4Topps President and Chief Commercial Officer Deron Nardo sits down with Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how sports fans' experiences may be improved through partnerships to install more comfortable, luxury seats in stadiums.
DAVE BRIGGS: A record breaking heat wave swept over much of the country this summer with temps spiking in the Southeast. Meanwhile, a trend you may not have noticed recently-- attendance at college football games headed in the opposite direction, at its lowest levels since 1981.
Premium seat company 4Topps is attempting to tackle both trends with one innovation. 4Topps president and chief commercial officer Deron Nardo is with us on these beautiful new chairs that I'm sitting in, as is Josh Schafer here in studio. Josh, these are awfully nice, nice and very comfy.
JOSH SCHAFER: 4Toppy.
DAVE BRIGGS: To send us a seat to demo this. So Deron, tell me what makes this seat so unique in particular when it comes to those hot 90 plus days that literally hurts your legs and your backside.
DERON NARDO: First of all, thanks for having me on, guys Yes, that is, in essence, a Herman Miller Aeron office chair that you may be sitting in, in your office these days. But it is made to be out in the outdoor sporting market. So what we have there is a seat that is breathable. It's a sling fabric, so it kind of gives with your body. And it keeps you roughly 30 to 50 degrees cooler on a hot day. So we would typically send out a heat gun with a sample seat to someone like yourself and say send it outside, compare it against what else you're considering, and let us know what you think. And it's often upwards of 50 degrees cooler.
DAVE BRIGGS: Wow. I love it, man. It's really comfortable.
DERON NARDO: Really comfortable. Let me tell you, you look comfortable there.
JOSH SCHAFER: And Deron, unfortunately, I'm not in the seat. I'm not quite as comfy as Dave.
DAVE BRIGGS: No, you're not.
JOSH SCHAFER: But I am in a seat that does kind of resemble a luxury seat, right? And that was what I wanted to ask about because I know that's a big trend in the space and kind of something you guys are filling. What have you seen from demand when it comes to luxury seating? Because this seat that we're next to right now is a little bit bigger than a normal stadium seat, so I'd imagine that's probably bringing size down in stadiums when we talk about how many seats can fit in a given area.
DERON NARDO: Well, you guys just touched on something I think it's very important to note, and that is that the attendance trends across sports are pretty much on the decline in the outdoor markets, particularly, historically from their highs. And so what you have is you have a bunch of venues and operators and teams saying, hey, we have some space to work with here. So what can we do to really upgrade the experience, perhaps downsize the capacity, but upgrade the experience?
And so what we're finding is that space-- giving folks a little more space is on trend, and it's something that we're seeing a very high demand for compared to sitting in just a crowded, small row seat. So we're doing a lot of work in the premium spaces, suites, clubs. Trends are very different nowadays than they were. Younger fans want a different experience, so there's room to play right now, given those-- given that softness in the attendance trends.
JOSH SCHAFER: And I'd imagine-- I know that's not necessarily-- you guys aren't selling the seats, right, once they go into the stadium, but I'm sure you have a general idea of how schools and different leagues are viewing these seats. They're probably more expensive seats, right? For a fan, if you're going to sit in one of these nice seats, is that kind of a more expensive experience you can expect?
DERON NARDO: Yeah, I mean, it's on par with what they'd be doing historically in a suite or in a club. So we're providing a better fan experience at a price point that is already in that premium range in the clubs and suites and the bars and the restaurants. The old model was fill a seating bowl with row seats, add some suites in the mid-level, and move on. And it's really not that way anymore. There's many restaurants, many bars, many gathering spaces. And so, yes, we're really just kind of attacking those spaces that already have a high price point for premium fans.
DAVE BRIGGS: So while airlines are packing on as many passengers and shrinking the size and the comfort, you guys are doing the opposite. That is a great relief. One of the surprises I saw on the video there, Deron, was tables, something we are not used to seeing in professional sports stadiums. Why and where are we seeing it?
DERON NARDO: So, great question. We started our business 10 years ago with, in essence, what was a 4Topps seat. What you're looking at is a little Loge Box. You know, it's four swivel seats around a half circle table. And it really presented teams with an option that filled a niche between suite seats and row seats. So that-- there's more and more folks that are out there tearing out sections differently, creating that experience where fans can put food, put a drink, hang a jacket on the back of a seat. So in niche spaces, we're seeing a lot more experimental-- experimentation with different products.
And so what you're seeing there on that video is really something that we got our legs under us as a business providing that only. And then we took that concept, that 4Topps concept, added mesh components to it, and really, business has taken off since then. Fans want a different experience. Like I said earlier, a fan in their 30s, 20s, 30s, 40s, is trying to go to a ballgame and have an experience. They're not there to be crammed in. So that table provides a very social experience for fans while the ballgame is going on.
JOSH SCHAFER: And where's demand looking forward? I know Clemson, Wisconsin, they're going to be hosting games very soon. We talk college football. They'll probably have some of the seats from my understanding, new this year. Where's demand when we're looking forward? Where are fans going to see these seats coming up?
DERON NARDO: Yeah, I mean, it's really-- there's renovations happening across college sports. You see a lot of folks renovating end zone. So in Wisconsin, for example, they ripped out the saddle end zone bleachers, put in a bunch of loge boxes. They put, in essence, the seat that you're sitting in. We make a Caster chair on wheels, so they're creating loge boxes with our seats. And then you have places like Clemson on their club level, where fans will have access to an indoor area to get food and get drink and then come out and sit in an upgraded seating experience.
So a lot of club levels, a lot of colleges playing in that end zone space. Florida State has found a great opportunity to monetize some space behind their end zone. So they're putting in a combination of our row seats with drink railing, so, again, fans can have somewhere to put food, put beverages, and a combination of those plus those tables that you saw in the video.
DAVE BRIGGS: Deron, you mentioned food and drink, such a pivotal part of college football experience. I think beer. I think nachos. I think mustard. And I wonder with these chairs, if I spill on here, how are you going to clean that off? Are we needing some high pressure hosedowns? I assume that's been part of the testing.
DERON NARDO: That's a great question. I mean, the things about that chair resonate with sales folks. In other words, if I'm a team person and I put that seat in, I know it's going to sell well because my fans are going to like it. But to your point, the seat is also really well designed, and it's very crafty. It's got a number of features like the ability to just hose it off and clean it off. Any seat in an outdoor stadium needs to be power wash from time to time. And our seat is no different. Just power wash it, just like you would any other seat, and get that mustard on out of there.
DAVE BRIGGS: Deron, it was 100 degrees in Denver last week. I burned my tush at Coors Field. I'm looking forward to a 4Topps seat. Good to see you, sir. Thank you.
DERON NARDO: Thank you.
DAVE BRIGGS: All right, this is good stuff. Josh Schafer, thanks for being in.