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NY Mets Exec Dave Howard On Selling Out Luxury Suites

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AP

The New York Mets said yesterday that they have sold out their luxury suites for Citi Field next year. That’s an amazing statement of resistance, especially during these tough economic times. I spoke with Dave Howard, the team’s executive vice president of business operations.

Darren: What did you sell them and at what price?

Howard: We had the Sterling Suites, which are 20 rows off the field. There are 22 seats in those suites and we sold 10 of them for $500,000 each. Then we had the Empire Suites, which are still spectacular. They are essentially the first level above field level and they are looking over the infield dirt between the first and third base lines. We have 39 of those that we sold for $250,000, up until the point where we realized we had more demand than supply, so we sold the last five or six for $275,000. Those seats are closer to the field than the suites being sold at Yankee Stadium and they have in between 16 and 23 seats in them.

Darren: How did you come up with those prices?

Howard: We did market analysis and looked at the New York City marketplace as well as various suite products. We took that and compared it with our history at Shea Stadium, even though Citi Field and Shea Stadium are very different. We also hired a consultant to do his own market research and put together a survey. We took all of those factors and came up with our rate card price. We went to market early last year and they were moving very quickly. For a time, we questioned if we priced it too low, especially after we saw the Yankees pricing ($600,000 to $850,000). But we’re confident it’s a fair number and are looking forward to delivering great value to the people and companies that bought the suites.

Darren: And there’s nothing left?

Howard: Well, we have two suites that each sit 30 fans that we’re going to sell on a per-game basis. And we know that there’s going to be plenty of demand for that. At Shea, in each of the last two seasons, we sold 400 single-day suites. With these two suites, we’ll only be able to offer 162 suites each season. So we don’t have the kind of inventory that we once had on a single-game basis.

Darren: How many different leases do you have for the suites in terms of length and how much do suite holders have to give you in advance?

Howard: We have staggered lease agreements – 3 year, 5 year, 7 year and 10 year contracts. The long-term deals have lower annual escalators and the shorter term contracts have higher annual escalators. They all have to pay us a full year as a deposit.

Darren: What’s the distribution of corporations versus individuals buying these suites? About 80 corporate to 20 percent individual?

Howard: That’s probably about right, maybe a little bit more towards the corporate side.

Darren: Did any corporation that committed bow out due to the tough times we’re in?

Howard: No. Everyone that signed a contract is still with us.

Darren: How did you help justify the costs to the buyer from a financial perspective?

Howard: One of the things we are doing is offering our suite customers a concierge service. We’ll help them sell their suites on a single game basis and we know we’ll be able to sell those because of the demand we had in a far inferior stadium. In general, these times have forced people to become a little bit more discriminating with what the purchase. Having this stadium allows us to compete better than we ever have before even though we obviously fell short on the field (for the playoffs) two years in a row.

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