It may be less than a decade since the Prudential Center opened in Newark, but Hugh Weber knows that fans and businesses always have other options when it comes to spending their entertainment dollar.
Like the Barclays Center, which opened in 2012, or the recently transformed Madison Square Garden.
“(For) people who spend their budgets, whether they’re personal or business, there’s always competition in terms of where they can go do it,” said Weber, president of the Prudential Center. “So whether they’re getting a restaurant or an exclusive club feel at a public building like this, we have to make sure that we’re always raising the standard of what we’re providing here.”
It’s why arena executives are eager to roll out a host of new amenities as the New Jersey Devils open their 2015-2016 season on Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets. That means everything from improved food options, bars and club areas to a new 3D pregame show and a bolstered marketing partnership with the arena’s namesake.
For instance, the arena is unveiling an altogether new offering this season: a six-person loge space that Weber said is akin to a theater box. The spaces, which occupy what was once the Goal Bar, sell for $120,000 annually for the six premium seats and come with a ticket to every event at the building, with food included for Devils games.
“From a price point standpoint, it’s really geared toward smaller businesses and business owners who don’t necessarily have the budget to take on a large suite, and yet it gives them the same kind of exclusive feel and amenity,” Weber said, later adding: “If you look at the pitches and other things we’re doing, this is the product that has gotten the most traction right out of the gate.”
The arena and team ownership built five loge boxes this year as a sort of pilot and is seeing strong demand, he said. The group plans to build another roughly two dozen next summer.
It’s just one piece of a seven-figure improvement program focused on The Rock’s club and premium locations and overall fan experience, coming about two years after an ownership group led by investors Josh Harris and David Blitzer acquired the NHL team and the facility. The arena now has glass separating its club areas from the concourse, instead of walls, creating a more open feel; the improvements also include renovated Fire and Ice Lounges, a new main concourse bar that’s open to the public and another slated to open next month.
That’s not to mention new food offerings such as the “Ironbound” on the upper concourse and the Goya Street Taco Stand, both of which come under a recently announced partnership with Goya Foods.
Weber, who took over as president in 2013, said ownership spent this summer especially focused on
“front-of-house” improvements “to get our fans’ experience in line with where we think it should be.” Previous improvements have cost roughly the same amount but focused more on infrastructure.
“I think what you’re going to find is every year we’re going to keep pushing and pushing,” Weber said. “And it’s like painting a bridge: When you’re done, you paint it over again and you just keep painting it.”
Meantime, the Devils and Prudential Center plan to unveil the results of a more than $500,000 investment to improve the in-game experience. That includes a new 3D pregame show and improvements to the arena’s sound and lighting system.
The NHL team’s new offerings also include a new promotion with Prudential Financial dubbed the “Key to Our House” contest, aimed at recognizing New Jersey residents who make an impact within their communities. The winner, which will be announced in April, will get two tickets to all Prudential Center events for one year between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, based on nominations from family members, friends and co-workers who believe they make a difference through their job, volunteering or commitment to a cause.
Weber said the contest “fits all of our commitments on both sides in terms of being impactful to the community and making Prudential Center the town square of New Jersey.”
“For many seasons, certainly since the building was opened, Prudential has been an incredible partner to not only the previous ownership group but to us, in terms of their investment to Newark and this building,” he said. “We really worked with them to try figure out how to activate in a way that’s consistent with their brand.”