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Volume 24 No. 115
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Opening Panel Of SFF Conference Dishes On Trump-NFL, Increased Security At Events

The ’17 AXS Facilities & Franchises and Ticketing Symposium began this morning with a panel on the future of the fan experience. Topics including the injection of politics into sports, security at events in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, developing new fan experiences and disruption in the industry were discussed. Texans President Jamey Rootes dove right into the NFL’s current situation regarding President Trump, noting that the dustup over standing during the national anthem has in fact begun to affect the league. Rootes: “No-shows have not been an issue for us. Capacity crowds. ... It’s just in feedback we’ve gotten. Like, ‘Hey, this is not good for the game’ or ‘This is not good for my connection to the Houston Texans.’” Ticketmaster North America President Jared Smith also noted there has been no impact on ticket sales yet, while On Location Experiences CEO John Collins noted the issue has become “cartoonish due to the President’s desire to keep it front and center.” Rootes: “We’ll get through this like we have with other challenges before. The question is how quickly we’ll get back to normalcy.”

SECURITY GOING FORWARD: In the wake of the shooting in Las Vegas, the panelists discussed how venues will adjust security going forward, both for sports and non-sporting events. Smith on the fallout from Vegas: “I don’t think any of us truly understands how it’s going to impact or how long it’s going to linger. ... Live entertainment, whether its live music festivals or sports, it should be the great American escape. ... I talked to the NFL the day after (Vegas), and there’s going to be a continued ratcheting-up of ways to keep fans safe.” AXS CEO Bryan Perez said, “You’re already starting to see security perimeters pushed further and further out, which cuts against the grain of many of these public assembly plazas, like in front of T-Mobile Arena or L.A. Live. Those experiences are going to start to change a bit.” Rootes: “If you can’t keep people safe, you can’t exist.”

MAKING IT PERSONAL: The execs also talked about the customization and personalization of ticketing, and whether that makes everyone’s job harder. Rootes: “There is more demanded of you. You can’t just sell 90,000 seats and have everyone have the same experience, like it was 30 years ago. Now it’s marketing to a universe of one. The good thing is the consumer is ready to pay for it. But it does take creativity.” Perez sees personalization as a positive for the industry, as it “unlocks the creativity” of everyone in the business. Smith: “Everyone wants to feel like a VIP, but not every experience is going to be VIP. ... But expectations have risen that you’re going to create something unique for the fan, whether it’s in the top of the bowl or a bunker suite or a sideline ticket. The variability of that expectation creates a whole bunch of opportunity.”

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING STADIUM? A question was posed as to whether the days of expecting all new venues to carry 70,000-80,000 seats are over. Rootes: “You’re not going to see those anymore. When I started, it was a battle for as big a stadium as you could get. But doing that now is adding seats that don’t provide a great experience. You’re going to see smaller sports stadiums get built, and the value from those will be realized from exclusive and differentiated experiences at a higher value.” As to whether higher prices disenfranchise a large percentage of fans, Rootes said, “They can watch on TV.” Smith: “Across our client bases of dozens and dozens of pro sports franchises, they all have the same problem -- it’s much harder to sell the cheap seats than the expensive ones.”