Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The High Cost Of Corporate Hospitality

Last Thanksgiving my brother-in-law Steve informed me that his company had seats available for last night’s Monday Night Football game between the Vikings and the Bears and nobody wanted them. He asked if we wanted to go. Of course the answer was an immediate YES.

The company owns four exclusive PSL seats and four regular season seat passes. They also own a penthouse condo on south Michigan Avenue where we could tailgate (or should I say skygate) before the game. We went to a game with him last year and no way would I turn down the invite for such a unique experience again.

We all know the Bears suckitude has reached their mid-seventies level but it matters not to me. I go to games for the experience of watching live NFL football, as always.

Dan had asked that I provide a full account of my experience since these PSL seats included entry to an exclusive area called the Cadillac Club, sponsored by the Bears corporate sponsor, the Cadillac division of Government Motors. I do not have photo documentation because as it turned out, I did not sit in the PSL seats. His company also owns four regular non-PSL seats close to where Dan and Carl sit in the northwest corner. Two of us surrendered our option to the PSL seats to provide comfort for the women who came along, my wife included.

Chivalry prompted us to sit outside in order to provide our ladies with access to the warmth and comfort of the The Cadillac Club should they need it. Instead, we sat in full winter insulated hunting regalia in the regular seats. Kind of like waiting to shoot a trophy buck in a frigid tree stand while the women stayed in the cabin.

We made plans to swap time in the PSL seats but with the security involved that became impossible.

The PSL folks spent more time in their seats than they did in the C.C. To be honest, sitting in the stadium in 9 degree temperature is not bad at all as long as you prepare and dress appropriately as we all did.

Here’s how they described their C.C. experience.

The Cadillac Club is nothing more than a large corner sports bar located within the newly renovated Soldier Field stadium. Inside there are TV’s with the game playing along with Miller Lite neon, Bears mementos, waitresses and wings. The food is better quality than what is served to the minions in the stadium. The Miller Lite is still $7.50 for a 16 oz. plastic cup. Instead of providing a window where they could view the field and watch the game live like a big skybox the C.C. is completely enclosed.

It’s a nice place warm up when the weather is 9 degrees as it was last night. Their outdoor stadium seats were on the forty directly below the sky boxes on the east side. These are prime seats for the corporates who don’t want to shell out $100,000 for a corporate skybox.

Above is a ticket to the PSL/C.C. seat.

The cost of the seat. $ 96.43
Taxes $ 11.57

Total $305.00

Before I dissect the ticket costs Steve told me the original cost for the four PSL rights was a total of $10,000 four years ago for the four. This was a way to help finance construction of a new stadium. They were not $10,000 each as I had heard. The concept was to sell the rights to the seats at a later date for more money, it was an investment. As with any investment, supply must outweigh the demand for the investment to grow. Buy low sell high. The product must surpass expectations. In this case the hedge fund manager is Lovie Smith. Not good.

The cost of the game day PSL ticket is not bad considering the vantage point they provide. I assume that game day seat ticket fee goes to the McCaskey bank account in order to help finance their enterprise (I am being kind, don’t get me started). The taxes probably go to Dick Daily’s crew for the privelige to attend the game in a Chicago Park District owned stadium. But for the life of me I cannot account for the $197 cover charge to a sports bar where they charge $7.50 for a warm, flat beer. The drinks and munchies should be free considering the pricey cover charge. Haven’t they heard of “happy hour”? Maybe Dick Daily and the McCaskeys split that windfall somehow.

Steve explained to me that the company is planning to sell all the seats. This season they have not been able to entice clients with the opportunity to watch bad Bear football. In the future they would prefer to purchase individual game day seats from a reseller or ticket broker for client entertainment. That sounds less expensive and makes smart business sense in an economic downturn.

What this all comes down to is the perceived price of corporate hospitality. Businesses pay dearly for the opportunity to spend quality time with their clients and business partners. It is also known as putting on “The Schmooze”. This is how business is conducted. It could be a thank-you for doing business or a way to build a relationship with a potential customer. It could be time on an exclusive golf course or time at an MLB, NBA or motorsports event. It provides the businessman with an excuse to relax with time-poor customers/clients they may not have a lot in common with other than business and interest in a professional sporting activity. It’s actually a small price to pay for business relationships. In the mid-seventies this is how I was able to attend sold-out Bear games even when the Bears were as sucky as they were this season. In my case I was the customer back then and my vendors were printing salesman or art and photography studio owners.

The high cost of corporate hospitality has made it so the average working stiff must pay a high price to attend an event. Throw in the cost of muti-million dollar player compensation and so it goes.

This is in no way an attempt to smite corporate hospitality or in any way disrespect Steve’s generous offer. We had a ball. We had a penthouse “skygate” with grilled burgers, brats, snacks, and top-shelf cocktails in a warm place offering a spectacular view overlooking Grant Park to the north and Lake Michigan to the east. It was a short walk to a game where the poorly coached Bears beat the Brent Farve playoff-bound Vikings in overtime. An overtime where Farve threw the interception turnover and Cutler tossed a clutch winning touchdown pass. Talk about turnabout being fair play. It was (and I do not use his term loosely) awesome.

There was a fantastic halftime fireworks show. The stadium was packed, even on such a frigid night to watch a crappy team. Lots of Vikings jerseys and if memory serves me correctly all Viking games I attended in the past drew a lot of purple. The majority stayed until the overtime win was secured, myself included.

When the game was over Steve offered us one of the four penthouse bedrooms so we did not need to drive home after midnight. Thank you so much, Steve. If for some reason the seats remain with the company next season we would be thrilled to do it all over again.

Nothing says “Living The Good Life In The Great Midwest” than an experience like that.

Here are some photos I took of the 30th floor company condo this morning. I had no tripod, the light was thin and some images turned out blurry. Sorry, I should have known better.

Go Bears. Fire Lovie. Start over. See you next year.


Dan from Madison said...

Wow what a place! That would be cool just to go there for the "skygate", and just go down there and get tix from a scalper if the price is right. If not, back to the condo to watch the game on TV, no big loss.

I simply cannot belive that the cover charge to that bar is a buck ninety seven AND you don't even get free cornwater on tap! Unbelievable.

Dan from Madison said...

By the way, I am signing up for another pair of season tix in the non psl seats today. I bet that line is pretty short right now.