Vip Space Is No Longer Just For The Big Boys | By Jared Lillard, CPA DO YOU VIP? ARENAS:

Most of us in the venue management business have had the privi-

lege of watching a concert or ballgame from a suite or club area. Our fellow venue managers and allied members are very generous when it comes to their event spaces and corporate entertainment dollars. I would venture a guess that the vast majority of those experiences have been in a primary market in a major league (NBA, NHL or MLB) venue. Sure, there is more money in those markets. They have major league

tenants, which means season tickets and, typically, healthy corporate investment. It makes sense that those buildings would abound with suites and VIP spaces. There are high margins in the VIP business, and the 500 lb. gorillas of our industry do a great job of using those spaces to their advantage. After all, big corporate types in big cities like to entertain clients and those clients expect to be entertained in style. Well, what about the rest of us? What if I do not have a major league tenant? What if I am not in a top 30 market? Would people in my market like the VIP treatment? Is it time for the little guys to follow suit? We have seen for the better part of a decade now that this concept

works well in the concert world. Platinum tickets and VIP packages have both become big business in the last 5-10 years. Artists are mak- ing more money touring today than ever before, and these ticketing upsells are a big reason why. The VIP ticket idea is here to stay. As venue managers, we do not really sell tickets, do we? We sell an

   glory days, and they do. They act like kids when they see their favorite bands, and the look on their faces (and their beer money) is what keeps you and I coming back to work each night. Secondary markets across the country are experimenting with VIP spaces as a way to improve the fan experience – and the early returns look good. You see, whether we are in a major league building/market or not, we all have guests who want to feel special. It is part of our DNA. It is a big reason why some of us live where we live, dress how

we dress, or drive what we drive. On some level, all of us want to be- long, and the VIP experience provides the ultimate sense of belonging in the entertainment industry. From bars to hotels, casinos to cruise ships, VIP sells.

Whether it is BOK Center’s Sky Lofts or Verizon Arena’s Vibe

Room, VIP spaces are showing up in smaller markets in increasing numbers. One suburban venue manager tells me that he is in the middle of planning a large-scale renovation to his building, and he  Another building manager, from a tertiary market, tells me a similar story. “Our fans want to feel special and they are demanding the VIP experience.” So he, too, is planning a large renovation, the drawings for which include a new 3,500 square foot lounge area. Fan reviews of these spaces include comments like “We loved the

exclusivity that comes with being away from the big crowds” and “The short lines and special treatment made it worth buying.” Fans are will- ing to spend a little bit more money to be treated like a superstar. One building manager told me their per caps in their VIP room ran an average of 40 percent higher than in the rest of the building. In an industry that has seen shrinking margins over the years, VIP promises to be a steady revenue stream. For many smaller markets, this is an altogether new revenue opportunity. Who does not like new revenue? The next time you are together with some of your fellow IAVM   you will know someone - NOT in a major market – who is trying this with some success. Clubs and VIP spaces are not just for the big boys anymore. If you are in a smaller market, it is time to get creative with your space. If fans in big cities want these experiences, fans in your city do, too. Now is the time to take advantage of this trend and deliver the experience your patrons want, for a fee, of course. FM

  Arkansas.


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