The Steps To Selling A New 80,000 Seat Stadium

February 26, 2016

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CJ Wiatr, regional vice president of The Aspire Group, sold for America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys when they were preparing to move into the new stadium in 2009. Wiatr did not assume fans would kneel to the team’s iconic image, the star on the helmet, and immediately flock to the ultra-modern new stadium.

Wiatr said the process of selling tickets for the 80,000-seat stadium, started 2 ½ years before it opened. It was not taken for granted that the thousands of season ticket holders in old Texas Stadium would quickly buy-in and be reseated.

Crucial steps The Cowboys used to get early traction selling tickets in a new venue:

  • Research first. Know what fans want in the new stadium and what they are willing to pay. Give yourself time to find the answer.
  • Start selling early. Packages that cost more money tend to take longer to find the right qualified people or companies.
  • Assign a seat to “a reasonably comparable location” to the fan’s seat in the old venue. Assign the seats early to control the process of ‘accept and decline’. It is especially important in a large venue with a lot of “re-seating.”
  • Keep some inventory of premium seats in your back pocket. There could be a construction snafu. The builder could suddenly insist on eliminating a particular section because of a support beam, or another safety measure.

“Eliminating a small portion of seats may not be a big deal in the grand scheme of a 75,000, 80,000-seat stadium,” Wiatr said, “but from a customer service perspective, you do not want to promise something that you cannot deliver.”

This is another key reason to start early:

“If you have not allowed yourself enough time to sell premium season tickets that is when you begin to make knee-jerk decisions, and you start creating smaller packages of tickets (mini-plans) unnecessarily early,” Wiatr said. “Once you make the decision to reduce the commitment to get into the new stadium it is tough to go back up.”

Now, imagine back to 2007. The U.S. recession is percolating. AT&T Stadium is a $1.2 billion colossus. The Cowboys were not only selling more expensive tickets; the ‘ask’ included Seat Options, similar to a Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs).

The plan:

  • The preview center, next to the construction site, was just like stepping into a suite or section at the new stadium. The finishes and seats were exact models.
  • The preview center had parking information and details on traffic flow for the new stadium. There was a 3D map of seat locations in the four ‘closing’ rooms.
  • Fans who came for appointments and wanted to rush right to ‘price’ were assured, “You are going to hear the price today,” but Wiatr said the team designed the presentation to demonstrate benefits and tell its story first before discussing price. Most fans were happy to follow the team’s agenda for the appointment.
  • The Cowboys allowed fans to finance their Seat Option over 30 years.
  • The Cowboys had another key strategy. The team incorporated the past into The new Cowboys Stadium, which would eventually be named AT&T Stadium. Picture the Cowboys’ old stadium, Texas Stadium. It had a ‘hole’ in the roof, and that opening was the stadium’s signature for 38 seasons.

AT&T Stadium has a retractable roof that closes for indoor events, but when the roof is open, there is “a hole” at the top, just like the old Texas Stadium in Irving.

“It was an excellent incorporation of the old stadium,” Wiatr said. “The story is the hole was there ‘so God could watch the Cowboys play.’”

Nostalgia and ‘new’ can go together when selling tickets.

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