The sports industry is a people business whose future relies on technology, according to Danny Wirtz, CEO of the Chicago Blackhawks and BC ’99.
“[It] is still … a relationship business, a very emotional business, but there’s no way for us to survive if we don’t fuse technology into it,” Wirtz said.
Wirtz shared his vision for the future of the Blackhawks organization in the evolving landscape of sporting entertainment in a Shea Center Talk on March 10.
Wirtz said his goal is to “future-proof” the Blackhawks by making fans’ gameday experience run more efficiently as the world of technology consumes the sports industry.
“We’re really focused on making this as smooth and easy to come to a Blackhawks game and experience the Blackhawks as possible,” Wirtz said.
The needs of fans are an integral part of Wirtz’s vision for the Blackhawks’ future, which he said is shifting as the demographics of the fan base change.
“Our fans range in years and experience,” Wirtz said. “We have to appeal to such a broad group—they are as diverse as ever.”
Wirtz’s vision toward a more efficient experience for the fans includes releasing a Blackhawks app. Though the idea is not new, Wirtz said it will help the organization streamline communication with its fans.
“This [app] is not exactly groundbreaking, but more and more we are going to start to push things through the app so that it is very seamless for the fans,” he said.
Wirtz said his plans include opening a new sportsbook inside Chicago’s United Center, where fans can place bets, in partnership with FanDuel—one of the largest online sportsbooks in the United States.
“Picture it as the best sports bar you’ve ever been to, but that has betting capabilities on-site,” Wirtz said. “It’s actually game-ifying an existing game—for us, that means higher [fan] engagement.”
These ideas are part of Wirtz’s attempt to grow the Blackhawks’ fan base, but Wirtz said he wants fans to be engaged outside of game day experiences as well.
“There’s as much value in behind-the-scenes content and longer-form storytelling as well as just the game itself,” Wirtz said.
According to Wirtz, shifting the organization’s focus from revenue to the fan experience is a cornerstone of his mission.
“I look around, and I’m like, ‘You know what, [the fans] are here. This dad just brought his son to his first game,'” said Wirtz. “We have to keep enhancing that [experience]—it just happens to be that there’s a game happening.”
The interpersonal component of every fan’s experience with the Blackhawks is priority, according to Wirtz. The future, he said, is with the fans, and the Blackhawks’ business model should center around an unforgettable experience.
“We need to make sure that when you come to a Blackhawks game, you’re having the time of your life,” Wirtz said.
Featured Image by Ben Schultz / For the Heights