Making Fans VIPs
Making fans VIPs Premium seating from Ferco Systems at the Australian Open.
Keiko Sutton explores ways to improve the fan experience
Any entity that achieves success, whether it be a business or an individual, does so with the ability to adapt.
With the world constantly changing - as are those that inhabit it - emotions, tastes, likes and dislikes rarely stay the same and the ability to meet new standards requires innovation and adaption. However, with change, one theme has remained constant - the desire to have options.
When it comes to sports facility design, improving the fan experience and expanding options are top priorities.
Sports, teams and venues, which
thrive due to fan values, have to listen to audience feedback and most fans, whether they are gathering for a sports game or a concert, want to feel like a ‘VIP’ guest. However, not all fans are alike, and many have varied desires as to what that VIP experience is. Simply attending an event and remaining in a hard, plastic seat is generally no longer enough to entice guests.
Whether fans attend a sporting fixture, concert or event, the live performance is no longer the sole spectacle. The arena and the accommodations that reside within it enhance the overall encounter.
Based on experience in Japanese sports culture, there are a number of ways stadiums can elevate the fan experience that I believe have worldwide significance.
Segment the Audience
One way facilities can improve the fan experience through a customised experience is by segmenting the audience by similar interests/needs as different demographics require different kinds of accommodations. For example, families with young children would benefit from child-centric areas like play areas and easily accessible nursing and changing rooms. For individuals looking to meet new friends, bar areas can help facilitate these new connections.
Families can finally rejoice through segmented seating with the benefit of sitting near child-friendly amenities such as play areas, day cares/spaces with babysitting services, and changing and nursing rooms, where their children can sleep and even engage, under supervision, with other children of like ages.
To further enhance a family-friendly environment, parents and their young ones will also have a separate space to avoid the rambunctious aura that may not be suitable for their children. The loud noise and chatter is often too much for young children to tolerate and their presence and comfort is just as important. No longer is the headache of cramming through a packed concourse to get their son or daughter to the bathroom and then back to their seats. The indecisiveness of whether or not to even leave the house vanishes as the needs of parents and/or guardians are made a top priority.
In addition to families with children, younger fans showing up with their friends are likely to bring a different energy. While one group may want to attend and experience a relaxed and more tame event, another portion of fans may bring a different energy. This younger generation is often larger than life themselves, exuding excitement when they see their favourite teams live in action. This surge of energy helps lead the team to victory. These fans, the ones who display their admiration in a more charismatic way, also benefit from this as they are seated closer to the sports bar and have easier access to tailgating. Segmented seating truly allows for the best of both worlds.
Rethink the VIP experience
Younger generations are moving away from the classic velvet-rope box-seat suites and are more interested in intimate experiences. Rather than having the sky-boxes we are accustomed to seeing in stadiums, VIP areas are being moved closer to the field in order to offer direct-player engagement with the fans, allowing for a more special and interactive experience.
As times and people change and as younger generations evolve, their interests expand. With this, they are moving toward a more intimate ambiance. It is a common trend that some VIP seats, such as box tickets, are located near the higher level bow. Relocating some of these VIP seats closer to the event not only allows them the opportunity to engage with the players and/or performers, but also gives the fanbase an enhanced viewing of the event.
Additional perks that could be offered with the VIP packages include, but are not limited to: meet and greets; autograph and photo opportunities; access to exclusive memorabilia; easier access to arena parking; guaranteed
Chairman’s seating at Perth’s Optus Stadium.
priority for future event purchases and even front row tickets.
Moreover, the VIP area may have enhanced seats with refurbished cushioning, larger space for that much desired leg room, and easier access to concession lines. The main idea is for the live crowd to partake in an event that brings them closer to friends and family, because sharing a moment is what makes the experience memorable.
Kotobuki Seating includes its Malaysia-based subsidiary Ferco Seating Systems that recently supplied seats for the corporate section of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and recliner seats to the Premiership Lounge at Perth’s Optus Stadium.
Facilities can also positively affect spectator experiences through offering a variety of seating options. Benches, luxurious chairs, and even communal tables with seating offer completely different experiences for the same event. By offering various seating options at different price points, fans are able to customise their gameday experience, to cater to their preferences.
Everybody wants the privilege of choice, and that is demonstrated even further through a variety of seating options. Communal tables are seen most prominently in the box level, which is part of the VIP experience. Communal
tables and box seats often include a range of food and beverage and are designed for large parties. This seating option gives those who want exclusive space with those close to them, the luxury of privacy.
The bench area or bleacher seats are commonly seen at US baseball stadiums such as Wrigley Field in Chicago and Yankee Stadium in New York City. These seating options often see a reduced price and are classified as general admission, which means that there are no assigned seats. These seats are desirable for those who are looking to cut back on cost, but who still want the option of attending a live game.
These state-of-the-art accommodations are already solidifying themselves in Japan, with sights set on expanding globally. It is understood that in different areas of the world, people are looking for a different experience and the goal is to provide for all. We are continuously working to understand how to change our seats and amenities for the evolving culture. This is not a one-time investment, but a promise to the future. It is our mission to not just meet the standards of this rapidly adapting environment, but to go above and beyond and revolutionise the experience of a live event.
World famous arenas such as New York’s Madison Square Garden, London’s The O2, and the Staples Center in Los Angeles have some of the most loyal and faithful fans that would definitely thrive off this fresh perspective. At the end of the day, what facility designers and owners want is simple, and that is for somebody to come to an arena or stadium and leave with the warm feeling of fulfillment and the urge to come back. Again, it is our mission to give the fans what they want, and if they’re happy, then we’re happy.
USA-based Keiko Sutton is the Chief Operating Officer of Kotobuki Seating Co., Ltd. and Chief Executive of Kotobuki Seating International Inc.
With a background in strategic consulting, operations, performance management and analytics, prior to joining Kotobuki Seating, she worked in strategic operations and analytics and most recently, at Verizon Media (formerly known as AOL), supported the company’s rapid turnaround through use of data and analytics, establishing performance monitoring of its owned and operated assets’ audience and traffic growth.
Established in 1914, Japan-based Kotobuki Seating manufactures and installs seating for theatres, schools, universities, arenas, stadiums and cinemas.
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