Ravens make concession to credit card customers

Buying: Fans at M&T Bank Stadium will be able to use plastic, including a `contactless' version, at food and merchandise stands.

August 24, 2005|By Laura Smitherman | Laura Smitherman,SUN STAFF

Ever made it to the front of the line at the concession stand at M&T Bank Stadium only to realize you had no cash and had to dash to the nearest ATM - there are nine in the 1.6-million-square-foot facility - missing even more of the Ravens game than planned?

That changes this season. As part of $11 million in renovations to the stadium, the Ravens announced yesterday that fans will be able to pay for food as well as merchandise with a credit card. Many of the 418 newly installed terminals will also accept a new kind of credit card that simply requires a wave in front of a screen for the transaction to register.

"This is a lot faster than cash," said former Ravens defensive lineman Michael McCrary, who was on hand at a media event yesterday to publicize the "contactless" card technology from MasterCard International. "In a sports venue like this, you don't want to miss a second of the game."

The change from a cash-only system is one of several modifications at the stadium that were completed during the off-season and tested recently during the pre-season. The upgrades were designed to jazz up the 7-year-old stadium, improve crowd flow, make services more convenient - and encourage fans to spend more money.

Other changes include the addition of more than 1,000 seats, raising the capacity to 70,107, and the installation on the exclusive club level of more than 80 flat-screen TVs. In-stadium stores that sell team merchandise have been redesigned, and Coca-Cola will be served instead of Pepsi. As at Orioles' home games, tickets will have bar codes, which can be read by hand-held electronic devices and will help combat counterfeiting.

M&T Bank Stadium is the first major entertainment venue in Baltimore to make using credit so easy. At Oriole Park at Camden Yards, fans can pay with credit cards on the club level, but most concession stands have only cash registers. At First Mariner Arena, spectators can buy merchandise with a credit card, but not food or drink.

"As we all go toward a cashless society, more sports teams are starting to do this. It's a trend that we'll continue to see all the way down to the minor leagues," said Andrew D. Appleby, president of General Sports and Entertainment, a marketing firm. "It's probably a good thing for the revenue of the teams, and consumers feel it's a real benefit to them."

The Ravens paid for the stadium upgrades, along with its concession and retail contractors. The team's annual revenue tops $170 million, which is expected to increase with the improvements to the stadium.

"People tend to spend more with credit cards," said Allison Kasten, a sales executive for Micros Systems Inc., the Columbia company that installed the credit card terminals at the football stadium. "This is huge, especially in the club-level bars where the tabs can really add up."

MasterCard has been rolling out its new contactless credit cards across the country, from McDonald's restaurants to several other National Football League stadiums such as the homes of the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles.

The so-called PayPass system uses radio frequency identification technology embedded in the plastic cards and speeds transactions, especially on purchases of less than $25 that won't require a signature. Ravens fans using the card will eventually have their own concession line.

Ravens fans who sign up for a contactless card issued by MBNA Corp. can also rack up points through their purchases. The points can be redeemed for autographed jerseys and helmets, VIP parking and tickets.

"You'd have to buy a couple of houses on the card to get Super Bowl tickets, but there are other easily attainable prizes," said Michael Preston, a Ravens spokesman.

The new credit card system will help the Ravens better track consumer spending habits, which will improve sales and marketing efforts, said Dennis M. Mannion, senior vice president of business ventures for the franchise.

In another two years, Mannion said, fans might even be able to use their tickets to buy products at the stadium. Fans could add cash value to their bar-coded tickets online - using another credit card.

What's new at M&T Bank Stadium

418 credit card terminals, including ones that accept MasterCard's new "contactless" cards

1,023 seats, raising the stadium's capacity to 70,107

82 flat-screen TVs on the exclusive club level

Ticketing using bar-code technology

Redesigned stores selling Ravens merchandise

Coca-Cola as the team's official soft drink

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