Report From VenuesNow Conference

Leaders from across the industry offer inspiration, insights and best practices

  • by VN Pulse Staff
  • Published: June 20, 2018

Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke and CAA Icon CEO Tim Romani reminisce about their 20-plus years in venue development during a conference session.

The second annual VenuesNow Conference started with a rousing welcome from Oak View Group co-founders Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff on Tuesday and ended Wednesday with a memorable closing keynote from Endeavor CEO Ariel Emanuel.

In between were heavy hitters from every corner of the industry, from CAA Icon CEO Tim Romani, who discussed the changing design demands of venues and how millennials are altering the design paradigm, to David Bonderman, chairman and founding partner of TPG Capital, and movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who along with OVG’s Tod Leiweke discussed bringing an NHL expansion team to Seattle, to Jeanne Bonk of the Los Angeles Chargers and Kevin Demoff of the Los Angeles Rams, who will be sharing the NFL stadium under construction in Inglewood, Calif.

Tim Leiweke shared tales from his long sports business career. From his early tenure with the NBA's Denver Nuggets, he recalled, “The first week with the Nuggets, we missed payroll.”

He also stunned the audience at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., with a hair-raising recollection of when he “found two bombs on site, and one was live” when describing the location that AEG and the old Icon Venue Group selected to build the O2 World in Berlin.

Romani, comparing the Seattle arena renovation with converting the old Millennium Dome into the O2 London, chuckled as he realized, “KeyArena, another building (development) within a roof.”

He also discussed the need to reduce costs for sports facilities. “Spending has to come back in control,” he said. “For MLS stadiums now, there’s a $150 million application fee and a $200 million building. You’re into it for $400 million before you sell a ticket. That’s the challenge.”

Romani’s one regret: “The one building we started and never finished — Farmers Field. It should have been built. It would have been revolutionary and continued the transformation of downtown Los Angeles.”

Bonderman delighted the audience with his quip that, “Whatever we decide, 80 percent of the people will be against it,” when the Seattle Group eventually picks a team name.

“Amazon is next door to the arena site,” said Bonderman. “We’re looking at Amazon Go and maybe we’ll use that same technology for our hot dog stands.”

“We’ll reach out to the tech geniuses in Seattle and mine the great minds to innovate this arena,” added Bruckheimer.

Tod Leiweke, CEO and team president of Seattle Hockey Partners, predicted the following timeline: approval of a Seattle franchise by the NHL in September, start of construction of KeyArena (all new under the same roof) in October with a 24-month window, and selection of a general manager in about a year and a half.

Delaware North’s Jerry Jacobs Jr. sees opportunity in sports betting in the sizable market of people in the U.S. who would bet if it were legal. Though most talk centers on the size of the illegal betting pool, that other yet-to-be-tapped market is enormous, he said.

Despite the social bent of the new generation, several speakers referred to a lack of interaction as attractive in retail. Kiosks for food and drink, where no human contact occurs, is a trend that’s finally come into its own.

The jersey patch has broadened sports sponsorships categories, particularly in its appeal to global companies, but the core naming-rights partner is still the same. Financing, as always, depends on a certain amount of contract income, and naming-rights partners are key.

Technology, and even cryptocurrency and esports, were recognized as up-and-coming sponsor opportunities, particularly in something like the jersey patch. 

Dan Berkowitz, CEO of VIP ticket and travel package provider CID Entertainment, said, “People are not willing to wing it anymore when they come to a show. We’ve got to make it easy to get here, park, or get dropped off, and get into a seat. Venues are their own little city, and we need to make people feel like it’s a city they want to visit.”

Dan Roarty, ParkWhiz president and COO, said, “We are the front line of combating just staying home. Parking offers the most revenue for many venues, and if we fail the customer, they will just stay home.”

Brent Franson, CEO of data-collecting firm Euclid, said the demand for people's time "is at an all-time high” and offered up that Amazon is really "a time machine. It saves the average customer $6.61 an hour.”

“We want to make the payment experience completely disappear,” said Ticketmaster Vice President Ronan Wall. “The key is speed. It takes two seconds for a NFC transaction, five seconds for a cash transaction.”

Scott Lacharite, vice president of Global Enterprise Solutions, added that peer-to-peer payment platforms such as Venmo and Zelle are going to dominate payments going forward and suggested that “every person under 30 has a Venmo account.”

Another interesting fact: Emojis are not just all fun and games. Wall said that payment companies are recording and studying what emojis are being used as a way ‘to analyze what the payment is for.”

  • by VN Pulse Staff
  • Published: June 20, 2018