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April 16, 2004

Venue Clutter: Signage Signage Everywhere

FROM THE REVENUE ENHANCEMENT ANNALS OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL come crafty money-making schemes designed to extract the maximum possible advertising, sponsorship, ticketing, souvenir, hospitality and food & beverage dollars.

The most recent focus is in-stadium profit centers, and they come in two varieties. The first type is revenues generated from sponsoring companies. Advertising innovations from just a few years ago have become old hat: stadium naming rights, rotating signage, video screen ads, behind-the-plate signage, paid PA mentions, on-field promotions, and so on.

The other type of revenue comes from paying fans. Income boosters such as higher ticket prices, club seats, sliding-scale pricing, on-line last-minute ticket clearances, partial season ticket plans and VIP parking have spread through much of pro sports.

But the latest generation of schemes is innovative and aggressive. Many ideas are applicable to football stadiums, and some to college venues as well.
Signage placement has expanded significantly in and around MLB stadiums this year. Now there is signage in dugouts, behind on-deck circles, in bullpens, in parking lots and even on groundskeepers’ sweepers.

There comes a point, however, when signage can become overkill. “We were looking to enhance revenues, but not to make it look like a hockey arena." says Lonn Trost, Yankee CEO.

Not surprisingly, the most innovative ticketing schemes come from the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Each is cursed / blessed with authentically old stadiums that are sorely lacking in modern amenities.

Unable to build a new Fenway Park, the new owners--who forked over a whopping $660 million for the BoSox—added premium seats atop the left field “Green Monster,” the right field roof and two rows of dugout seats. Seats in all these sections are premium priced from $75 to $250. The new sections will bring in up to $6 million this season.

At Wrigley Field, 213 seats have been added behind home plate, and they will generate $2.9 million this season. In addition, the Cubs brought a copyright infringement suit against 13 rooftop entrepreneurs behind the left and right field bleachers. The Cubs negotiated 17% of the revenue from these out-of-Wrigley businesses; they stand to realize $1.5 million from the arrangement.

And on the horizon? Incremental revenue enhancers are likely to increase in the near-term future as astronomical player salaries flourish.


(this excerpt—with accompanying commentary—was reduced from a 1294 word article in the New York Times of 4-16-04)