Whether historic or brand new, sports stadiums provide site-specific environments for planners to create ideas with plenty of moving parts that they wouldn’t normally get to utilize. An empty ballpark on non-game days, either as a whole or in terms of its customizable component pieces, gives a planner much more versatility than a regular hotel or conference center.
“We can design something that resonates with people, as attendees, for a really long time after the meeting,” says Carrie Campbell, VP of Sales & Service at Fenway Park Events in Boston. “Because they’re getting access to something they wouldn’t get if there was a game.”
What’s more, just as sports and entertainment venues evolve into more advanced facilities in terms of technology, food, logistics and the fan experience, so do the options for planners. Thinking out of the box becomes more fun.
“It’s not only changed sports and entertainment, but it’s changed the way that we put on events and meetings and conferences,” says Vickie Eiges, director of events and tour sales at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, which opened in September 2016. “All of these things, all of a sudden, are really important.”
Located right on San Francisco Bay, AT&T Park is one of the most photogenic baseball facilities in the world. Giants Enterprises operates as an LLC within the Giants Baseball franchise, booking a smorgasbord of non-game day events in over 17 spaces throughout the ballpark and the immediate vicinity. All is fair game: Presentations on top of the dugout facing the box seats, gargantuan on-field parties or sleek private meetings in the press box, suite level or concourse-level spaces. Multiple events on the same day are common, and as of last July, planners also have access to two separate yachts that dock at Pier 40, merely steps away from the ballpark.
Giants Enterprises Marketing Manager Rory Davis said planners don’t need to be sports fans. As a venue, the building resonates on multiple levels.
“It’s a ballpark at the end of the day, but even if people don’t like baseball, they can appreciate the architecture, the views and the entryway,” Davis said. “It’s such a unique, beautiful building that even if you don’t like sports, you can appreciate it for what it is.”
Opening to great fanfare in 2014, Levi’s Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, also hosted Super Bowl 50 in grand fashion. From ground level to rooftop garden level, a variety of spaces regularly accommodate small to large groups. Planners have access to almost the entire stadium, including areas normally allotted for press conferences, player meetings or field-level gatherings. Even weddings have taken place on the Solar Terrace.
The 49ers Museum Presented by Sony, for instance, surrounds groups with Super Bowl trophies, the team Hall of Fame, numerous exhibits on two levels, and even a 90-pax theater perfect for meetings or presentations. In another scenario, 1,500 people can use the United Club, which tips the scales at 25,000 square feet and runs the entire length of the field. Almost every day of the year, something exciting and creative is transpiring in any one of these spaces.
At the Golden 1 Center even the popcorn is organic. Since Sacramento is the farm-to-fork capital of the world, the food offerings surpass what planners might expect from a basketball arena. Approximately 90 percent of the ingredients are sourced from a 150-mile radius, as are the beer, wine and spirits.
The building is also the first indoor sports venue to earn LEED Platinum designation and features the most powerful WiFi of any arena in the country, both of which attract meetings business. What’s more, just because the venue is relatively new doesn’t mean local history is ignored. At least not according to Vickie Eiges, director of events and tour sales.
“One of my favorite spaces is to be under our Tower Records sign and do dinners there,” Eiges enthused. “Because it’s really different and you need to be under those neon signs. But then looking out onto the bowl of the arena.”
All in all, planners can walk through five hangar doors, six-stories high, and organize ideas for a multitude of green spaces in clubs, lounges, and various hi-tech environments.