Providing Premium At All Levels

An interview with Adam Stover, Senior Principal and Mason Paoli, Principal at Populous. 

Who is Populous? 

AS: Populous is a global design firm focused on telling stories that bring people together through all varieties of sport. 

What changes has your design or practice gone through recently and what might we see moving forward? 

AS: Certainly we have found ways to utilize technology differently and better. That is allowing the customer experience to be stronger than it ever has before. Technology is a part of us. It's here. It's in our everyday and we need to continue to use it, and we need to use it to allow the human experience to be stronger. 

MP: The experience starts when clients get their ticket. Instead of just waiting until you enter the front door, there could be some monetized opportunities outside the front door. As you arrive, maybe there is immersive entertainment. That can set the tone for the experience that you're getting ready to have in the suite or the club or your seat. 

AS: From a concession standpoint, we've seen what's happened in the last couple years, certainly with the sped up of Zippin and AmazonGo, mobile consumer concession experiences. We have to remember that everybody using our venue has different expectations. Depending on the demographic, some will always prefer that belly-up one-on-one approach, while others now would like to strike their mobile phone and be in and out. 

MP: In terms of lessons learned on that point, if we don't engage with the food service operator, with all of the operations team enough, then, we end up not being able to solve our clients' problems. 

What did COVID teach us about the experience, and our clients? 

MP: f there were any benefits from the pandemic, one was access to our clients. We had they had a lot more time available to us and that was really important. So, for the more recent projects, we've had the ear of our clients and that's really important to the design solution.

Transitioning to premium seating, what is happening? 

AS: As you transition that to levels of premium, we're seeing smaller groups. I always kind of compare it to going out to dinner. You’re not going to go out to dinner with 20 people, right? You're going to go out to dinner with your six closest friends. So, we're certainly seeing a continued push for the loge box experience, I'd say four to eight people. It’s little bit smaller, a little more intimate, intimate, and yet you're still a part of something bigger. 

MP: Yes, most of our clients are looking towards smaller scale premium products, where you can get together with friends and family. 

AS: You still have your private restrooms, access to all inclusive food and beverage, access to a bar. You still get those amenities and luxuries but in a little more intimate setting. 

MP: I also think we might see the outside coming in, seeing more premium experiences outside the facility. The experience path as guests enter the facility might be engaging to get them prepared for what they’re going to see. 

And what is going to happen? 

AS: We are studying how to tie our premium spaces together? Could you buy in or buy access to a club experience that allows you to have access to three different clubs within the bowl? If you're there for hockey and your team is shooting towards one net in two periods, maybe you're at that club for those and then you transition to a different vantage point depending on how the game's going or where it is. 

MP: In the college market, we're seeing more robust hospitality spaces. Our clients are leaning into a more sophisticated environment for their customers and that goes from the most premium to the more casual. It's about a series of connected spaces that play off of each other, heavily relying on the design foundation, which is the storytelling aspect of what we do. 

AS: Hands-free restrooms. As mundane as it might be, they're an extremely important part of the premium experience. We're constantly working with the best manufacturers in the country to figure out how we truly make every touch point within the restroom from the time we walk in or to the time we leave hands free. That’s something that will stick. Covid was a time when we learned to be better at what we do, like bring people into and out of restrooms for a quicker and better experience. 

What influences our current and future approaches to premium?  

AS: We think about the different age demographics, constantly focusing on creating premium spaces for all. We look at levels of disposable income. There's a level of premium for everyone, and as they grow through their experience as a patron, that level of disposable is going to continue to grow and they're going to move. With the younger demographics it's about it's all about being part of the now. They’re there for the experience and they might poke their head over and watch a few minutes of the game. 

We're going to continue to see and push for ways to allow people to experience differently. Tying it back to the restaurant example, I wouldn't go to the same restaurant 20 times in a year, right? It would become stale. It wouldn't be that exciting. And yet, as an industry, we're working to get our guest to come the highest-level premium over and over again. 

We have to continue to find ways to make it exciting each time they come in. When they leave that venue, they should be excited about the next experience. Never have them thinking that it's stale. Never have them thinking that “Maybe I should go have dinner across the street and then come in.”