Sports & Social A Winning Concept
Roughly 10 years ago, The Cordish Cos., a developer of entertainment-based properties, had an opportunity at its Fourth Street Live! Development in Louisville, Kentucky. It had leased an anchor location to a bowling-based entertainment venue but that particular tenant struggled, forcing The Cordish Cos. to make an interesting decision as a landlord: operate the venue. After taking the retail/entertainment operation on, the company removed many of the bowling lanes, creating more space for customers to socialize, and more options for their entertainment. What was born was Sports & Social, The Cordish Cos.’ concept that blends dining, sports, social games and activities. Since that first location, Cordish has been actively expanding and refining the concept at centers around the country. Most notably, based on the concept’s success, the company has expanded the concept to projects where it is not the landlord.
Reed Cordish, principal at Baltimore-based The Cordish Cos., says that the company feels it has nearly perfected the equation of creating a Sports & Social, which revolves around giving people a “complete dining, sports viewing, and entertainment experience.” Sports & Social locations contain experiences such as golf simulators, ping pong, cruise ship shuffleboard and a mix-in an assortment of other social games.
“We take a high-end design approach to exceed people’s expectations from what they might expect from a sports-themed concept,” says Cordish. “It’s a well-thought out approach that has a huge ‘wow-factor’ for the guest.”
One of those ‘wow-factor’ components is the audio and visual system. Each new Sports & Social location features a two-story LED screen that gives the customer the feeling of being in a stadium or arena, says Cordish. That main screen is so essential that The Cordish Cos. makes that practically the only must-have when looking to expand the Sports & Social footprint. Cordish says Sports & Social locations are ideally between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet but can go as high as 30,000 square feet, such as the location at Live! At The Battery in Atlanta. An indoor/outdoor patio is a nice luxury but not a requirement and Cordish believes the concept can fit anywhere whether it be a historic building, a life-style project, or in a downtown area.
“We want the ability to create the two-level screen. That’s our priority. Past that, we are pretty flexible,” says Cordish. “Our flexibility creates a longer design process, but we believe results in a richer end-result than we could achieve from a cookie-cutter approach.”
Another part that sets The Cordish Cos. apart from “cookie-cutter” approaches is that the company often partners with professional sports teams in the area to activate the space further. For example, The Cordish Cos. and the Atlanta Braves often partner for festivals in the common area at Live! At The Battery.
Cordish says it is rare to see a tenant and landlord work together in that capacity but given The Cordish Cos.’ history as a developer and landlord, it is beneficial to both sides.
“We understand as well as anybody what goes into creating a strong overall development,” says Cordish. “I believe it gives developers comfort to know they are dealing with a group that shares that vision.”
The Cordish Cos. is currently developing a Sports & Social location at Ballpark Village in St. Louis, which is next to Busch Stadium, home of Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals. The company is also in talks to bring Sports & Social to some downtown locations around the country as well as possibly anchoring a suburban mall undergoing a renovation. Those venues would not necessarily be adjacent to a professional sports team.
The only Sports & Social that doesn’t bear the trademarked name is located in Kansas City. The Cordish Cos. partnered with Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC to create No Other Pub, a play on the team’s motto, “No Other Club Than Sporting KC.” Cordish says this will remain the sole location that is not called Sports & Social, saying, “As we grow, they are all going to be called Sports & Social, now that we have this strong brand identification.”
Cordish says that what contributes to the strong brand awareness is the fact that there is usually something exciting happening at the location, whether it be lunch and happy hour specials, a sporting event in the area or live music, making it feel like the “living room” for that community.
“We will have several booked events going on at one time in different parts of the venue,” says Cordish. “We will have a lot of people watching the game and have other groups playing the social games. There is always significant energy and activity at a Sports & Social.”