STADIA & ARENAS: Roadmap to Reopening – Part II continued

In the second part of our ‘Stadia & Arenas: Roadmap to Reopening Part II’ feature, we hear further insights from Nick Sautner, Chief Executive, Eden Park, and Lee Zeidman, President, STAPLES Center, Microsoft Theater and L.A. LIVE, on delivering a ‘new normal’ experience, with additional input from SeatServe’s Patrick McMeekin, Levy’s Rak Kalidas and Sodexo’s Chris Bray.


Delivering a ‘new normal’ experience for acts, athletes, fans, players, promoters, sponsors and staff alike, means combining the latest technology (or repurposing existing tech), from in-seat ordering and cashless payments, together with specialist COVID-19 health and hygiene measures (such as social distancing, face coverings and sanitisation), to ensure a safe and secure environment for all. Only by doing this, can we hope to welcome people back into our venues when the health authorities, the WHO and our respective governments allow.


In the second part of this feature, the gathered panel of industry experts describe their journeys to reopening, talk about their key learnings and highlight the importance of education and knowledge-sharing. Nick Sautner, Chief Executive Officer at New Zealand’s National Stadium, finds himself in the enviable position of being one of only a handful of industry executives who are at the reins of venues not simply reopen, but back to business with sold-out crowds; a phenomenon we all hope to replicate worldwide when conditions allow. On the other side of the spectrum, we have Lee Zeidman – an industry executive with three decades’ experience – President at STAPLES Center, Microsoft Theater and L.A. LIVE, who finds himself presented with a very different set of challenges, as both gentlemen explain.


What type of food and beverage, hospitality and premium experiences can guests expect moving forward? 

Nick Sautner, Chief Executive Officer, The Eden Park Trust:

From our two events thus far at Eden Park, we’ve seen an increase in the purchase of retail offerings but a reduction in the uptake of corporate dining hospitality in premium areas. The majority of corporate suites are sold on an annual basis, which allows clients the option of deciding when they would like to attend. Historically, during periods of economic downturn general admission attendances increase and corporate hospitality decreases, which is expected following the global pandemic.


We’ll observe if this trend continues and modify our offerings to reflect the demand. It’s also worth noting that Super Rugby Aotearoa has introduced afternoon kick-off times to make the games more attractive to families, so our offerings need to cater to a range of ages. 


As always, there are a number of elements to consider when putting together game day packages; the teams playing, the kick-off time, any ticketing deals (e.g. the first Blues game offered free General Admission tickets to all children that attended with an adult), and any major corporate hosting. At Eden Park, we pride ourselves on remaining flexible to the requirements of our patrons. 


In addition, we’re encouraging visitation pre-and-post-match to our local establishments. We’re well aware of the struggle the hospitality industry faces as a result of COVID-19, and Eden Park is committed to contributing to the ongoing success of our wider community. 


General views during the Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa match, between the Blues and Hurricanes held at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. 14 June 2020. Photo: Brett Phibbs /


Lee Zeidman, President, STAPLES Center, Microsoft Theater and L.A. LIVE:

As mentioned previously, STAPLES Center and Microsoft Theater are also in the process of exploring going completely cashless when we re-open our venues and expanding our mobile ordering options, self-service kiosks and pre-packaged food and beverages options for guests on all levels. The goal is to reduce the number of touch points for both staff and guests.


From the premium experience, we will make major changes in how we display and provide food and beverages for our guests. All of our Chef’s Table/buffet style options on our premium levels, suites and VIP hospitality areas will be reinvented and we are working with our food and beverage partners, Levy Restaurants, to come up with new safe and sanitary concepts for our guests, tenant teams, staff, promoters and artists.


Patrick McMeekin, UK Licensee, SEATSERVE:

A one stop shop for ordering food/drinks/merchandise in GA and table service in hospitality, all integrated within the existing digital platform(s) – Apps, ticketing, POS, KDUs etc.


How do you foresee the sports and entertainment sector evolving post-pandemic? 

Nick Sautner, Chief Executive Officer, The Eden Park Trust:

Overall, Eden Park hopes to continue on its current trajectory and remain setting the standard for returning to sports and entertainment.


With border restrictions looking to still be in place for some time in New Zealand, we expect to see a focus on intra-country competitions, such as the continuation of Super Rugby Aotearoa, and the recently announced North vs South rugby game where the country’s best athletes will represent either of the nation’s two islands.


However, we’re also hopeful that with our low case numbers, New Zealand will be an attractive option for touring sports teams and artists, provided appropriate measures can be taken to ensure any potential spread is limited.


On game and event days, it’s likely we’ll continue to see the reduction in corporate spending, but still see strong attendance in General Admission and retail areas. 


STAPLES Center achieved GBAC STAR™ facility accreditation, the gold standard for prepared facilities. The downtown Los Angeles venue is the first United States arena to receive the highest level of accreditation as determined under the guidance of GBAC, a Division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association


Lee Zeidman, President, STAPLES Center, Microsoft Theater and L.A. LIVE:

First, to predict what we will look like post-pandemic would be pure speculation as what we know about this pandemic changes daily if not hourly and will have changed by the time this is published and we talk. That said, we will need to reinvent the live experience and the fan’s journey from A-Z. This will include going as contactless as possible from the minute you purchase your ticket, park in our lots, enter our venues, and purchase merchandise and food and beverage. Now, more than ever, we will need to be flexible and adapt to the data and science.


