SUNRISE That wasn’t double vision fans were experiencing in Club Red during Thursday’s Florida Panthers game against Ottawa.
It was just twin sports franchise bosses Michael and Brett Yormark sharing the view of the game at the BB&T Center.
As usual, Michael was working on closing a deal. But the Panthers president and COO didn’t need to apply hard-sell tactics to convince brother Brett to buy two memberships to the new premium club overlooking center ice at the BB&T Center.
“It’s an easy sell, and he’s going to pay rack rate, no discounts,” Michael Yormark said.
Although Brett runs a team based 1,200 miles away, he figures he’ll get enough use of the memberships which go for about $16,500 a year for access to all events at the BB&T Center.
The CEO of the Brooklyn Nets has a home in Boca Raton and spends considerable time in South Florida.
“It’s affordably priced, they’ve created a nice value proposition with the all-inclusive [aspect] and all events,” said Brett, who brought about 40 of his key personnel from the Nets and their new arena, the Barclays Center, for a two-day strategic think tank in South Florida.
The Barclays Center has a super-exclusive club known as the Vault, with 11 private floor-level suites that go for $550,000 a year. Jay-Z, a Nets part-owner, had a hand in the design.
The hard-driving Yormark brothers are well known for the novelty of identical twins rising to chief executives of professional sports franchises. Until recently another shared distinction was that both of their teams, though playing different sports, could be grouped under the subheading of long-downtrodden.
Michael’s Panthers finally broke through last year with their first playoff appearance after a 10-season drought. Brett’s Nets have undergone a more dramatic transformation with the move this season from New Jersey to Brooklyn.
“I think we’re in uniquely different situations. When we were in New Jersey we were a struggling franchise. We were in survival mode,” Brett said. “Brooklyn has enabled us to really become a premium franchise in the marketplace.
“Not to say Michael doesn’t have a premium brand here, but our position in Brooklyn has certainly changed and is allowing us to do different things now.”
The Nets are no longer the overlooked stepchild on the fringe of the market. The move brought a new identity and access to more fans. The Manhattan-based Knicks have deep footprints in the city, but their long history doesn’t include a championship in nearly 40 years.
“The Knicks obviously are a legacy brand in the marketplace. But there’s room for two NBA franchises,” Brett Yormark said. “We’re off to one of the best starts in the history of our franchise. We’re selling out our games, we have a world-class building in the Barclays Center. So we’re doing quite well.”
Brooklyn is known for its roller coaster, at Coney Island, and the Nets have brought another in their first season at the Barclays Center.
There was the 11-4 record in November that earned Avery Johnson Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honors. Then losses in 10 of the next 13 games that got Avery fired. An embarrassing Christmas Day loss to the Celtics prompted Brett Yormark to tweet an apology, saying “Nets fans deserved better.”
They are getting it lately, winning 12 of 14 games under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo and rising to the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Yormark brothers are ultra-competitive but downplay the sibling-rivalry aspect of their relationship. They do discuss marketing ideas, and several years ago did some cross-promoting with a ticket exchange program between the Panthers and Nets.
Brett will be seeking insights from his brother about hockey management with the New York Islanders due to move to the Barclays Center in 2015.
“It’s a fabulous building. Very intimate – the footprint is a little bit smaller than [the BB&T Center], but it was very well done,” said Michael, who has attended several events at the facility including the Jay-Z concert on opening night and the first Nets-Knicks game there.
The Barclays Center is part of the ambitious Atlantic Yards project that incorporates the arena into an expansive business and residential complex. Getting it built spanned years of controversy that spanned lawsuits and an ownership change of the Nets from real estate developer Bruce Ratner, who conceived the project and retains controlling interest in the arena, to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.
“It was an eight-year journey. Most people didn’t think we’d ever get there. To get there in the way we did is something that I’m very proud of,” he said.
Michael Yormark shepherded the Panthers through the ownership change from Alan Cohen to Cliff Viner and the franchise’s recent return to relevance. The ongoing quest of new revenue for a franchise that has operated in the red for years, has stirred some controversies, such as dislodging some long-time season-ticket holders from their seats in order to develop Club Red.
A Panthers spokesman said that revenue generated by selling the premium areas make it possible to offer some season-tickets in the upper level for as cheap as $7 a game.
Michael Yormark said that Club Red, which opened during the NHL lockout, is nearly 70 percent sold.
Asked about the possibility of offering single-game admission to the club, which includes gourmet food and beverage service, Yormark said, “You can’t do that or you really destroy the integrity of the club. It’s a member’s-only club.
“This is our super-premium club, but you do have to have something for everyone. We’ve tried to accommodate the entire market, whether it’s Duffy’s Sky Club, the ADT Club, Club Red or just regular season-tickets.”
The Barclays Center takes the exclusive-club concept to another level with its ultra-private suites that seat eight and cater to an elite clientele.
“We deal with premier customers in a New York dynamic, so we have to accommodate them the best we can, and I think we have,” Brett Yormark said. “All buildings are segmenting themselves. You’ve got the rank-and-file customer, but you’ve got customers that are looking for that high-end experience. When they’re paying that premium dollar they want that premium experience. It’s no difference with Club Red here or what we have with the Vault at Barclays Center.”
Photo: Michael, left, and Brett Yormark are chief executives of the Florida Panthers and Brooklyn Nets, respectively. (Sun Sentinel file photo)
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