Dome woos city’s ok

It is never easy getting a developer to pay for marketing even in the best of times.It is much harder getting a developer to market a project before civic approval is granted, especially in a tough economic climate.But that was the...

It is never easy getting a developer to pay for marketing even in the best of times.

It is much harder getting a developer to market a project before civic approval is granted, especially in a tough economic climate.

But that was the task for The Dome Group in its bid to win city approval for a new stadium being developed by its client, the owners of the Vancouver Canucks Hockey Club.

Downtown stadium

With the club’s lease running out in the outdated Pacific Coliseum in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, the club owners saw a chance to build a 20,000-seat downtown stadium which would provide the hockey club with concession and parking revenues, along with larger seating capacity.

Additional revenues from year-round events such as trade shows, musical events and other tenants would provide the Canucks ownership with enough money to keep pace with the ever-increasing National Hockey League salaries.

Proposal

The Dome Group was selected on the basis of its proposal to first develop public affairs strategies to win public and official approval for building the $100-million downtown site, and, second, to sell luxury seating in the new stadium – all within a 16-day period – and well before the first spade turned soil.

On a leap of faith, Michael Horsey, president of Northwest Arena and owner of the arena, gave the agency the nod to begin a $500,000 campaign, which resulted in four high-profile business community events, along with two waves of full-page advertisements.

Brochures with supporting sales information were sent to community business leaders.

The Dome Group’s public affairs arm, Corporate Strategies Group, then went to work steering the project through city hall by communicating the club’s commitment to hold the line on ticket prices.

Counter public opinion

The public affairs group had to counter public opinion that luxury seats would make the stadium a ‘rich person’s playpen.’

The campaign received the support of Arthur Griffiths, president of Northwest Sports Enterprises, the parent company of Northwest Arena, as well as the Vancouver Canucks.

Griffiths publicly stated the club’s commitment to making 50,000 family seats available for the 1995 season at the lowest possible prices.

Print campaign

An advertising campaign created by The Dome Group ran in the two Vancouver daily newspapers, The Vancouver Sun and The Province under the theme, ’1995 Starts Today.’

The ad copy plays down the Canucks hockey, focussing on the benefits of the new stadium as a major focal point for community entertainment, business and tourism.

‘We had to communicate that building a new stadium benefitted everyone,’ says Doug Heal, chairman of The Dome Group.

Meantime, the public affairs group created strategies to assist Horsey in meeting with downtown eastside and Chinatown business leaders.

The aim of the public affairs strategy was to get as much civic input as possible, especially about hiring downtown labor. The aim was to ensure that all Vancouver interests were part of the planning process.

Last September, the city fathers gave unanimous approval to the proposal, opening the way for Dome to market the 60 executive suites, ranging in price from $65,000 to $130,000.

Immediately after, Dome began work marketing the suites through its ‘Winning Circle’ theme.

The glossy, four-color brochures enticed businesspeople to ‘let their business soar among the stars in business, entertainment and sports at the new downtown arena.’

A five-minute video and colorful portfolios were also sent to target customers. A breakfast for 300 corporate leaders was held, along with preview receptions and media events at downtown hotels. Ceremonies were also held to dedicate a 20-seat executive suite to charitable organizations as a basis for their fundraising activities.

Contributing to the success were the Vancouver Canucks, whose early success in their division raised fans’ expectations that the team was headed for one of the best seasons on record.

In the first few months of the campaign, all 60 suites were sold out. ‘We were surprised by the pent-up demand,’ Heal says.

To accommodate the spillover demand, the stadium planners redesigned the layout, adding 28 penthouse suites. To date, nearly half the penthouse suites are sold.

The agency spotlighted its recent success with ground-breaking ceremonies on July 13.

The event presented a series of high-level community speakers and corporate sponsors who will provide many of the products and services for the new complex.

The event was also designed to solidify community support. It drew upon the attraction of the developer’s concept of ‘smart seats’ in the new stadium.

Sports fans and audiences of other events will be able to watch the event, while keeping in touch with business associates through voice mail and electronic bulletins, which provide everything from stock prices to scores around the league.

This approach is intended to draw major international business to the new stadium, along with trade shows and international sporting events featuring big name tenants, including National Basketball Association exhibitions.

‘We are presenting the image of the stadium as a place where people can communicate on an international stage,’ Heal says.