The development of the south west corner facilities at Vicarage Road stadium is at the heart of a ten-year, £18 million deal between Watford FC and Lindley Venue Catering. The creation of two flexible hospitality areas, at a cost of £1 million by the middle of next season, will kick-start Watford FC’s long-term plans to undertake a complete refurbishment of the whole stadium which currently has a match day capacity of 17,500.
Lindley Venue Catering will be responsible for overseeing the design and installation of new kitchens and two floors of new hospitality facilities. The top floor, which will provide great pitch-side viewing, will feature a casual, informal dining area equipped with LCD screens giving it the ambience of a premium sports bar. A match-day hospitality ‘bar & grill’ menu will offer a selection of quality hand-held food such as gourmet burgers and sharing platters. The area has also been designed with the dual objective of attracting revenue from non-match day private hire business as well as enhancing the hospitality facilities for match-goers. Lindley Venue Catering will be proactively marketing the suite as ideal for parties, anniversaries and discos, and it also has plans to create an entry point Christmas party carvery/disco/cash bar offering.
A flexible, open plan hospitality suite will be established on the first floor. Lindley Venue Catering is ringing the changes by moving away from the traditional match day three/four-course hospitality fine-dining experience offered by most UK stadiums, and will be introducing a high-quality authentic Italian restaurant concept.
The hospitality suite has been designed so that on non-match days it can be converted into an exhibition or conference space, or, alternatively, it can provide a 150 cover dining area for formal banquets, weddings and balls. It will also host club award nights and to maximise usage of the suite, Lindley plans to develop a programme of events such as sportsman dinners and offer premium, all-inclusive Christmas packages.
Scott Duxbury, Watford FC’s CEO, said:
We appointed Lindley Venue Catering at the start of the season to bring a professional approach to developing all aspects of the catering, hospitality and events business at Vicarage Road. From day one, they have worked with us to step change the way the club manages its catering and event business and after just the first season, Lindley has demonstrated the positive impact partnering with a specialist caterer can have on enhancing our fans’ match day experience, and their vast experience in the UK sports stadia environment has enabled them to identify further revenue-generating opportunities for the club.
It is this joint approach and the common goal of establishing Vicarage Road as a stadium appropriate to meet the needs of the club which has led to us mutually agreeing to extend the initial four-year contract into a 10-year partnership with both parties benefiting from the arrangement.
Jonathan Davies, The Lindley Group’s Sales & Marketing Director, added:
Watford FC had made clear that its ambition is to completely refurbish the stadium and whilst Vicarage Road has some very good public concourse facilities, including a large public bar and modern kiosks, we felt that the hospitality areas needed to be developed if they are to realise their full potential and match the standard offered at other Premiership and Championship grounds.
We could see a number of opportunities for the club to create a unique offering and, with the financial backing and support of our new American owners Centerplate, we were prepared to invest in the infrastructure of the stadium as part of a long-term partnership. We also strongly believe the type of mid-market casual dining experience we are proposing for the top floor of the new hospitality facilities will be the future of sports hospitality – a view which has been reinforced by seeing the results of similar concepts developed by Centerplate in other stadia around the globe, most notably the US and Canada.
We shared our vision with the management team at Watford FC who are forward-thinking and fully bought into the proposition as they are keen to take a ground-breaking approach to bringing in new ideas which will ultimately benefit both the club and its followers.