year, walking potential clientele through its business solutions. A year in, PayPal extended its deal with the Suns and agreed to create a similar site at the home stadium of Spanish soccer club RCD Mallorca, also owned by Suns managing partner Robert Sarver. Phoenix’s chief revenue officer Dan Costello learned from the experiment as the Suns prepared a $230 million arena renovation that is currently under way.
“It provided a jumping-off point that inspired our redesign of our entire suite level,” Costello said. In the old days, Costello added, suite sales were about offering entertainment—a good time. Now, his staff frames their offer as a business decision, emphasizing the upside in recruiting and retaining employees or closing deals. “We want to make sure these investments don’t live on the expense side of the P&L,” Costello said.
One focus for the redesign is increased interaction between suites, with a sliding partition in the back of each box that Costello hopes will generate conversation—and business—among minglers moving through club and bar areas.
Meanwhile, this offseason, the San Francisco Giants moved and updated their bullpen area at Oracle Park. Safety and gameday experience played a role in the redesign, but so did non-gameday considerations. San Francisco made sure the new area could be used as a small amphitheater or a lunch spot for corporate events in the ballpark.
“Those things are thought of when they are built, which is really exciting, and it empowers the staff to feel like this business has made a dent,” Giants Enterprises VP Joey Nevin said.
The Rams, then, are only building on a longstanding trend. “We’ve been discussing this in the suite world for a very long time,” said TicketManager CEO Tony Knopp.
Repositioning the suites as a flexible, year-round workspace could also have budgetary benefits for clients, according to Bill Sutton, a former NBA exec and current strategic marketing consultant. In certain situations, companies could see tax benefits for spending the money on business development purposes rather than on entertainment (talk to your accountant), and either way, in dicey economic periods like our current one, the former category of spending is less likely to be cut.
“It’s not common,” Sutton said of SoFi’s offer, “But you know what? It should be.”
And speaking of uncertain times, while stadiums around the country currently sit empty, creative managers might soon be able to leverage their large, open-air spaces in new ways. When fans do come back, access to a separate, controlled environment like a box could be a selling point for the wary. Between games, the allure of Zooming from the ballpark is already apparent in the number of workers using virtual backgrounds from their favorite grounds.