Besides the public health threat that the COVID-19 pandemic brought to every part of the United States and the world, there were an infinite number of secondary consequences of virus-related shutdowns brought to our communities.
One of those was the shuttering of local venues—sports stadiums, arenas, performing arts centers, convention centers, and others that sat dormant for a year. Many of these venues are owned by city and county governments, leading to lost revenue for not only sports and entertainment franchises, but for local municipalities that budget around these entities.
Smaller venues did get assistance through the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant that was part of Government stimulus package, other businesses and communities also received help through similar programs. Major sports arenas and stadiums turned their eye toward public service and became mass testing and vaccination locations during the pandemic. Major League teams also receive revenue from television rights
, so those were still in place as most sports in 2020 became strictly “made for TV” events.
Now with vaccines plentiful and available, we are seeing less restrictions in place for community gatherings, and games, concerts, and other events are starting to fill the calendars once again.
So, what can team owners and stadium executives do to recoup some of that lost revenue from a nightmarish 2020 moving forward?
Allowing fans to feel safe as they return to crowded venues will be the first key for executives. Some venues have special sections for vaccinated people, and other big-name sports arenas, like Madison Square Garden, are requiring proof of vaccination to attend events.
Major League Baseball also created a program called “MLB Vaccinate at the Plate,” where fans could receive a free ticket to a game if they got a COVID-19 shot at a designated location.
Teams will need to carefully measure their demand to determine what course to take on prices. With fans itching to return to venues, should you raise ticket prices to help make up for lost revenue? Other organizations will find that fans are a bit more tentative to return, in which case, incentives will be needed like lower prices, bundles, concession stand offerings, free parking, and whatever is needed to get people feeling comfortable to return to life as it once was.
Regardless of price, venues need to add flexibility when it comes to refunds and rainchecks allowing fans to buy with confidence.
In addition to being sympathetic, some teams are already taking it one step further.
The Seattle Mariners have leveraged their season-ticket strategy, calling for flex plans. You can choose to preload a certain dollar amount onto a card, and the more you buy, the more perks you get. You can use this money to buy tickets at a discounted rate, along with deals on food and merchandise throughout the stadium. The Mariners said that they had a season-ticket rollover rate of 92% for 2021 based on this flex offering.
The key to recovery will be flexibility and a fan-first approach that takes advantage of the willingness to return to life as usual.
Our hands-on executive recruiters have experience working with private, public, pre-IPO, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million in revenue to Fortune 1000’s or have assets between $500 million to $15 billion. Successful placements span the entire C-Suite – CEO, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, and include vice president, general counsel, and other director-level leadership roles.
Learn how we deliver top talent, no matter the need, with our industry-leading research and resources. Discover the strategy that made Cowen Partners a leader among the best sports executive search firms in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Denver, Portland, New Orleans, and beyond.