Patrick McMeekin, UK Licensee, SEATSERVE:

Hopefully a bit smarter (and a lot less conventional)!


What would you say have been the main lessons or key takeaways from all of this? And what will it mean for you moving forward? 

Nick Sautner, Chief Executive Officer, The Eden Park Trust:

Over the recent months, Eden Park has committed to a strategy for surviving and thriving, post COVID-19. ‘Emerging Stronger’ has become a mantra and we regularly speak about this new normal that is being implemented across three overlapping stages.


These consist of:

The upcoming weeks – managing the current disruption and uncertainty due to the impact of the pandemic’s containment restrictions, with a focus on business continuity and resilience.

The upcoming months – Preparing for a ‘new normal’ period where we adopt new operating measures in light of ongoing health impacts and restrictions. This is likely to last at least six months and calls for a focus on innovation and productivity as well as employee and patron wellbeing.

The upcoming years – Planning for a post COVID-19 world with adjusted patron and stakeholder expectations, leveraging the innovations and the new operating measures developed through the pandemic.


All of these stages contribute to a Game Plan to enable Eden Park to survive and emerge stronger than ever.


Overall, this means a commitment to continuing to do what we do best: delivering live sport and entertainment events to the people of New Zealand. The journey to return to live sport hasn’t been easy, but Eden Park has been a much-loved venue for 117 years and home to some of the world’s most unforgettable sporting history. We expect New Zealand’s national stadium will continue to be home to many more sporting and entertainment moments over the next 117 years.


Patrick McMeekin, UK Licensee, SEATSERVE:

The world has turned digital in the blink of an eye. Live sport and entertainment has ignored other industries that have been revolutionised by the introduction of platforms, systems and services. This cannot continue.


Image (above & below): Levy’s recent test event at Reading FC’s Madejski Stadium sought to imagine what the events hospitality space will look like post-pandemic


In terms of how companies servicing the sector are assisting, we sought input from Rak Kalidas, Commercial Director, Levy UK + Ireland.


How have you been advising clients ahead of reopening or during ongoing new builds, renovations, service expansions etc, what challenges has it meant in terms of delivery? 

Rak Kalidas, Commercial Director, Levy UK + Ireland:

There were already a number of key shifts within hospitality venues before the pandemic, largely driven by changing demands from fans and event attendees in terms of what they want from hospitality experiences. 


For years, guests’ requirements have been increasingly shaped by what they are used to outside venues and on the high street in terms of socialising, networking and dining. The challenge for Levy and its venue partners post-Covid is continuing to cater to these demands which haven’t changed, while also bringing in new elements that address those requirements such as hygiene and safety that have clearly shifted dramatically because of the pandemic. 


The key part for us, is to work with venues to translate customer demands into the venue space. It’s a case of curating different aspects of design, technology, catering and other experiential elements for each unique venue that will create desirable experiences for their fanbase, while also addressing the new enhanced hygiene factor.


How do you foresee the F&B offering and experience at sporting and live entertainment events and venues evolving? 

Rak Kalidas, Commercial Director, Levy UK + Ireland:

The primary concern will always remain the health and safety of our people and our visitors. We’re looking closely at accelerating the adoption of certain technologies that might help here. 


Pre-Covid, we primarily utilised things like dynamic queuing systems and digital screens to increase the convenience of service to our customer. These systems will still offer that convenience but will now also be instrumental in helping us to implement social distancing and other health and safety measures. For example, pre-ordered food delivered to designated drop points is a system that we’ve been trialling for a while now to reduce waiting times and congestion, but this process will be more important than ever for helping employees and customers avoid physical contact. We’re expecting that increasingly hygiene-conscious customers will want to use their own devices for this too, which introduces additional challenges around venue connectivity.


We’ve been having lots of dialogue with colleagues across the US, Europe and beyond around everything from venue logistics to staff interaction to foodservice safety protocols and more. Our task now is to collate best practices from right across our industry and work together with venue partners to deliver these principles in practice across our portfolio. This will be an ongoing challenge, but we must also recognise it as a significant opportunity to lead by example, drive new initiatives in the delivery of our services, and to be the change we want to see right across the hospitality industry post-Covid.


Patrick McMeekin, UK Licensee, SEATSERVE:

Depending on what the final government advice is on social distancing, queuing may not make sense at all. This would be the perfect scenario for SEATSERVE to demonstrate the extent to which it can compete with front-of-house retail sales. We believe up to around 30% is possible, which should convert into incremental revenue once things return to normal.


What should events and venues be focusing on to ensure that they are delivering a safe and secure environment that fans want to return to?  

Rak Kalidas, Commercial Director, Levy UK + Ireland:

There are certain measures that any hospitality venue will need to implement to ensure that social distancing and stringent hygiene standards can be maintained for both guests and their people. 


