Private cabanas. Pool parties. VIP lists and velvet ropes. All-you-can-eat caviar.
South Florida’s sports venues are re-creating the idea of “club seats.” By this fall, all four major teams in Miami-Dade and Broward counties will offer unique, club-like spaces, most under established brand names, with varying degrees of affordability and exclusivity.
While the model seems custom-made for a party city like Miami, local teams over the last couple years have tapped into a national trend that has seen arenas in cities from Orlando to Los Angeles renovated with new high-end revenue generators in mind.
Even the Broward Center for the Performing Arts — a venue more familiar with Broadway shows and the ballet than ball games — is getting into the act, introducing a new “club level” on Oct. 29. And Homestead-Miami Speedway last year launched the Pit Box, a premium indoor 250-seat area above the start/finish line.
“Let’s be honest, Miami is a see-and-be-seen event town,” said said George Stieren, media relations director for the speedway. “And we wanted to cater to that audience while maintaining affordability for families and other types of fans.”
LIV Sun Life Stadium — an offshoot of the popular Fontainebleau Miami Beach nightclub — kicked off the local club-in-stadium scene two years ago, followed by the Clevelander at Marlins Park, a version of the famed South Beach party spot.
By Oct. 1, the home of the Florida Panthers in Sunrise will open a members-only upscale venue called Club RED. And the home of the Miami Heat will celebrate the grand opening of the high-end Hyde AmericanAirlines Arena during the Heat’s Oct. 30 home opener against the Boston Celtics.
Hyde Lounge, which originated as an exclusive Hollywood, Calif. lounge and nightclub, pioneered the trend in 2009 when it opened a location at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Don Muret, who writes about facilities for SportsBusiness Journal, said the outpost was among the first clubs to stay open at an arena after a game ended — now par for the course.
“In some cases, like in L.A., these clubs replace excess suite inventory, skyboxes that are left unsold as the market has changed for premium seats,” Muret said in an email.
He also highlighted the Amway Center in Orlando, which has an rooftop lounge that is open even on some non-event days, as well as the American Airlines Center in Dallas, which replaced a Chili’s with a Latin restaurant and club.
“People realize that in order to be successful in these arenas, they’re trying to add more value for the guest experience,” said Mike Palma, executive vice president for hospitality for Brio Investment Group, which owns the Clevelander at Marlins Park. “By bringing types of things like this, you’re creating a venue that’s sports enthusiast-driven, but you’re also opening the door to bring in other types of consumers that have different needs and wants and desires.”
In addition to drawing attendees who might not necessarily be sports fans, operators of such venues are typically looking to extend the moneymaking hours of activity around a game and, ideally, sell their location as a prime spot for special events or corporate gatherings even when there’s no action in the rest of the arena.