Bye Bye Luxury Box

Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys

Yesterday, the Dallas Cowboys unveiled the first finished luxury suite at their new stadium. To save time and money, they might want to stop work on some of those, including the league’s first ever field level suites.

Since the stadium was designed, a lot has changed. The corporate world is in shambles and corporate hospitality at this point is non-existent. And while the Cowboys say that 273 of the 300 suites are booked, don’t think “America’s Team” won’t go through America’s troubles. Trust me, some of those leases that are signed through 2029 won’t even stand the test of 2009.

And no, it doesn’t really matter that the suites are double the size of those at Texas Stadium. It doesn’t matter that it has granite and marble counter tabletops and a limestone entryway. Or that front of the bar is lined with crocodile skin. Actually that does matter. Corporate America now cringes at that stuff.

As the Cowboys, Mets, Yankees, Giants and Jets, pitch their spanking new amenity-packed suites, teams across the country are quietly facing the painful task of knocking down walls and glass in an attempt to modify luxury suites into a more economic resistant option.

Those who are doing this might want to contact the Seattle Mariners, who are clearly the leaders in the luxury suite modification space.

A couple years after debuting Safeco Field, the team converted eight of their suites and built a bigger area called the All-Star Club. The seats, which currently cost about $150 per game, gave the team a chance to sell something in between their more expensive Diamond Club and a regular box seat.

“We were selling these suites that required one company to buy 16 seats,” said Bob Aylward, the Mariners head of business operations, “so we did this so that we could meet the need of a small business that wanted the same amenities but could only wanted to purchase a couple seats per game.”

Aylward said the transition was successful, filling a need to appease a smaller business or higher-end consumer that wasn’t interested in dropping anything more than $1,000 a game for a couple seats.

With the economic downturn, Aylward said he’s currently thinking of other ideas, which could utilize more suites and turn it into another area. Aylward says he’s playing with the idea of offering a suite club of sorts that will enable people to use suites on a more flexible basis than what has ever been offered before.

“People want our version of ‘beachfront property,’ but some people don’t know in March if they can make a game in July,” Aylward said.

The complication with charging a membership to a club like this, where people would essentially pay for a high-end seat on a flexible basis, is that some games could potentially sell out. That would obviously compromise the offer, Aylward said.

Aylward said one thing is for sure — the idea of the luxury box is evolving in this environment.

How each team decides to physically alter their boxes is what is up in the air, but those who don't could be in trouble down the road. Funny that not having these things just a couple years ago was considered financial suicide.

Questions? Comments?