San Diego Business Journal Padres' SmartFans Get a Chance to Use Smartix

The game of soccer isn't new to many San Diego residents.

Recreational soccer fields are scattered throughout the county and professional teams, such as the Flash, Spirit and the Sockers invite enthusiasts to experience the game on another level.

The game has grown to mean more than a mere pastime for players and fans. In some cases, it equals an economic boost for the county.

A good example is the Surf Cup soccer tournament held over the past two weekends at the San Diego Polo Club in Del Mar.

The tournament brought 322 teams from around the world to San Diego.

The 21-year-old tournament is expected to generate $3.5 million in direct spending. Last year, 92,000 people attended the event. The total economic impact of the tournament is expected to bypass $10.5 million.

Yes, this is a youth tournament, but teams usually book hotel rooms at an average rate of $110 a night.

According to Sal Giametta, vice president of community relations for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, the tournament is one of the top events of the year, along with the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and the Holiday Bowl.

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SmartFans Use Smartix:

A select group of Padres' season ticketholders can now attend games without the hassle of dealing with paper tickets or using cash to buy concessions or team merchandise.

The Padres are working with New York-based Smartix International to test the company's SmartFan program, which eliminates use of paper tickets, provides for electronic transfer of tickets and resale of tickets and awards loyalty points to the pilot group.

The SmartFan Card uses an embedded micro-processor chip to store tickets, cash value and loyalty points.

For the Padres, the objective of the card is to reduce no-shows and increase concessions' revenues while making it easier for season ticketholders to manage their tickets.

"Looking ahead to the new ballpark, it's important that we begin assessing new technologies that enhance each fan's experience and improve our revenue model," said Ron Bumgarner, the Padres' director of new ballpark sales, suites and premium seating. "We've limited the scope of this test to better manage and assess the benefits of the SmartFan program."

Bumgarner said two groups of fans were selected; season ticketholders and fans who typically purchase tickets for six to 10 games a season.

The link for the program went on the team's Web site in July. Bumgarner said they have received requests from fans wanting to participate in the program next season.

In The Swing:

Golf Fest, a three-day golf trade show, will be held a little earlier next year. The event will still be held in February at the Del Mar Fairgrounds as it was this year, but it will be before the major professional tournaments scheduled around the same time.

Last year, Golf Fest was Feb. 16-18. In 2002, the show will be held from Feb. 1-3. The idea is when an event is held before the major pro tours it will afford better marketing opportunities.

Leslie Beckman was recently named event coordinator for the event. Beckman has helped produce a number of events, including the Parent & Child Expo, San Diego Home & Garden shows and International Spectrum Computer shows.

The deadline for the next Sports Biz column is Thursday, Aug. 16. Send related items to dward@sdbj.com.