by Rich Klein
One of the best aspects of living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is we have been getting a lot of cool events in recent years. Last year, because of the new football stadium in Arlington we had the NBA All-Star game with the NBA Jam Session as a side bonus. This year, we have Super Bowl XLV and thus the resulting NFL Experience as a side bonus.
Fortunately, I live near the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) line which takes one directly to the Dallas Convention Center. Having grown up in the New York metropolitan area, I really appreciate not having to drive downtown even during the weekend and then pay the $12 parking fee.
The trip downtown was in a reasonably crowded train with a solid majority of the people going to the event. Some like me were going just to walk around and soak in the atmosphere while others were hoping to secure autographs on various items. I did see some mini-helmets and footballs brought on to the train by various passengers. And almost everyone on the train was wearing some sort of football related jersey.
When the walk to the Convention Center ended and everyone walked into the building, the general feeling was one of sheer football overload. The NFL Experience does have plenty of interactive events for kids and displays of really cool items from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One example I enjoyed was a player’s 1938 tax return and the note that the player had to be the one responsible to taking care of his uniform. Artifacts from the early days of football through the modern game were all over the place and fun to view.
One big difference from the NBA Fan Fest and important to hobbyists was that there is a still a memorabilia part of the NFL Experience. I’m not sure what booth costs are for an average dealer, but I’m always mystified that not that many local vendors/store owners set up at these events. I only noted one local vendor and he has been in the business a long time but is not a local store owner. Yes, I do understand the time and personnel cost could be seen as prohibitive but this is probably the best chance to attract people from the “wider audience” into our niche.
Get me three to four good customers from an event like this, which would be approximately one for every two days of the event, and the effort pays for itself long term. Even back to 1995, when there were more local store owners, I don’t think there were more than one or two local store owners who set up at the MLB Fan Fest.
The two licensed NFL trading card manufacturers were there too. Both Topps and Panini had very nice booth set-ups and both were giving away wrapper redemption items as well as selling some Super Bowl exclusives. Topps also handed out three-card “common” card packs of their 2010 base set. We should be able to talk Clay Luraschi of Topps who is planning to come down for the second week and catch up with him then to get his thoughts on the show.
Panini also had some nice items. They had three different teams sets featuring members of the Steelers, the Packers and the home-town Cowboys which were available for $10 each or all three for $25 In addition, one of the fastest moving items they had was a nine-sticker sheet especially created for the NFL Experience. According to Scott Prusha, who is focusing very heavily on events such as this for Panini, those sheets, which featured players such as James Sparks, the Packers running back who has not been on very many card related items, the sheets were so popular that by 1 PM Sunday they were all gone.
According to both Prusha and Joe White of Panini, Sunday was by far the busiest day of the first weekend(click here for company photos). Prusha also mentioned that for the upcoming NBA Jam Session, Panini would once again be very aggressive in focusing on promoting their brand so more collectors and youngsters can continue to learn about the company and its products.
Most of the dealers outside of the “corporate entities” did appear to be more memorabilia then card based. Business did appear to be reasonably decent at all the vendor tables as well.
One thing to be aware of if you go to the NFL Experience is that food costs are much like what they would be at a game, but for large events like this, it’s almost expected. As Bill Parcells says… it is what it is.
My only real complaint about any pricing structure at the NFL Experience and what seems to be a growing trend at other fan events is the “tiered” pricing. Last weekend, I attended the Texas Rangers Fan-Fest and I can remember when everything was so much cheaper. Of course, the Rangers were still in their overgrown minor league ballpark at that time and they were not coming off a World Series appearance.
At the Rangers Fan Fest, you could guarantee yourself one autograph of every player attending by forking over $500. Fortunately for the average fan, there were only 25 of these plans made available. At the NFL Experiece, it was $45 for a similar deal that would put you at the front of the lines for both player autographs and various exhibits. Thus, for a fan who really wants to get stuff and drove to the event themselves, the cost is $82 before you even obtain your first autographs.
Tack on $25 for the ticket, $45 for the fast pass (limited to 50 an hour) and $12 to park and it’s not a cheap affair.
Events like the NFL Experience are well presented and there are freebies you can grab—even free autographs if you’re willing to stand in line but expenses can add up in a hurry. In tougher economic times, are we making the gap between the average fan, the fan with money and the players even that much larger?
The NFL Experience is closed Monday and Tuesday. For hours, ticket prices and more, click here.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]