ANAHEIM — Last spring, car dealership owner David Wilson signed a lease agreement on a luxury suite at Anaheim Arena, laying claim to a furnished room adorned with a television, marble countertops and gold-plated sink fixtures as well as 14 seats for every event.
Only problem was, the customers and 400 employees of Wilson's four dealerships were in for a lot of concerts, ice shows and afternoons at the circus. Anaheim didn't have a team yet.
But Wilson was confident an NHL or NBA team would come, and now that the Walt Disney Co. has set its revised luxury suite prices, Wilson can laugh all the way to the bank.
Compared to someone who buys the same suite today, Wilson will save about $22,000 a year--$66,000 over the three-year agreement. Prices that ranged from $36,000 to $68,000 a year with no major professional team now start at $69,000 and go as high as $99,000 for a 14-seat suite at center ice for the Mighty Ducks' games.
"I paid a lot less," said Wilson, who agreed to pay about $66,000 a year for the suite if no team was secured, with the price increasing to $77,000 for one team and $88,000 for two. "I thought a company (arena operator Ogden Services) of that size would certainly be able to secure at least one team, whether it was basketball or hockey."
Wilson, whose dealerships include Toyota of Orange and Tustin Lexus, was hoping for the NBA. But by taking a risk with an early agreement, he was able to get his pick of suites. He thinks he got the nicest in the house, and he's still crossing his fingers for a future NBA team. As for the price increases, "That's good news and bad news," he said. "I think I only have a three-year lease. They're going to want a lot more after it's up."
Ogden sold 20 of the 83 suites before the announcement that the Ducks would be joining the NHL. Disney, though already a week behind its own schedule for mailing season-ticket information, has quietly proceeded with luxury suite sales, securing another 12 reservations.
"We're in pretty good shape," said Tony Tavares, president of Disney Sports Enterprises, pointing out that the sales have been made with very little marketing effort, simply by working off established interest lists.
The revised prices set by Disney compare reasonably with those at the new San Jose Arena, where the NHL's Sharks will play next fall after two seasons in the Cow Palace. Prices for the 64 suites, which have been sold out, range from $62,000 for a 10-seat suite to $125,000 for a 20-seat suite at center ice, 26 rows from the playing surface. As is standard with such premium seating agreements, buyers purchase the right to the suites for all events at the arena.
It is more difficult to compare prices with other Southern California venues. A 12-seat Anaheim Stadium suite for Ram games goes for $24,000. The price for a 26-seat suite for all stadium events, including all Ram and Angel home games, is $88,000. About 95% of the stadium's 108 suites have been leased.
The stadium's suite offers many more professional sports events than an Anaheim Arena suite does, but it is farther from the action and has fewer non-sporting events than the arena, which expects to offer 100 or more non-hockey events this year.
There are no luxury boxes at the Forum, home to two major professional teams, the Kings and Lakers. However, the senate seat program allows patrons to purchase seats for all Forum events at prices of $8,400 and $9,350 a seat. A 10-seat block for all events--from Lakers and Kings games to concerts and the Harlem Globetrotters--would start at $84,000--no luxury box included.
Those who took the plunge and put down their money for Anaheim Arena suites before Anaheim was granted an NHL expansion team can count their good fortune--along with the thousands they saved.
"I found out yesterday. I guess I made some money," said Gary Hendricks, co-owner of Interstate Specialty Marketing, an Anaheim Hills insurance marketing and administration company. He and his partner, Jerry Goldfarb, made their first payment on a 10-seat suite last July and will save about $20,000 over current prices.
"We wanted to get in on the ground floor," said Hendricks, who expects to entertain employees and clients. "I felt it would be a good business move. We happened to be the early birds."