Case Study: Chicago Sports Venues Dig a Goldmine

While fans at Chicago's United Center and Comiskey Park scarf down wieners and cheer on their favorite home teams, their arena visit is quietly being enhanced by a workgroup customer relationship management application from FrontRange Solutions.
By Eric Griffith and Bonny Georgia

The city of Chicago is a sports fan's heaven, especially for those who enjoy seeing major league basketball, baseball, and hockey played live. But while visitors to the United Center and Comiskey Park scarf down wieners and cheer on their favorite Chicago teams, their arena visit is quietly being enhanced by FrontRange Solutions' Goldmine, a workgroup customer relationship management (CRM) application.

Using the Windows-based Goldmine, the United Center and Comiskey Park now can compile and track customer-related data such as vendor sales, inventory levels, season ticket sales and even lost-and-found items.

Brooks Boyer is director of corporate partnerships at the United Center, home to the NBA's Chicago Bulls and NHL's Blackhawks, as well as championship games, concerts acts like Weezer and Neil Diamond, and shows like Disney on Ice and the Ringling Brothers Circus.

Boyer oversees a staff of seven that sells signs and promotions found throughout the arena, as well as Internet and print advertising for the Bulls. Five years ago, at the height of Michael Jordan's career with the team, Boyer's group was approached by Goldmine with a pitch on what the software could do for his sales staff.

"At the time we didn't have anything. We were using Word documents to keep track of our people. These CRM type things were relatively new. We knew we needed some kind of software to keep up with the times," said Boyer.

"We looked at some other software ... but this is the one we were most comfortable with," Boyer said of Goldmine. FrontRange Solutions even was willing to customize the program for the United Center. "We needed more than just a database of names and addresses, but also something that could be inventory management software," said Boyer.

This customization proved so successful that now several departments in the stadium use Goldmine, each with their own separate database. New features are added regularly -- Boyer even synchronizes client data from Web-enabled Goldmine with his Palm. His bottom-line assessment of Goldmine: "It works. That's the key thing for gives me what I need when I need it."

Goldmine A Hit For White Sox

Over at Comiskey Park, whose major tenant is Major League Baseball's Chicago White Sox, Goldmine is also in heavy use by most departments. An outside consulting firm customized Goldmine for the sales staff tracking season ticket holders and group ticket purchases.

This proved so successful that Goldmine was soon installed in departments like Guest Services, which handles complaints, compliments, and the 40,000-seat stadium's extensive lost & found service.

Julie Taylor, director of guest services and Diamond Suite operations (the sky boxes) for the White Sox, had been looking for something to help her staff track items. "I attend a lot of operations meetings for Major League Baseball, they host quite a few, and nobody had anything that looked like a fit," she said.

Taylor says Goldmine isn't perfect, citing setup hassles and a steep learning curve as downsides. "We started using the software just before [this year's] All-Star break, so we're still new to it. There's a lot more we can do with it that I haven't learned yet. It uses a lot of sales terminology (like "adding the next action") where I'd rather use terms like 'follow up' or 'attending the game.'"

Those complaints fall quickly by the wayside when she discusses the power of Goldmine's customized reports, however.

"The reports are the most important thing. It's OK when my department knows what's a trend as far as a complaint, but all of us need to know: concessions, operations, marketing. So we generate reports for them based on either a topic, or a month, even an opponent -- we can report on complaints from [when] we play Cleveland. It's been an excellent reporting system," said Taylor.

Customization, it seems, is key, to such divergent departments at these different sports arenas working comfortably with the same program. Taylor was lucky enough to see how it impacted others at Comiskey Park before adopting the software.

Brooks Boyer at the United Center says having more familiarity with the program up front would have helped him to make a more informed purchasing decision: "They [Goldmine] came in and were at the right place at the right time and our department decided to take it on. Knowing what we know now, we would probably have had our tech people go out and buy it, rather than have it go through my dept, which doesn't have expertise in that area. We'd prefer to defer to them (IT)."

Eric Griffith and Bonny Georgia write from their home in Hudson, Mass.

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