For a business such as Levy, the specific challenges predominantly relate to the sheer scale and attendance at major events which differ significantly to operations within a restaurant, bar or hotel. Levy operates across stadia, arenas and conference centres, all of which vary in terms of spaciousness, with newer builds often allowing for greater capacity. Standards will remain consistent across all our locations, but the specifics of delivering operations post-pandemic at each venue will depend on the layout of each venue. 


It will be imperative to consistently analyse and re-evaluate in-venue customer journeys in order to continually minimise contact points and ensure social distancing measures can be maintained. Enforcing phased group arrivals, changing dining styles, providing food and drink in sealed containers, minimising queuing and blocking off seating sections are just some of the measures being considered to prioritise the safety of visitors.



Patrick McMeekin, UK Licensee, SEATSERVE:

Minimising touch-points and capitalising on the change of demographic that will inevitably populate stands, in the immediate resumption of mass gatherings.


Food for thought

Sodexo is another entity supporting sports and leisure sites across the UK, with plans to ensure the safety and security of guests, visitors and delegates, whilst still delivering a great live experience. Plans are in place to support sports fans in stadia, day visitors at museums and for conference and event attendees in venues.


A recent study from Harris Interactive commissioned by Sodexo found that 62% of consumers would feel at least somewhat comfortable attending a sports event in a stadium as soon as they become available again. The survey also found that 59% of consumers would feel at least somewhat comfortable visiting a cultural destination as soon as they open again.


The survey revealed the important role that sports events and trips to attractions play in consumers lives. Three quarters of those questioned said they use sports events as a way of socialising and 70% said attendance at sports events supported their mental health. Respondents said that social distancing, availability of hand sanitiser and staff handling food and drink wearing masks and gloves would make them feel safer.



Chris Bray, CEO Sports & Leisure, Sodexo UK & Ireland said:

As we emerge from lockdown we have been making plans with our venue clients in order to be able to host meetings and events once again safely, securely and with a great event experience for those attending.


The Harris research confirms that a majority of people are feeling that visiting a cultural venue or attending a match is still an essential part of their life, so it is key that we support our clients to allow their guests and fans back in to create memorable event experiences.


Consumers are continuing to embrace new technologies and will expect to have frictionless experiences at venues. We see this digital transformation at the heart of enriching the guest experience at events whist providing us with an opportunity to gather consumer insight and use it to improve and adapt our offers moving forwards.


Sodexo contributes to the success of prestigious events such as Royal Ascot, the Super Bowl, the Tour de France and the Rugby World Cup, and makes exceptional places shine like T-Mobile Park in Seattle, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Groupama Stadium in Lyon, home of Olympique LyonnaisGoodison Park, home of Everton Football Club, and St James Park, home of Newcastle United Football Club.


The overriding view of everyone that participated in this industry piece, was that now is the time for the industry as a whole to come together, to share ideas, learnings and best practices. We should be following the examples set by Eden Park, as well as by Los Angeles Football Club, Banc of California Stadium and STAPLES Center, who are liaising not only with one another but also with the other major sports and entertainment facilities in Los Angeles, as well as with their AEG counterparts globally, trying to understand the technology that can get us back to business.


By educating ourselves, our work forces and our fans, while working together as one, we can ensure that the sector we love can return to its new normal. 


Huge thanks to Nick Sautner, Chief Executive Officer, The Eden Park Trust, Lee Zeidman, President, STAPLES Center, Microsoft Theater and L.A. LIVE, John Langford, President, European Arenas Association, Patrick McMeekin, UK Licensee, SEATSERVE, Rak Kalidas, Commercial Director, Levy UK + Ireland and Chris Bray, CEO Sports & Leisure, Sodexo UK & Ireland for their input.


Some 50+ speakers are confirmed to share insights at the next edition of ALSD International, including Liz Pattison, Head of Capital Projects and Estate Development, and George Vaughan, Head of Technology, both representing Royal Ascot. Although this will be the third edition of this industry-leading event, it will be the first hybrid, offering options for both physical and virtual attendees.


#arena #cashless #hospitality #sportsbiz #sportsindustry #sportstech #stadia


The 2020 edition of ALSD International – Europe’s leading event for the Premium Seat & Sports Hospitality sector, focusing on increasing revenue via new builds, renovations, service expansions & technology – is being hosted at the home of the newly crowned Premier League champions, Liverpool FC’s Anfield Stadium, October 12-13, with tours of our host venue, Everton’s Goodison Park and M&S Bank Arena. NB: The physical event will be complemented by a range of virtual elements to ensure no one misses out!



The 2020 edition of ALSD International – organised by the Association of Luxury Suite Directors and Sports Venue Business – will feature a high-level conference, an exhibition hall showcasing the latest products, services & solutions and numerous networking events, ensuring optimised opportunities to knowledge-share, network and do business, whether in person or virtually.


#ALSDInternational – Europe’s leading event for the Premium Seat & Sports Hospitality sector


#ALSD – Leading the Premium Seat sector for the last 30 years




#sportsvenuebusiness – The leading platform for sector news, views & developments

Share This Article

This website uses cookies and asks your personal data to enhance your browsing experience.