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At the Convention, Sports, Entertainment Facilities Conference, held May 16-17 in San Diego, a cross-sector panel discussed trends and predictions. Highlights included how the new and advanced technology is changing the way facilities are being built, renovated and used and how to manage the cost of implementing and maintaining sustainable practices.
(Photo: Panel from left to right: Kevin Austin, Judith Grant Long, Stacey Jones, David Stone and Ryan Walsh. Credit: Kate Cripe)
The panel included five experts from the meetings, facilities, and buildings industries:
- Kevin Austin, senior advisor—Sports, Entertainment & Venues at WT Partnership
- Judith Grant Long, associate professor of Sport Management at the University of Michigan
- Stacey Jones, owner and senior principal at Crawford Architects
- David Stone, president of Stone Planning
- Ryan Walsh, executive director of Harris County Sports & Convention Corp. and NRG Park
User Experience: Multiuse Venues and New Technology
Multiple panel members talked about cities creating Sports Entertainment Districts where there are flexible, multi-use venues for entertainment, attractions, sports, conventions and commercial groups together.
Stand-alone developments or renovations of older venues are creating “neighborhoods” within a facility to allow for operators to maximize the probability of having the venue used for multiple types of events and functions.
Both of these trends are a selling point for owners and managers because it provides visitors, local and convention and event attendees options for entertainment and dining before and after events without leaving the “district”.
Trends and Predictions
1. While neither e-sports or sports gambling are new in the U.S., the need to create brick-and-mortar venues with facilities to accommodate these activities is growing. This has created a whole new need for venues to accommodate this industry.
2. Recent progress in virtual reality (VR) software has provided unique opportunities for integration into a wide variety of sports and entertainment venues. Facilities can offer an experience, such as driving a NASCAR vehicle, or taking a pitch from a major league pitcher. These types of offerings can draw in interest and a new use of the venue while it would typically be dead, such as away games, off-season, etc.
Venue Development and Operations: Cybersecurity and Sustainability
Constant technology advancements and changes can cause confusion on what integrations and implementations will add value to a venue and make it a state-of-the-art facility.
They noted that as facilities rely more on the converged network with more features and services available online, it is vital to have superior cybersecurity programs at venues. This requires extensive measures that may include working with the Department of Homeland Security, following the SAFETY Act and having cyberterrorism insurance.
The cost of implementing and running sustainability practices also came up, and the panel agreed that it is still a hot topic.
“While local, state and federal government rebates many help subsidize the cost associated with sustainability retrofit projects and new construction, they don’t cover all the costs associated,” said Austin. “It is a business case and stewardship exercise for venues to consider the economic benefits of operation a more efficient facility and being progressive with the various innovations, and with that, committing to funding the initiatives.”
Trends and Predictions
1. BAS systems will start the integration of all building systems as well as the Internet of Things (IoT) with numerous other connection devices.
2. Food and beverage will continue to push the envelope with new and interesting offerings in venues. Technology integrations with dining services will be key to complementing guest experiences with mobile access to locations, menus, mobile ordering, delivery to seats and pick up locations.
3. Recycling programs will continue to grow, along with composting strategies.
4. Building information modeling (BIM) usage will continue to grow and will be used in numerous facility and event management programs.
5. Artificial intelligence to be used in security and surveillance systems.
Funding, Financing and Structuring
According to the panel, the market continues to constrict as constraints on public funds show no signs of relenting. This is worsened by the demands on cities to have high-end sports, entertainment and infrastructure.
The panel believes that a shift in the principles of funding, financing and structuring of projects in the venues sector is needed.
“The public sector is changing up their negotiating approach across the industry,” noted Shaw. “It’s been well documented in recent years that sports franchises, venue operators and promoters had, for a time, dictated terms to the public sector. But the tide is beginning to turn.”
The panel discussed how publicly owned and operated venues, arenas and convention centers are aging, but most council members don’t want to put dollars toward these facilities. This, along with the fact that many are not up to date with the latest technology, public sector agencies are forced to explore new options to modernize or replace their infrastructure through Public Private Partnerships (P3).
P3 models center around directing the risk of design, construction, financing, operations and maintenance to the parties best places and incentivized to manage that risk.
Trends and Predictions
1. Continued growth in interest for Design-Build-Finance-Maintain approach.
2. Focus on venues as “economic energies” to support increased taxation revenue.
3. Increase in level of investment in ancillary development around major venues including hotels, bars, restaurants, cultural assets.
4. Turnover of venues and major renewals to increase as technology, experiential marketing and individual spectator need continue to change.
5. End to free month for major league flight of fancy.
The panel discussion at the Convention, Sports and Entertainment Conference provided insight for facility owners, developers and managers on the user experience, venue development and operations as well as funding, financing and structuring.
These trends and predictions can be a used to improve developments, renovation and maintenance for these types of facilities and anticipate the needs and wants of clients.
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