A few years ago, Ernst & Young’s Real Estate Solutions Group completed a two-year, $300,000 feasibility study regarding development of a multi-sport visitor venue in NYC. As comparables, it referred to a new term, Attraction-Museum, which it defined as “compelling and entertaining 90–120-minute themed experiences using multimedia and other techniques which appeal directly to visitors’ personal and shared memories, reminiscences and experiences.”
5 COMPARABLE VENUES
Primary Comparable Venues were selected based on the following criteria: located in a North American urban area, focused on a single theme and designed for entertainment value, including a high level of interactivity:
Spy Museum — Washington, DC
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum — New York, NY
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — Cleveland, Ohio
The Tech Museum — San Jose, California
The Hockey Hall of Fame — Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Spy Museum (“Spy”) and Madame Tussauds (“MT”) are two of the best examples of “attraction-museums.” Hosting 600,000 – 750,000 visitors annually, their success can be attributed to:
Location – Large urban setting, influx of new customers, excellent transportation access, visibility
Design & Operations – Hands-on interactivity, integrated education and entertainment, ticketing and design strategy to allow more visitors/ft2, frequently rotated exhibits to attract new/repeat visitors
Innovative Marketing – Positioned/branded as attractions instead of museums
Each venue is either stand-alone or connected to other uses, including exhibition and retail. HHOF is located in the bottom floor of an office/mall complex and Spy is located on the first and second floors of a mixed-use property. All except HHOF have multi-floor designs. Retail spaces range from 1,500 to 7,800 ft2 with nearly all retail areas accessible to non-ticketed patrons. Several have restaurants accessible from the street or a non-ticketed lobby. Those with restaurant or retail available only to patrons were at a clear disadvantage. Except for HHOF, each offers IMAX or multiple theaters throughout. None provides dedicated parking.
Spy and MT, the newest, privately operated, for-profit venues located in urban markets with significant population density, affluence, and appeal as tourist destinations, had the highest 2005 attendance. Despite being the smallest, Spy hosted the most visitors, demonstrating that visitor flow and “control of the experience” are vital components of a successful attraction-museum. Peak attendance per square foot of exhibition (PA/SFE) ranged from 11.6 – 32.6. At the high end, Spy was carefully designed for a high number of visitors to be entertained and educated throughout. To avoid long wait times, time-stamped ticketing during peak periods is critical. This approach is fashioned after Disneyland experiences as opposed to traditional museums. 2005 attendance levels across all five venues averaged just under 500,000. The three older venues experienced decreased attendance since opening, while MT and Spy continued to grow.
CHARACTERISTICS OF DEMAND
Students: 11-21% (excluding MT’s 2%). Tour Groups: 4-13%. Local Population: 16-30% (excluding two extremes). Outside the Local Area: 50% or more (except for Tech). Average Visit Times, 1-3 hours (three reported 2.5 hours). Temporary Exhibits: duration ranged from three months to one year.
MT’s average ticket price its first full year ranged from $10 – $14. After significant capital expenditures (interactive exhibits, etc.), promotion of its brand, and a 2004 market research study relating value of experience to pricing, it arrived at an average ticket price of $23. Yet, it was able to increase prices again in ‘06 and ‘08 with Adult tickets increasing from $25 in ‘04 to $35 in ‘08, a 40% increase over four years. Obviously, MT’s premier Times Square location influences pricing.
Corporate sponsorship is another viable revenue source, especially with companies already promoting their brands through sports marketing. For example, HHOF lists 27 corporate sponsors (11 Premier Sponsors, 7 Contributing Sponsors and 9 Promotional Associates). NSM offers an ideal place for brands to connect with fans across diverse sports.
NSM attendance projections: Year 1, 600,000; 5% CAGR; Year 5, 730,000 (plateau). Factors supporting these assumptions:
Comparable first-year attendance ranged from 500,000 – 809,000. NSM starts at the lower end, equal to Madame Tussauds’ first year mark of 600,000 (before MT added all of its interactive and rotating exhibits).
MT averaged 4%, Spy 5.5%, annual growth. NSM will adopt best practices, while highlighting its own unique features (e.g., ex-pro athlete participation, simulated sports, Web community) and promoting itself within the sports, entertainment, education and tourism markets, among others.
Proposed pricing is above Tech and HHOF, in line with Spy and RRHF, and well below MT.
Subject matter appeals to an exceptionally large fan base, including student-athletes, families and international visitors. Temporary exhibits will appeal to repeat customers and attract new visitors as well.
Layout, content and operations will be based on an attraction-museum model to guide visitors’ experiences and increase the number of people per square foot that flow through the facility.
NSM’s ability to offer interactive games and training features will be a strong differentiator. Visitors’ personal web pages, complete with their own stats and rankings, will encourage them to come back as repeat customers.
Custom merchandise with unique tag lines that play up the active participation will encourage sales.
In addition to NSM’s main sponsors, each themed and individual sport’s room may feature its own sponsor.
The venue will distinguish itself by offering experiences that can’t be fully replicated anywhere else. Due to its high level of interactivity and the popularity of the subject matter across all ages and demographics, it will be positioned to compete alongside other popular tourist attractions by promoting itself as a place the entire family can enjoy.