The Atlanta Braves have a jersey coaster at SunTrust Park. (Courtesy Silver Crystal Sports)

Installation helps move merchandise, literally and figuratively, at venues

When Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena wanted to try something different with its team jersey operation, it turned to Silver Crystal Sports, the company that put team jersey roller coasters in Atlanta’s new baseball stadium, SunTrust Park, and other facilities.

“I’ve seen them around and was really impressed with the concept,” said Dave Urso, Bridgestone’s senior vice president of operations. “We had just come off a Stanley Cup (Finals) year, where we had a new jersey with a switch from Reebok to Adidas, which meant a lot of sales of jerseys.”

Urso and the team wanted a way to keep the momentum going. “This way of presenting the jerseys makes the jerseys highly visible to the fans — and highly desirable,” he said. “This takes the whole operation out of the team store where the jerseys are displayed on racks to the concourse where the fans are walking by and will notice it. It’s more interactive and more fun.”

The jersey roller coaster works this way at Bridgestone Arena: A rolling table is placed below the roller coaster, which is fixed to the ceiling. Fans order at the cart and wait for their jersey to be printed with whatever name and number they choose. Two to eight minutes later, depending on how busy the stand is and the complexity of the order, their jersey will come flying by, like in a dry-cleaning shop, and in this case circle overhead.

“Some people just stop to watch the roller coaster and the jerseys whiz by,” said Urso. “It’s entertaining and part of the show.”

The roller coaster cost Bridgestone $30,000 and took about five days to install. 

Urso said that that the sales following the team’s conference championship in the 2016-17 season have slowed but that having the roller coaster — a new shiny toy — took the edge off the sales drop.

“We’re always looking for new ways to invest in the arena, and this is big fun for the fans,” said Bridgestone’s senior vice president of entertainment and marketing, David Kells. “It’s a big hit and a great addition to the guest buyer experience. We try to introduce new fun concepts anywhere we can.”

The jersey roller coaster concept was created by Toronto-based Silver Crystal Sports, which has supplied team jerseys, ancillary jersey products and jersey-making apparatus to venues since 2005.

Co-CEO Adam Crystal said that he likened it to watching the popcorn being popped in a movie theater. “You see it, you smell it, you want it,” he said. 

“It’s the coolest way to sell a jersey,” Crystal said. “It brings a smile to people’s faces. By physically moving the jerseys off the floor, it creates excitement and increased sales.”

Venues that have installed the jersey roller coasters include Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, New York City’s Yankee Stadium and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Crystal said that venues could buy the roller coaster machine or enter into a large-order arrangement to lease. The machines are custom-made and run between $25,000 and $75,000.

There are restrictions. The set-up requires at least 14 feet vertically, and the roller coaster must be fixed into the ceiling. 

Crystal said the company has data that shows installing the jersey roller coaster increases not only jersey sales but also overall licensed goods sales, anywhere from 50 percent to 200 percent. Kells said that at Bridgestone Arena a men’s jersey runs from $195.99 blank to  $279.99 for a customized model.

“People stop, people stare, people stand and wait for their jersey or wait with others — and they pick up other merchandise,” he said.

“What amazes me is that you can be the wealthiest person, or famous, but when we put a jersey with their favorite player in their hands, and they put it on, it turns them into a kid. It’s a magical moment.”