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August 14, 2004

Revenue Enhancements At College Athletics Venues Get Slick

FROM THE EVER-ENCROACHING BUSINESS SIDE OF COLLEGE ATHLETICS come a bevy of revenue-enhancing strategies to optimize income optimization at college athletics venues.

Many college athletics programs are prime candidates for best practices cram sessions, state-of-the-art guest satisfaction techniques and, increasingly, help from facility management firms.

These facility management firms bring much to the table. Facility scheduling maximization (otherwise known as “bookings”) is only one of many vital components of improving venue efficiency. Other components include security, accounting, human resources, risk management, public relations, sales, marketing and food and beverage management.

Firms specializing in facilities management have existed for decades, and they have morphed adeptly into veritable models of efficiency. Although the physical structures, markets, circumstances and managements are all different from one venue to the next, the basics remain the basics.

By designing everything to maximize the consumer (or “guest,” as fans / spectators are known in the trade) experience, the dollar intake can be dramatically increased. Easier, more pleasant visits to concession stands translate to higher dollar rings. Clean rest rooms, well-stocked souvenir stands and clean concourses all translate to more repeat visits. It all sounds simple, but it can be hard to execute.

Facility management firms can be very valuable before ground is even broken on a new facility. Says Frank Russo, Sr. VP of Global Spectrum, a Philadelphia-based arena management firm, with 10 collegiate clients: “We’re not architects or builders. We are operators, so we look at design from a very practical point of view. Many of the facilities that we operate are university buildings with athletics as the prime tenant, but they also have a broader mandate to be public civic centers. They need to be programmatically capable of handling multiple types of events.”

The original design of on-campus arenas for event maximization includes such considerations as seating conducive to concerts, tractor pulls and three-ring circuses. This often involves the positioning of the huge center hung scoreboards, to ensure unobstructed sightlines from upper level seats on the opposite end of the arena. “Instead of building a 9000-seat basketball arena with 10,000 capacity for concerts, you’re left with 7000” sellable concert seats, Russo says. “And all of a sudden, the opportunity to host concerts and other programming is not available.”

An example of the forethought involved in facility design and operation are back-of-the-house considerations. Concession stands are often located along exterior walls to allow for venting, “and venting means you can fry and grill food, which generates aromas, which stimulates impulse buying, which increases your per capita revenue significantly over boiled hotdogs and warmed-over pizza,” Russo says.

Clever.

Private management firms also assume the important role of refereeing booking dates among collegiate teams and outside attractions. The facility management company can inject a much-desired third party viewpoint concerning the best usage of the facility.

No longer does the saying fit: “If we build they will come.” Well, they may come once, but if there is not sufficient forethought to make the experience a positive one, they may not come back again.


(this 496 word excerpt—with attendant commentary—was distilled from a 1468 word article from the August 2004 issue of Athletic Business)