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Sports venues double as exciting off-site venues

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.” 

AT&T Park, San Francisco

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.”  

Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.

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. 

Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, Calif.

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. 


Busch Stadium, St. Louis

As with many newer baseball stadiums, especially in the Midwest, the team’s history combines with the city’s history via architectural elements, food, drink and logistics, all to create a site-specific experience that bleeds over into the stadium’s potential for private events or corporate meetings. Special gatherings at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, usually come bathed in Cardinal Red, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Planners can organize events on the rooftop, in the parking lot, on the field or in one of many indoor lounges, clubs or private facilities. For example, 150 guests can book the Hall of Fame and Museum on non-game days, or 140 people can have a sit-down meal on the roof during non-game days. Private dinners with Cardinals insignia plates are common, as are events handing up to thousands of people on the infield. In some spaces, there’s even a dance floor. Don’t forget the balloons. 

Wrigley Field, Chicago

One of the most historic sporting venues in the world, Wrigley Field exemplifies a degree of staying power unlike any other ballpark. While other cities erect shiny billion-dollar facilities, Wrigley carries on like a trooper, still completely in a league by its own, with more than 100 years of history.

As with many ballparks, planners have access to a variety of intriguing ideas and customizable elements on non-game days. At the high end, groups can rent out the entire ballpark and flood the field with thousands of delegates for all sorts of parties, tradeshows, tented events or award ceremonies. For another angle, indoor batting cages and bullpen sessions are available as elements for any event. The LED scoreboard and the Wrigley Field Marquee are likewise customizable, providing additional pizzazz for anything a planner might come up with. Guests can participate in home run contests, play catch on the field or even take VIP tours of the “Friendly Confines,” all of which provides a site-specific experience in a ballpark that soaks in history. 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Opening for business just last month and located right on the Georgia World Congress Center campus, Atlanta’s new NFL stadium is over the top. For example, the stadium has more video displays than any other facility in the world, including a 360-degree LED video ribbon encircling the entire inside of the building. It is officially the largest video board in pro sports at 58 feet tall and offering 63,000 square feet of screen space. Planners will have access to this screen, as well as any other screen in the building, all of which are digital and can be quickly reconfigured for any event. On any non-game day, the building offers at least 15 spaces, clubs, restaurants, rooms and areas for any type of private event. As the building moves forward, group tours will take place practically every single day and the private event business will explode. Since the stadium is located on the Congress Center campus, 15 minutes away from the world’s largest airport, and close to 10,000 hotel rooms in downtown Atlanta, the building will become a major player in the international convention scene. 

Fenway Park, Boston 

When it finally sinks in that Fenway Park is 105 years old and planners can bring delegates whose great-grandparents attended games, then dreaming up events at the ballpark becomes a no-brainer. And since Fenway is a 365-day business, the park on non-game days is usually near full occupancy for meetings, private events or ballpark-wide concerts. It’s a modern facility, but one that still retains all the historical mystique one would expect. 

“There’s an amazing sense of history and a sense of place when you’re here,” says Carrie Campbell, VP, sales and service, for Fenway Park Events. “You’re not in Anywhere, USA, with four gray walls.”

In other words, groups are not limited to what’s available at, say, a hotel. At Fenway Park, planners design tents and stages on the grass. They can orchestrate cocktail parties in the dugouts or tours with photo-ops of the Green Monster. A CEO can deliver a keynote on top of the dugout while the group sits in the box seats. 

“If you can dream it up, we can probably execute it,” Campbell said. “Sometimes it’s not even about the Red Sox. It’s about this historic jewel of a place.”

Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia

Home of the Philadelphia Phillies, Citizens Bank Park opened in time for the 2004 Major League Baseball season. Featuring historical architecture on the outside and inside, including multiple Philly-specific elements, the venue places attendees into a swath of sports and city history. All of which can spill right over into a variety of private events for indoor and outdoor clients. Twenty-five to 25,000 people can theoretically attend a unique event somewhere in the confines of the stadium. Weddings, tradeshows, picnics, fundraisers, product launches and high-tech meetings of all sorts regularly unfold on a daily basis. Private rooms, pubs and executive lounges on various levels of the facility are available, including the upscale Diamond Club or the High and Inside Pub, both of which are right behind home plate.

Planners can even utilize the majority of the parking lot for car shows, gathering, runs or other sports-related events. Foodwise, from Philly cheesesteaks to striped bass, the catering options leave nothing aside.  

Orlando City Stadium, Orlando

One of many soccer-specific stadiums built by Major League Soccer franchises, the 25,500-pax Orlando City Stadium opened last February. The stadium is also home to Orlando City’s USL club, Orlando City B, as well as the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League. A 100 percent privately funded stadium, the building is located two blocks from the Amway Center, home of the Orlando Magic NBA franchise, a building where big name concerts regularly attract thousands. 

A relatively clean and simple facility, the stadium is small enough so that no one can really get lost, while still maintaining a degree of major league prowess. Plenty of concourse-level open-air spaces exist for a variety of customizable events. The Club Level Lounge is also available.  

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About the author
Gary Singh

Gary Singh's byline has appeared more than 1,500 times, including on newspaper columns, travel essays, art and music criticism, profiles, business journalism, lifestyle articles, poetry and short fiction. He is the author of The San Jose Earthquakes: A Seismic Soccer Legacy (2015, The History Press) and was recently a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. An anthology of his Metro Silicon Valley columns, "Silicon Alleys," was published in 2020. He still lives in San Jose.