Rose Bowl turns to Legends to sell new premium seating

20 of 55 new suites have been sold.

The team hired to sell premium seats for the soon-to-be renovated Rose Bowl is charged with generating half the revenue needed to pay for the $152 million project.

The Legends Premium Sales team, which started their effort in November, has already sold 20 out of 55 new luxury suites, which will be available for use in 2013.

But company officials admit that selling the rest of the high-end seating - which will also include new loge boxes and club seating - may not be easy.

Indeed, the team is charged with generating 10 times more in annual sales revenue from the Rose Bowl's renovated press box than premium seating makes there today.

"There's only one Rose Bowl," said Jason Gonella, Legends' vice president of sales. "At the same time, it's still a 10-fold increase in revenue, which anybody in the business will tell you is a Herculean effort in this economy."

The sales team, which will soon expand from 3 to 5 people, is now putting the finishing touches on a new $100,000 marketing center to help them do just that.

Located at the stadium near the Brookside Clubhouse, the center revolves around a showroom trailer - with its interior painted UCLA blue - where deals are expected to be closed.

Seats begin at $6,000, while executive suites sell for as much as $125,000. Pricing for club seats has not been established.

The showroom includes a timeline of historic Bruin moments, state-of-the-art video presentations that showcase the new premium seating and the renovation, and actual seats for prospective clients to try out.

Outside, a portion of the football field has been recreated with stadium turf, where prospective clients can lounge and sip cocktails during the center's large marketing events.

Selling premium seats "is going to be a challenge but I think that's why (Rose Bowl CEO and General Manager) Darryl (Dunn) and the (Rose Bowl Operating Company) outsourced this to a firm that can get it done," said David Carter, executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute.

"They have mitigated some of that risk by realizing what some of their strengths are and ... by bringing in Legends. I think this is the first part in understanding the challenge, knowing they could not successfully do it on their own."

Legends Premium Sales, whose clients include the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys, market high-end stadium seating with a focus on new and renovated facilities.

The total price tag of the new marketing center is considered a modest investment compared to other stadiums that have invested between $1 million and $2 million, said James Peterson, Legends' director of sales.

"For the budget, we feel very good about what we did," Peterson said. "Elements like the (miniature) Rose Bowl field add a lot of value to helping define what the Rose Bowl is all about."

Before opening the center, Peterson's team had to take their presentation on the road, making their sales pitch in Los Angeles-area living rooms, hotel bars and coffee shops.

The 20 new suites sold so far have been sold to existing suite holders. Nearly all have been for 10-year contracts, Peterson said.

Even though people are paying a "fairly substantial increase" for the new products, price "hasn't come up as an objection," Gonella said.

Gonella attributes the response thus far to "the loyalty of UCLA, the quality of the product and the prestige of the stadium."

In addition to offering 55 suites that are at least double the size of existing ones, the renovated stadium will offer 1,300 club seats and 48 four-seat loge boxes for the first time, Peterson said.

This means that clients who want premium seating can buy as few as two seats for the first time, rather than buying an entire suite for 12 or 14 people, he said.

The average cost of the new suites, which will seat between 16 and 24 fans, will average $80,000 to $85,000 and go up to $125,000 for the most expensive suites, Peterson said. Existing suites cost about $60,000 per year.

The new loge boxes will go for about $6,000 per seat or $24,000 per box per year, Peterson said.

Minimum contracts are for three-year terms, he said.

"This is very important," Dunn said of the stadium's premium seating sales. "Ultimately, it's about paying our bond debt, first and foremost, and generating a surplus so we can reinvest back in the facility as well."

The Rose Bowl renovation continues to face a $12 million financing gap.

The marketing center's formal grand opening will take place on April 30 and May 1 during the Select-a-Seat weekend event for UCLA season ticket holders, which will be held at the Rose Bowl, Peterson said.


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