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Official Review by Olivier Novel, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Ligue Nationale de Handball (LNH) is the national handball league of France, with two divisions. In 2016, the LNH held its annual Final 4 tournament in Montpellier at the Park&Suites Arena, a multi-functional arena built in 2010.
The Final 4 Teams (Montpellier, Paris, Nantes and Toulouse) represent the best of the national level. The tournament bracket already ensures the sport’s performance quality and the game’s high level. The event is a delight for lovers of high-level handball, and world’s greatest players and fans. The National Handball League - LNH - is Innovative, modern, and efficient. By planning its “Fan Experience” seminar and conference two months before the event, the LNH has implemented all elements and success tools of the concept that the fan experience should come first. Each day, The Park&Suites Arena, hosted near 8,500 spectators. Access, functionality, food, neighbourhood and environment have been well studied and deliver a great experience.
As a symbol, this 15th edition of the event saw the victory of Montpellier over the “big” PSG, on the score of 31-26, thus gaining its 10th trophy. It was a fabulous game, a superb atmosphere, and a great overall event.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
On the two floors and on the ground floor, the Park&Suites Arena offers a large range of drinks, sandwiches, salads, pastries, sushi, ice cream and other delights to discover.
Inside, there are nine spaces to complete the offerings. This includes a HÄAGEN-DAZS store, two GERMAIN SNACKING (Germain is a well-known catering in Montpellier), one SUSHI BAR, one Wine tasting area "SUD DE FRANCE," and six bars managed by TRATEUR DU LITTORAL. The service is fast and effective, and the queues are short. All payment types are accepted.
Bars are the busiest areas. Coca-Cola, and Heineken beers are served in plastic cups.
The Park&Suites Arena is a modern and multi-functional arena, with digital, in-game and in-stadium events making for the perfect combination for an excellent fan experience and atmosphere.
Built in 2010, the Park&Suites Arena can accommodate concerts, shows, sports competitions, congresses, and conventions with a capacity of 8,200 spectators for sport configuration, and 13,500 spectators in musical and show configuration. The arena architecture is very successful, making it easy to reach your seat.
For this event, and the others, Public, VIP and Clubs Entrances are well staffed and the signage is present from the parking to the seats. On the way to the seats there is a "selfie area" (with the "#Final4DCL" hashtag at the activation, with image walls, player silhouettes, and a selfie device). There is also a real "handball village" (with dribble and shoot exercises). The atmosphere and the environment promote positive behaviors among fans. With a big screen on the ceiling, the LNH put a digital statistic table, combining modernity and digitizing, with times and scores display.
There were also high-level animations. The official Champions League DJ played disco and electro catchy music. The official mascots of the four teams made the show with acrobatic teams. A special feature, the two 2017 world championships (in France) official mascots were there. Each time-out, official FC Barcelona cheerleaders and Slovak dancers (TRON DANCE) performed, with a troupe of acrobats giving gifts and t-shirts.
The access to your seats is easy. There are four seat levels, and many stairs lead you naturally to your seats. Behind the goals, the space is reserved for supporters. Wherever you are, visibility is optimal.
The arena is located six miles from downtown Montpellier, in the Pérols city. You have to take bus, tram or car to get there. But once there, many restaurants, shops, and attractions wait for you to have fun. And you are just two miles from the Mediterranean Sea
Before entering the arena, there are two choices for places to eat: Pérols Shopping Mall (5 minutes walk, with classical restaurants, bars and breweries and chains such as McDonald's, Flunch, or pizza), or the "Halles Gourmandes," which is close to the arena (same parking). Here you'll find local producers, lovers of tradition, and quality gourmet products. It's a combination of a shop and restaurant. A real attractive and innovative concept! For The French Handball League Cup, "Halles Gourmandes" offers special packages for fans.
LNH has developed a dedicated and special audience strategy: Fan-first mentality, placing the fan in the center of all marketing strategies. Therefore, the purpose is to place the fan and their issues inside all the marketing thoughts. The events both outside and inside the stadium are totally designed for the fan.
The French Handball League Cup is the place to be. The first edition was set in 2002 in Sélestat. This year, PSG Handball, with its roster, was the favorite team. A Paris victory in the competition would be a first. But, Montpellier was the team which had won the most French Handball League Cup, with 9 victories. The winner last year was Nantes.
With Digital Strategy, in-stadium and in-game animations, the atmosphere is perfectly in touch with the fan engagement.
The attendance was mainly composed of family, fans and handball players. Thanks to DJ, dancers and acrobats, the fans were engaged throughout the game.
The Park&Suites Arena is a very accessible both in terms of getting to the stadium and moving around the stadium once inside. The arena is south of Montpellier, in a city called Pérols. The arena is close to Montpellier Airport, and between the Exhibition Montpellier Center and a big shopping mall.
You have three ways to get to the arena. There are four highways (A7, A61, A7, A9), a tramway (Line 3 : Juvignac-Montpellier-Lattes-Pérols / "Parc Expo" stop / € 1.5 / from downtown and train station), and bus ("Parc Expo" stop / € 1.5 / from downtown, train station and airport).
Free parking is available for 6,100 cars and it is directly accessible from the roads and highways. From the A9 (Barcelona, Toulouse, Beziers and Montpellier West) and from the Mediterranean coast, you can park at the south parking. From downtown Montpellier (by Avenue de la Mer - RD21) you will find the northwest parking. From A9 (Marseille, Lyon, Nimes or RD66), the parking is called northeast (from RD66) and Mediterranean parking (from International Airport).
The handicapped access is optimal. The disabled holders of a disability card have specific areas of entry (and people accompanying them). Two elevators are available by direct access from the control points for access, without difficulty.
This French Handball League Cup Final 4 - 15th edition - had to be accomplished, successful, and iconic. Mission accomplished with a sport roster gathering the best players in the world, digital innovations, fan engagement activations, strategy based on fan experience, an entertainment village, and all in the great and fascinating Park&Suites Arena in Montpellier, a city focused on many sports including handball, rugby, and soccer.
Ticketing, communication, and strategy were oriented on family, local clubs, and handball fans. With dedicated offers and packages to fit any fan's wallet.
For this event, the prices were very accessible and open to all. We might have expected, with the teams and the players present on the field, that the prices would follow the game level, high. On the contrary, always with the "fan experience" in mind, the LNH is focused to provide affordable prices and put the event in reach for all. Tickets were priced from € 12 to € 35 for the semi-finals, and from € 15 to € 40 for the finals. The Final4 PACK ranged from €20 to €60. A discount was offered to the 4 committed teams' fans.
Due to recent terrorist attacks in Europe, "shows, games and events are held in accordance with decisions of the Departmental Instance. LNH set up, in connection with the organizers, some security enhancements including search, access control, and surveillance.
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