Keeping fannies happy will keep fans happy

A new $2B arena will use toilets to keep its paying customers satisfied.

The world’s 10th-richest man poured a chunk of his $80.7B fortune into a historical punching bag of an NBA franchise, upped its value by $2.65B, and is now building the most expensive arena known to man: a $2B+ palace designed to look like a giant basketball net.It’s one hell of a business story — but the most intriguing part of it all? The toilets. Or, as Los Angeles Clippers owner and ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer exuberantly put it: “Toilets, toilets, toilets.”

  • Thanks to Ballmer’s porcelain-purchasing obsession, the Intuit Dome will have ~1.2k toilets and urinals when it opens later this year.That’s roughly one fixture per 15 seats, more than 2x the typical NBA arena ratio.

    fans per toilet at sporting venues
  • And this matters because…?Most major sports leagues set attendance records in 2023, but the party won’t last forever, per Front Office Sports. The outlook for 2024 is more downbeat:   
  • Funflation,” the rising cost to attend live entertainment events, is real — prices for sports tickets soared 25.1% from 2022 to 2023. The average cost for a family of four to attend an NBA game — buying four cheap seats, a parking spot, two beers, two sodas, and four hot dogs — is a runaway train at $304.64.

  • This is likely unsustainable for team box offices. Many teams are already facing ongoing declines in season ticket sales, and competition for fans’ dollars, and attention, is only getting stiffer.What’ll keep attendance strong? Offering an elite game day experience no couch can compete with. (See: sports franchises collectively spending billions on facility upgrades.) That includes — you guessed it — toilets. As many as possible. The stadium restroom is central to fan satisfaction:
  • The average ticket price for the Clippers’ chief competition, the LA Lakers, is $518.Let’s assume, with 48 minutes of play, 15 minutes for halftime, and an hour’s worth of breaks (i.e., timeouts, fouls, bats getting loose), a fan spends ~123 minutes in the arena.Waiting in bathroom lines for 25 of those minutes eats up 20% of the event.Spending $518, with $103 worth of toilet-waiting time, is not a great value.

  • Intuit Dome won’t have that problem. Ballmer knows better: Keeping fans in their seats, and buying $13+ beers without a second thought about those bathroom lines, is good business.

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