IN THE KNOW: Interview with Venue Solutions Group’s Mike Wooley
Katie McIntyre hears insights from Mike Wooley, Partner, Venue Solutions Group, LLC, who explains the importance of Facility Condition Assessments and details how venues can improve their performance.
Firstly, can you start off by telling our readers about Venue Solutions Group (VSG), the services you provide, and the types of clients you work with?
VSG partners are all former facility managers who collectively bring over 70 years of direct experience in planning, opening, operating and managing public assembly facilities. We provide consulting to the industry in safety & security, guest experience benchmarking, facility operational reviews, facility condition assessments, organizational assessments, new construction and renovation, and all aspects of operational assistance.
VSG continues to provide services to the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS facilities, collegiate athletics at all levels, municipal governments, and sports architectural and engineering firms domestically and internationally.
What are the key benefits of having facility condition assessments carried out?
- Clients receive an accurate view of the condition of their facility, systems and equipment.
- Infrastructure issues can be identified and addressed.
- A benchmark can be established that will allow for future evaluation of maintenance and operation (how well the building is being cared for).
- Creating information that can positively influence preventive maintenance planning.
- The owner can identify the remaining useful life of the major equipment and systems, allowing a capital funding schedule to be created and thus minimizing “emergency” repairs/replacement.
- The owner/board/authority has a complete understanding of future financial needs related to maintaining their asset (long term capital needs), and has the science to prove it if necessary.
- The assessment can play a material role in identifying areas for facility improvements that have potential synergies that can lead to cost and functional efficiencies.
- Areas of opportunity can be identified for future revenue generation and guest enhancements.
What are the intrinsic benefits of performing a Facility Condition Assessment?
- Do I operate my facility in accordance to industry “best practices”?
- What has changed/is changing, how can this information help us to be better or more efficient?
- Opportunities for improved performance through implementation of industry “best practices”.
- Validation of asset preservation.
- Opportunities for an improved customer and tenant experience.
- Creation of the “science” to develop a vision to extend the expected usable life of the facility and its assets.
- Development of a long-range plan that reflects the expected usable life of the facility and establishes and prioritizes long term capital costs.
- The facility will have a plan to maintain its competitiveness, considering new facility competition is forthcoming.
How can venues improve their performance?
- Benchmarking against peers
- A culture that encourages staff professional development
- Continual evaluation of “systems & processes”
- Establishing key performance indicators (KPI’s) to help set annual goals
- Develop industry network for access to “best practices”
- Encourage staff members to develop access to a diverse set of professional communications and publications and create an environment to share that information.
VSG offers a range of services, from pre-opening consulting, guest experience benchmarking, operational reviews and assessments, to facility condition assessments, safety & security, and executive searches. Can you talk us through the journey of 2-3 venues that you’ve provided a range of services to?
Our work in assisting clients on their journey in designing their new stadiums, arenas and meeting facilities has grown significantly in the last 3 years. We have embedded with the development team early in the process and have been able to review design through every phase of development, having a positive effect on long term operating outcomes including costs.
Our involvement early in the process has led to improved operating efficiencies for the owner. Each owner and development team has different needs, and our work is tailored to those needs. We assist with safety & security, operating & managing systems and processes, technology, sustainability, the grand opening schedule and FF&E, as well as other unique operating needs each project has. This often includes assisting in the development of professional relationships with Police, Fire and First Responders, Traffic and Parking Management, sub-contractor identification and the process to select the appropriate partners.
VSG’s Russ Simons was recently awarded the Distinguished Leader Award by the NCS4. How important are such awards?
It’s a well-deserved recognition of his service to the public assembly facility industry over the last 35 years. Russ has been a leader within IAVM and next year will have taught 25 years at their Venue Management School at Oglebay. He has positively impacted the lives of many within the industry through his role as a mentor and instructor.
Being recognized by your peers is the ultimate compliment. I can speak for Russ in that I know personally that this kind of recognition motivates him both personally and professionally to be better at what he does.
