The Boot Room’s Kickin’ Cocktails

To explore our venues and find new, cool ways to repurpose space has been one of our industry’s greatest odysseys. Gregg Allen, CRO, Sporting Kansas City knows the mission well.

This transcript has been lightly edited for content and clarity.

Sporting KC has an icon of a venue. ALSD attendees had the opportunity to tour it when it first opened.

Yes. I’ve been with the club a little over 12 years now, just before a rebrand in 2010 and the opening of Children's Mercy Park in 2011. It’s been a fun ride!

And your team has discovered hidden pockets within the venue for new premium spaces. We just heard about the new Boot Room, actually on the heels of a member question regarding VVIP spaces.  

The genesis for the Boot Room stemmed from a number of executives at Sporting KC trying to think of a way in which we could repurpose some underutilized space. We had done a fairly good job of this in prior years developing some spaces around the stadium to create new and differentiated premium experiences.

As we look to find these, we have fewer and fewer in the stadium, but for about four years now, we had our eyes on an old closet space that our operations team used for storage, which was under a stairwell that led into our field club.

It is about 1000 square feet, and we figured we could repurpose it rather than keeping it as storage.

The idea started as a cigar club, but as you can imagine, figuring out ventilation and the stink from cigars was quite difficult! So, we figured we would lean into what this market already does really, really well: great cocktails. We leaned into the Speakeasy-type membership club and that's where the Boot Room came from.

Repurposing underutilized space leads to potential revenue as well, right?  

Revenue generation is a result of repurposing underutilized spaces. And in this case, we didn't necessarily get a lot of clients asking, “Hey, could you create some extra membership club for us?” It was really something that our executive team thought we could develop and test the market, so to speak. We asked, “how can we drive a little bit more revenue while offering a much different experience?”

We have an extremely fun clientele in Kansas City, especially in our premium areas and we thought there would be no better way to give them an option in addition to what their game day experience already is. Allowing access into a premium space like this where they could get cocktails at a level that they're not used to getting at a at any kind of stadium or arena, and in a speakeasy setting, which is very exclusive.

As an industry, we know we need to keep pushing the envelope, create and provide ultra-VIP experiences, even if our clients don’t specifically ask for them. From your perspective, what are premium clients desiring currently, and how are you reading between the lines, so to speak, and adapting?

Our premium clients at Children's Mercy Park haven't traditionally been asking us to come up with more because they have a pretty great experience as is with our differentiated premium levels.

However, coming up with the Boot Room, we figured it was the right number, about 50 memberships, and about 10 to 12 gameday-only access passes. That was the perfect number to create a super VIP experience, a very exclusive “Who's Who of Kansas City” atmosphere.

In addition to those 50 memberships, what makes the space special is that post-game some players, ownership frequent the space. We also feature the space with prospects and clients we wish to provide the ultimate experience to.  

There's a lot of business being conducted in such a great type of aesthetic down in down in the Boot Room.

So, what need did the Boot Room fill for your venue and premium inventory?

The Boot Room filled a need in that we didn't have a space in the building that was ultra-exclusive. Our most exclusive space, our Field Club, is 400 people. We wanted to go big on the experience, but also include other benefits throughout the year.

This was the perfect opportunity to welcome people into that space who would appreciate exactly what we're doing and for whom the barrier to entry would not be a factor.  

What is the investment?

The investment level of a membership in the Boot Room to a new member is $6,000, for the entire season. For returning members it is a $5, 000 investment.

This includes all the other events and includes all cocktails in the space, along with beer, wine, and soda. There is access to extremely hard-to-get bottles, from which they could purchase pours. We have a hidden cabinet of brands and old scotches that are really hard to get!

The Boot Room does not include food at this time. We focused our efforts on providing a great drink experience. You're not going to see much more than passed snacks. The food portion and experience of our stadium we leave to the other club areas.

You’ve mentioned this as a membership club. Explain the benefits, during and outside of matches.

The Boot Room is really a membership club. It’s an access pass in the stadium, which has nothing to do with your ticket to view the game.

Likewise, while there is pregame and postgame access, the club is shut down during the game and halftime.

While some might think that’s limited time, it’s time is very well spent. The experience is very well manicured.

The benefits that come along with a membership to the space don't stop in the space. We include one chartered flight with the team to an away match each season. We performed a launch party at a local distillery J. Rieger to do a private barrel selection of a bourbon for our members. Members then received bottles at the end of the year. The rest of that barrel will be served in the Boot Room the next season while we wait on a new barrel they will select for upcoming years.

The Speakeasy concept allows us to showcase a local distillery, a great marketing partner, while also giving guests great bourbon on the backside of the events.

We also include a few access passes for each of the members to use throughout the year.

We develop some pretty good swag for all of our members; think quarter zip-type category, polos.

We will be developing wine nights throughout the year to invite members out on non-match days. We will pair with great dinners from some local chefs.

We want to continually provide more opportunities in the space, but also give members more opportunities to network and conduct business.

Are you looking for a sponsor or naming rights partner for this space?

Naming rights for has come up. However, not having a partner on the space lends us the ability to make the experience a little more organic, a little bit more curated have, and less corporate. We can have extra fun down there when we don't have to worry about relationships that may or may not be affected.