Pulse: Sam Katz’s Power Lunch: Sports Hour

Over lunch at La Veranda, president and COO of Comcast-Spectacor Peter Luukko lets Sam Katz in on the game plan for his teams — and their fans

NO ORGANIZATION HAS mastered the sports world — players’ contracts, naming rights, luxury seating — better than Philly’s own Comcast-Spectacor, and no person more creatively than COO Peter Luukko, who grew up in facilities management and is now the go-to guy for Ed Snider’s empire. When the old Spectrum is demolished this spring, it will signal the end of an era — with Luukko poised to lead the next one.

You’ve been in the business for nearly 30 years. How has it changed? We used to make our money from tickets, food and parking. But it’s no longer a “counting nickels” business: We count dollars today — serious ones. Sponsorship, signage, electronic advertising, naming rights, luxury seating, suites and mega TV deals drive it.
Which of these changes has surprised you? The magnitude of players’ salaries. It forced us to find new revenues. Now you have to really bust it to figure out how to make money.
So what’s coming? Direct, personalized consumer marketing. We’ll text-message and e-mail our customers scores, event info and sales, and cross-promote our other events to Flyers-Sixers fans.
What’s your vision for the teams? We’ve got to get our players and coaches in front of the fans more. I want to get back to something Ed Snider did when he started the Flyers: give the fans a sense of ownership. The hockey player is a modest guy you have to work with to bring out a personality. The basketball player tends to be more assertive, but we need to get him more into the community.
Do the plans for developing retail and commercial at the sports complex make sense?
If you have fantastic amenities, people spend more. When we moved from the Spectrum to the Center, the spending per person, per event tripled.
It had to.
True. But we did even better than we had forecast. We think the community needs and wants what we’ve proposed. It’s worked in Baltimore, Denver, L.A., and around Fenway.
And the Spectrum will be a distant memory. Tearing it down is tough for Ed. He won his first Stanley Cup in there. But it’s 40-plus years old, and needs a lot of investment to keep it going.
Is Ed Snider considering a real retirement? I can’t see Ed ever retiring. He likes the business and being around the people he’s put together. We have a structure in place to manage the range of businesses. It works great, and Ed is still its most important player.