Life in the (Sort of) Fast Lane
Today’s blog post is written by Allison Klein, Platform Innovation Specialist, Patron Technology.
Back in December, a friend of mine invited me to a season ticket holder’s open house at Yankee Stadium. As a devoted Yankees fan without the funds or time to devote to a ticket package of my own, I was eager to see what some of the perks of being a season ticket holder were, and glad to be able to enjoy them myself for the day. Over the course of the morning, we had the chance to geek out over team memorabilia, roam freely around the field, and enjoy some complimentary food and deeply discounted merch at the team store.
One unexpected perk of the day was a chance to sign up for CLEAR Sports. Similar to its program at some airports, or fast-pass at Disney’s theme parks, CLEAR Sports lets customers bypass long entry lines to the stadium. After enrolling (for free), on your next visit to the stadium, your fingerprints are scanned, and when your identity is confirmed (you’ll see your own photo smiling back at you on their screens), you don’t have to go through the metal detectors. The promotional video on their website says that CLEAR customers get “premium entry at serious speed,” “offering the fastest way to your seat” and even though it seemed a bit excessive since I don’t go more than a handful of games in a season, I was intrigued enough to sign up.
Since enrolling in CLEAR, I’ve visited Yankee Stadium twice. The first time I asked a stadium employee what entrance gate I should use if I had signed up with CLEAR. He pointed me towards the entrance that’s usually reserved for patrons headed towards the luxury boxes or club sections of the stadium. When I got there, sure enough, there was a lane marked off for CLEAR customers. And best of all, there was no one in it! As I approached it, an employee asked me if I was already signed up with CLEAR (because there was a line forming next to it for people who wanted to sign up) and when I confirmed, he excitedly shouted “Welcome!” The scanning process was fast and before I knew it, I was in the door and impressed. Even though I didn’t have a seat in the higher-end sections of the stadium, I was given special treatment and felt like the team valued my time.
Unfortunately, the second time I attempted to enter Yankee Stadium in the fast lane was not quite as successful. This time, I headed straight to the gate I had used the last time, pressed my thumbs to the fingerprint pad and was quickly approved for entrance. But when I tried to proceed into the ballpark, I was stopped by a stadium employee. Apparently I could only enter through that entrance if I had a ticket for a suite or luxury box. When I said that I had used that line a few weeks prior the employee shrugged and directed me to another gate, which was some distance away. All told, I had to walk past about a dozen entrance lines to the stadium and wend my way through crowds of people I was hoping to avoid, which was quite frustrating. I was left wondering if it was worth going out of my way to find the special entrance lanes. This was even more of a question once I finally entered the stadium and realized how far away I was from my seats. So much for “the fastest way to your seat” claim! Clearly the process needs a bit of fine tuning.
Still, I am interested to see where this program goes. Will more entrances will get the CLEAR treatment as the season progresses if more fans sign up for it? It will also be interesting to see if the Yankees will be able to do anything with the data being collected as customers enter the stadium. I read that CLEAR might be used in concessions at some point in the future, making it unnecessary to show ID to purchase alcohol for example, and it’s also fun to think about what else could be streamlined or targeted better once the team knows that I am in their venue.
I also can’t help but wonder if CLEAR will start showing up in other venues that I frequent — any place in NYC these days is bound to have a long entrance queue due to heightened security concerns. I would absolutely love a fast lane at Madison Square Garden or the Barclay’s Center the next time I’m headed there for a concert. And in the last several weeks, I can’t tell you how long and sidewalk-blocking the lines to get into many Broadway theaters have been. Adding a faster means of entry would be boon. It’s important for venues to consider the fact that the experience of attending a game or performance starts well before the action does, and whatever can be done to make the entry process a smooth and hassle free one can go a long way to encourage repeat attendance.
What do you think? Even without using CLEAR, if your venue could accommodate it, would you consider a special faster entry line for subscribers or members only? Are there other things you could do to make getting into your venue a more pleasant and welcoming experience for your most loyal patrons? Share any ideas you have in the comments!