Venue Trend: Nightclub Brands Find New Homes Inside Sports Arenas

By Tracy Block September 6, 2012, 12:40 PM EDT

LIV Sun Life started slow but quickly caught on with football fans as a venue to combine sports with entertainment.

Photo: Michael Raveney

Sun Life Stadium, home to the N.F.L.'s Miami Dolphins, gambled in 2010 when it opened LIV Sun Life, the first nightclub in a South Florida sporting venue. The combination of football and nightclubbing did not make sense to some critics, and the inaugural season sold only 15 season passes. But the gamble has paid off. Last year, LIV Sun Life—a sister location of Fontainebleau Miami Beach’s landmark LIV nightclub—increased its season ticket holders to 130. With the 2012 season soon approaching, general manager Cristian LaCapra noted that the 200 level of LIV Sun Life is already sold out.

The concept of opening a branded nightclub in sporting venues is becoming a coast-to-coast trend. The idea traces back to the 2009 debut of Hyde Staples Center in Los Angeles, but it has truly taken off in Miami, with LIV Sun Life providing a blueprint for South Florida's other three big-league sporting venues, which have added or plan to add nightclub concepts. And in New York, the Brooklyn Nets new home, the Barclays Center, will open an upscale sports restaurant-lounge version of hip-hop mogul Jay-Z's 40/40 Club. The venue will lack bottle service, although the Vault inside the arena will feature 11 suites with a concierge, high-end cuisine, V.I.P. parking, and access to a private champagne bar.

“We were one of the first ones, and we got a lot of slack for it in the beginning,” LaCapra said of the slow foot traffic when the space first debuted. LIV's balance of sports and entertainment is the venue's main draw. It's also the commitment to enhancing the overall gameday experience that his team continues to perfect. A LIV Sun Life ticket grants access to the 11,000-square-foot space, which can host more than 600 guests on two stadium levels. Big spenders can splurge on one of eight cabanas, which come with an unobstructed view of the west end zone, V.I.P. bottle service, guest DJs, and celebrity company.

For baseball fans, the Clevelander at the newly opened Marlins Park is a field-level, 4,600-square-foot pool-lounge that hosts 250 patrons during each Miami Marlins baseball game and exercises after-hours, velvet-rope power following the ninth inning. A DJ pumps beats through the empty ballpark, while fans enjoy South Beach-themed cocktails and dancing into the night. The Clevelander is also available for private event buyouts.

Coming this fall to the home of basketball's Miami Heat, Hyde AmericanAirlines Arena will be L.A.-based SBE's second nightclub in a sporting venue, joining the flagship Hyde Staples Center. Hyde AmericanAirlines Arena is the second venue of an expansion called SBELive, which plans to launch the nightlife concept in stadiums and arenas worldwide. “With the launch of Hyde Staples Center in 2009, SBE created an entirely new category for arena/stadium hospitality experiences. This was an experience committed to providing ticket holders something better from a culinary, design, programming, and mixology perspective,” said Michael Talansky, director of SBE Live.

Joining forces with the Heat Group, SBE’s newest Hyde location will sit court-level on the south end of the arena with an exclusive entrance and valet. The venue will hold 200 guests who can enjoy everything from DJs to SBE's branded mixology and chefs. “Clearly, the Heat represents an iconic, global sports franchise, and Hyde Lounge will add yet another enlivening layer to their arena experience for ticket holders,” Talansky said. Hyde American Airlines Arena is slated to open for the 2012-2013 season, and will also be accessible during other arena events and for private parties year-round.

Further north, Sunrise's Bank Atlantic Center, home to the N.H.L.'s Florida Panthers, is adding Club Red. Sunrise Sports & Entertainment's 360 Premium division will helm the 12,000-square-foot upscale seating area and lounge, which will aim for a chic nightclub atmosphere. A membership to Club Red will include V.I.P. service and post-game privileges on both game nights and during performance dates. The venue is expected to open this fall.

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