Archive for November, 2010

Working With Local Venues and Facilities

November 4, 2010

When you see surveys asking Event Rights Holders them the most important factor in the site selection process, the quality and features of the facility are usually their number one answer.  Unfortunately, it is becoming more difficult for host cities to be able to gain access to the premier (or even marginal) sports facilities in their community.  Two years ago, I had the unique opportunity of moving from a sports commission to working for a publicly owned, privately managed convention center.  This move has opened my eyes on how facilities operate and how I could have coordinated events at these facilities better in my previous role.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before going to a facility to request their space:
1) What is the facilities purpose?
a. Most Sports Commissions/CVB’s hang their hats on “Heads in Beds” or “Economic Impact” when trying to book an event, but to some facility owners this is a non-factor.  Find out what the facility owners hot button issues are and work with them on meeting in the middle.  It may be a good idea to sit down with the primary facilities in your city to see what is important to them and to explain what your goals are and how you can work together.  In my previous job, the local parks and recreation department’s goal was to give everyone in the community an opportunity to participate in sport.   We pitched our tournaments as an event that would bring outside people to the community but that would also let the local athletes compete in a top notch tournament without traveling.

2) What are the total costs?
a. When asking about the cost of the facility, make sure you also ask for a list of additional expenses that are possible for the facility.  The worst thing you can do is make a budget with a flat rental line item only to find out later that you need to budget for security, medical, ticket takers, janitorial, etc.         Also find out if the facility has a union labor pool, especially if you are using a convention center or arena; it is key to understand the different cost structures and rules with the different labor types.             Most centers charge clients for items that will make your event a success and keep the building/complex in good working order.

3) How do I hold the dates?
a. First, find out what the facilities booking policies are. When you call to put a date on hold, express to the facility exactly what the status of the event is.  Some good things to mention are: Where you are at in the bidding process, when the decision going to be made on the bid, and if the event is a long shot or a slam dunk!

It is usually difficult for a facility to hold dates for 6 to 12 months without a contract/deposit because of other events that may be inquiring about the facility (especially convention centers and arenas).  Find out what the facility will do to work with you if you need a space hold space for an extended period of time.  A small deposit may be a good faith gesture to hold the space.

4) Who is the Decision-Maker at the Facility?

a. Identify the decision-maker on rental breaks and other “big ticket” items at the facility.  Most of the time, you will have to educate them on your purpose and how sporting events can be a great event for their facility.  Remember that facilities are not charities and do have to meet our expenses, so going in thinking a facility will be free is not the best mindset.  See how you can partner with the group to make it a win-win for everyone.  Turnkey and annual events are what facilities are looking for, so if your event has these ingredients, let them know!!!

5)  Do We Have A of Rental Waiver Program?
a. I have found that this is becoming common practice in the industry.   If you do not have a rental waiver program, it is very tough to compete against cities that do (unless you have hit the jackpot of in-kind sponsors).  It may not be a full rental waiver, but anything can help with rental relief for an event organizer.  Obviously, there are certain room night requirements that need to be met to activate the rental waiver, and this could vary from city to city.  For example, in Mississippi we have a program where the state will kick in money if the event organizer is visiting the state for the first time.

These are a few questions to ask yourself before your approach a facility in your community.  Remember that you are developing a partnership and building a strong working relationship so that it is a win-win for all parties involved, including the host organization, facility, event organizers, and citizens of your community.

Heath Aucoin Guest Contributor: Heath Aucoin, Jackson Convention Complex
Heath Aucoin is the Sports Sales Manager/Event Manager for the SMG managed Jackson Convention Complex in Jackson, MS. Prior to working for SMG, Heath was the Director of Events Management for the Baton Rouge Area Sports Foundation for 3 years and also taught Event Management classes at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, LA. During his tenure with BRASF, he sat on the organizing committee for the Cajun Classic Wheelchair Tournament, the USTA Southern Section Combo DoublesTennis Tournament, YMCA 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, and various 5kand 10k Road Races. Heath has an Undergraduate degree in Finance and an MBA from LSU. He is currently enrolled in the Certified Sports Event Executive program.

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What It Takes To Succeed in the Sports Travel Market

November 4, 2010

We are experiencing tremendous demand for information on what it takes to succeed in the sports travel market. In recent appearances at the Missouri Governor’s Conference on Tourism and the TEAMS Conference I was deeply impressed by the amount of determination to succeed expressed by attendees. It is in times like these that I am reminded to stress what it takes to become an “overnight sensation.” Simply stated, there is no such thing. It takes experience, preparation, and the right people combined with enough time for the seeds of success to germinate.

In my talk in Missouri I observed that the NASC has about 110 sports commissions. Of these, about 20 are affiliated with or are a department of a convention and visitors bureau, leaving perhaps 90 independent sports commissions, councils or authorities. The NASC also has about 300 convention and visitors bureaus. So, something approaching 75% of our host organizations are not commissions. This means the task of learning what it takes to be a winner can be difficult for some.

Fortunately, the primary reason for starting the NASC was to promote best practices, and our membership continues to grow as a reflection of the desire to learn what it takes to succeed.

On November 9 we are holding our first ever regional workshop. More than 40 attendees are expected to be in Sacramento, CA for our Alpha test of this new concept. We will hold a six hour session designed to impart an understanding of what it takes to be a winner. We expect  bureaus, sports commissions, park and recreation departments, and city and county officials.

Our budget for 2011 includes three more of these regional “meet ups.” We expect to learn a lot about how these workshops can be combined with our market segment meetings and CSEE training. The chance to reach out to prospective new members and better serve the needs of those who already belong is an exciting and educational process.

A major goal is to dispel any doubts about how commissions and bureaus work together. As someone who spent 9 years running a commission, I can tell you we never submitted a bid without the input and/or participation of our local bureaus. Destination marketing requires the active participation of every community segment needed for a successful event.

These regional meetings give you another option for improving your understanding of the business within driving distance. You will also have the chance to hear from others facing similar challenges.

Why all the detail? We sense that tough times have caused some to enter the business in search of quick paybacks. For those of you who are getting at least your fair share, it comes as no surprise to discover the truth: success comes slowly. Steady attention to evaluating each event before bidding and under-promising and over-delivering on the events you host will result in more and more business each year.

Don Signature

Donald G. Schumacher, CSEE
Executive Director
National Association of Sports Commissions

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