SBJ/January 9 - 15, 2006/Facilities

Previous disasters prepped SMG for hurricane duty

SMG relied on past natural disasters in Florida and Iowa to prepare for Hurricane Katrina’s impact on four of its Gulf Coast sports facilities damaged by the worst storm in U.S. history, said Glenn Mon, the facility management firm’s senior vice president of stadiums and arenas.

Mon is scheduled to discuss the Katrina effect Thursday at the International Association of Assembly Managers’ International Stadium Management Conference in Tampa. The title of his address: “Preparing for a Rainy Day: Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.”

Hurricane Ivan damaged Pensacola (Fla.) Civic Center in 2004 and floodwaters filled Iowa State University’s Hilton Coliseum in Ames in 1993, eight years before SMG managed the arena. Those incidents led SMG to implement emergency procedures that include forming assistance teams from other SMG-run facilities to aid the venues in need last fall, Mon said.

Premium seats are selling well at Central
Florida’s planned football stadium.

“It’s ironic in the case of Katrina that those teams were going to come from the New Orleans area, because in tracking the storm, we thought that Pensacola was going to get hit the hardest,” he said.

New Orleans instead became ground zero for Katrina, and seven SMG-operated arenas in Louisiana and Texas provided shelter for hurricane evacuees.

SMG also formed national relationships with general contractors to act quickly to clean up arenas damaged by the most recent hurricanes. “The day after Katrina hit, we had a crew in Mobile [Ala.] taking water out of the [Civic Center],” Mon said.

Katrina provided its own lessons, the greatest of which was to establish reliable sources of communication after regular telephones were rendered useless and cell phone reception was “sporadic at best” in the hurricane’s wake, Mon said.

SMG bought satellite telephones that were shipped to personnel on the Gulf Coast after Rita knocked Ford Center out of commission in Beaumont, Texas, an arena that had given shelter to residents displaced by Katrina, he said. Satellite phone batteries are recharged using solar panels set up in the sun that roll up like a towel, Mon said.

GREAT OUTDOORS: HOK Sport and University of Washington officials in Seattle as of last week were still working on the final design and cost for improving 85-year-old Husky Stadium. They do know, however, that indoor club seats won’t be part of the premium seat mix planned for the facility’s south side.

“We tested the concept and it was well received in phone surveys, but our [most influential] donors and boosters were against it,” said Steve Tatge, the school’s project manager.

“In the Northwest, people are used to sitting outside,” he said. “There would not be a demand for it. HOK told us the concept sounds great, but after a year, most people want out of their contracts.”

The university could increase the number of outdoor loge boxes proposed for the renovation, where the seats are more high-end office-style as opposed to molded plastic chairbacks, Tatge said.

“We visited Oregon State [and renovated Reser Stadium], and their loge seats are sold out and they have a waiting list,” he said.

TWO-TIMING: Tim Leonard is in the unique position of being responsible for selling premium-seat packages for two new on-campus facilities at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. The $107 million basketball arena, designed by HOK Sport, and the $51 million football stadium, planned by 360 Architecture, are both scheduled to open in 2007.

Leonard, the school’s assistant vice president for athletics, development and annual giving, solicited existing donors in the last five months and had no problem selling the 45,000-seat football stadium’s 21 suites and 800 club seats available for lease. The three larger suites include 30 tickets and sold for $200,000 each for five-year contracts. Eighteen suites, each containing 20 tickets, sold for $150,000 for five-year deals.

UCF sold club seats in pairs for $12,500 for a five-year contract.

Most of the $1.66 million in revenue generated annually from premium-seat sales will go toward paying construction debt, Leonard said. A portion of that money, $5,000 for every suite and $500 for each club seat, will be funneled into the university’s athletic scholarship fund, he said.

Leonard hasn’t set the pricing for the arena’s 16 suites, 500 club seats and 64 loge seats, and thinks there is a separate market to tap into, corporations intent on entertaining clients on a continuous basis. UCF hired Global Spectrum, known for its aggressive approach to booking events, to privately operate the 10,000-seat arena. The arena is tied into campus development that includes four new dormitories containing 2,000 beds.

Don Muret can be reached at

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