What industry trends are currently tracking and which do you feel will have the most impact?
- Technology – CCTV, Video Management Systems, Access Control and Smart City integration, which will eventually lead the coordination of IoT data (a Lot of Data).
- Technology – Fan apps bringing information and communication directly to our guest’s personal devices, personalizing the guest experience from home to facility and back.
- Changes in how ticketing along with the fan App’s mentioned above will create a more integrated, customized and efficient guest experience.
Which have been the most impactful developments over the last decade and what evolutions do you foresee for the next decade?
The personal mobile device has already altered in a significant way how we live our lives. It has changed some of everything we do, and I believe that it will have a growing impact on how guests attend and experience live events in the future.
Finally, if you could offer one piece of advice to an industry colleague, what would it be? Alternatively, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Invest time in learning the business. Do not wait for someone above you to tell you what you need to know to improve. Invest in your own professional development that may be the investment of time to be aware and learn more or it can mean invest in your own career. If your company will not pay for training, exhaust what is available for free and then spend on your own improvement.
Don’t just “stay in your lane”, take time to learn what other people in your organization do. Manage by “walking around” and have empathy.
Lastly, learn from related businesses; we learn a great deal from hospitals, airports, commercial real estate business, amusement parks, lifestyle centers, etc. There is a massive opportunity to learn all around us. People would be surprised at how accommodating people will be when someone shows initiative and a willingness to learn.
About Mike Wooley
Mike Wooley is a proven veteran in the public assembly facility industry. Throughout his career, Mike has focused on operations, engineering and financial management. Mike uses his hands-on experience to lead the VSG team in over 40 facility condition assessments for a wide variety of facility types, including American Airlines Arena in Miami, FL, FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN, Cleveland Browns Stadium, PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, MD, Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, and multiple athletic facilities at the University of Arkansas, University of Oklahoma and Northwestern University. He has also lead operational reviews at the University of California Berkeley and Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, NC.
Recently, Mike is assisted the Sacramento Kings on the operations and development of their new arena, Golden 1 Center. He assisted Baylor University with their new on-campus stadium, McLane Stadium, and also assisted the City of Orlando and the Orlando Magic in support of the opening of the Amway Center.
Mike is currently the operations consultant for the MLS Los Angeles Football Club on the development of their Banc of California Stadium. He is also assisting the VSG managing partner with operational consulting on the new Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District for the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.
Prior to starting VSG with his business partners, Mike was a Principal for global design firm Populous and also served in increasingly senior roles at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, from event coordinator to assistant GM to interim GM of the facility. He is founding member of IAVM’s sustainability task force and is a LEED Accredited Professional.
Mike can be contacted via email at: mike.wooley@
About Venue Solutions Group (VSG)
VSG is dedicated to continually improving facility performance through direct experience, benchmarking and the use of industry “BEST PRACTICES.” We take pride in being recognised as industry leaders in the programming, planning, preparation and performance of public assembly facilities worldwide.
The firm was launched in 2011 by three venue industry professionals bringing over sixty-five years of collective experience in the management and operation of public assembly facilities. Our history involves direct management of a variety of facility types, working closely with municipalities, professional sports organisations, universities and private firms. The expertise of our Partners includes operations and engineering, security/safety, guest services, sustainability, and administration.
VSG is active with the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), Stadium Managers Association (SMA), TEAM Coalition and The National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4). The practice also produces an annual operations and engineering conference titled, “Venue Operations Summit” (www.venueoperationssummit.com), which brings together professionals from every building type to exchange ideas, make new contacts and elevate the profile of our craft.
For further company information, check out VSG’s listing in the SVB Directory by simply clicking here or visit the VSG website at: www.venuesolutionsgroup.com
Main image (top): Banc of California Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), is a 22,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium set to open in 2018. Venue Solutions Group (VSG) has worked with the team on a variety of pre-opening activities, such as identifying furniture, fixtures & equipment (FF&E), developing tenders for services, and creating a plan to mitigate vehicle intrusion
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