ALSD International 2023: Day 1 Highlights & The After Movie

More than 400 venue professionals packed into the Legends Lounge at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium earlier this week for the first high-octane day of the ALSD International 2023 Conference & Exhibition. They came together to share best practices from around the world, meet new people and learn from each other.

Following an opening night icebreaker at Emirates Old Trafford, Danny Wilson, Managing Director, Manchester City Operations, kicked off the 2023 ALSD International Conference & Exhibition’s diverse two-day programme, highlighting how The Etihad Campus and The Etihad Stadium has evolved since it was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

The stadium is set to undergo a further transformation over the coming months, with a new development planned to raise capacity to more than 61,000, and deliver a best-in-class fan experience and year-round entertainment and leisure destination, with ALSD International Presenting Partner Sponsor, Populous, recently selected as Main Architect.

Manchester City’s planning application for the development of a best-in-class fan experience and year-round entertainment and leisure destination at The Etihad Stadium was approved by Manchester City Council’s planning committee earlier this year.

Approved proposals include several connected all-weather facilities, fully integrated into the stadium, centred around an expanded North Stand with one larger, single upper tier above the existing lower tier, increasing capacity to over 60,000

Manchester City’s planning application for the development of a best-in-class fan experience and year-round entertainment and leisure destination at the Etihad Stadium was approved by Manchester City Council’s planning committee earlier this year

Co-op Live 

A stone’s throw from the Etihad Stadium and on the same Etihad Campus site, the new £365 million Co-op Live music venue is set to open in April 2024.

Gary Roden, Executive Director & General Manager Co-op Live, told delegates:

Our intention is really straightforward, we’re looking to build the best live experience possible. The mission is quite simple, we want to create the best venue that has ever been built in the UK and Europe and make sure we bring more shows and the biggest artists to Manchester and that they stay in Manchester for longer. The demand for hospitality and premium is definitely here in Manchester. In a post covid world people are looking to have an experience at the highest possible level.

Developed by OVG, City Football Group and private investors including Harry Styles, Co-op Live will be the UK’s first all-electric arena. The 23,500-capacity venue will use electricity for everything from air-source heat pumps for heating and domestic hot water through to cooling and catering.

Co-op Live will boast 28 suites, including a party in the kitchen suite for 16 with a private dancefloor arena side. 

Roden added:

What’s unique about this space is that we don’t have the light bleed going into the bowl. There’s only a short entrance from the suite into the bowl and when you get the other side there’s a small dancefloor at the back, so all the focus is on the artist. When we spoke to Harry Styles, he said one thing artists complained about was the light bleed with people having a party and not focusing on the artist.

Other premium spaces include the Bentley Record Room VVIP space, the entry-level Amp Club and Hangouts Gallery suites for 120 people. 

Roden said all options were being looked at for the new spaces and that he was even looking at converting a storage space into a bar:

My message is – even a storage area can be reimagined as a bar.

Danny Wilson, Manchester City, and Gary Roden, Co-op Live, gave the opening keynotes to a packed Legends Lounge

Beyond Bricks and Mortar

In a ‘Beyond Bricks and Mortar: How Stadia & Arenas Can Become Pulse Points for Communities Through Engagement & Delivery of Enhanced Stakeholder Experiences’ panel session, Robert Fitzpatrick, CEO, The Odyssey Trust, talked about the complex, which comprises four components: The SSE Arena Belfast, Pavilion, W5 and a 1,500 space Car Park.

Check out the Day 2 Highlights Here.

The modern facility has become Northern Ireland’s premier entertainment venue, hosting concerts by international artists, exhibitions, a wide range of sporting events and is home to the Belfast Giants ice hockey team. 

Fitzpatrick explained how the players, fans and staff at the venue all commit to a community ethos:

Ice hockey was introduced to Belfast and 20 years later the Belfast Giants are the heartbeat of the community. They have successfully integrated communities. Every year we have 15 US and Canadian players come over and they have to commit to volunteerism, things we do with fan engagement and the community ethos with hospital visits and community work.

Nick Sautner, CEO, Eden Park Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand, described how the venue was engaging with the community through a programme called The Hood:

In order to get consent for concerts we took it out to the community behind us. For us it was about telling the story that the facility was not just for elite sport. Stadiums bring people together. They can act as vaccination centres and food banks.

He said The Hood now has 3,000 members. It is Eden Park’s chance to say thank you to its neighbours, offering tickets to select games by Eden Park home teams and discounted prices on food and beverages.

Julien Rongier, CRO, Accor Arena & Paris Entertainment Company; and Juan Pedro Romera, Director of Sports & Entertainment Project Team, ERRE, also shared their insights, with Juan delving into the Roig Arena development.

Club Level: Optimising Your Premium & Hospitality Spaces, with moderator Shawn Doss, CBO, Elevate and speakers Vicky Jaycock, Head of Premium Sales – New Stadium, Everton; Matt Botten, Senior Director, Premium Seating, The O2; Jake Bye, Senior VP, Ticketing & Premium, New York Mets; Becci Thomson, Head of Premium Sales & Service, Co-op Live; and Will Hitch, Director, Motion Project Management

Optimising Premium Spaces

During the ‘Club Level: Optimising Your Premium & Hospitality Spaces’, moderator Shawn Doss, CBO, Elevate took speakers on a journey into optimising premium and hospitality spaces, with Vicky Jaycock, Head of Premium Sales – New Stadium, Everton; Matt Botten, Senior Director, Premium Seating, The O2; Jake Bye, Senior VP, Ticketing & Premium, New York Mets; Becci Thomson, Head of Premium Sales & Service, Co-op Live; and Will Hitch, Director, Motion Project Management.

Becci Thomson, Head of Premium Sales & Service, Co-op Live, said:

In terms of premium trends, something we’re really seeing across all our spaces is ‘inclusivity’. We have 28 private suites and 12 different experiences and lounges across the building on every single level. People like to be with other people and share the experiences. They like to have a range of different food and beverage experiences and eat and drink until 2am.

Vicky Jaycock, Head of Premium Sales – New Stadium, Everton, said the club had looked across the world for inspiration for the new venue.

For me the question is how do you localise it? It’s about creating experiences that mimic the localism of Liverpool and the city. We looked at things like loges in the US and bringing them into the heart of Everton Stadium but doing it in a relevant way that matches with Evertonians.

Other sessions included a look at Liverpool FC’s Anfield Road development with KSS’s Debbie Power and Ciara Olive, stadium flexibility with speakers: Jen Mitchell, General Manager, AO Arena; Alexandra Goldsack, General Manager, Terraplas; Rob Paddon, Head of Sales, Ascot Racecourse; and Andy O’Sullivan, Venue Director, Tottenham Hotspur.

In addition to a session on how SoFi Stadium has embraced technology to improve the suite buying experience in a panel entitled ‘Selling Suites Online: How SoFi Stadium has Embraced Technology to Improve the Suite Buying Experience & Grow Premium Revenue’, with moderator Amanda Verhoff, President, ALSD, and speakers: Mike Forrester, Vice President of Premium Sales & Service, SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park; and Scott Spencer, President, Suite Experience Group / SuitePro.

Moderator Roy Yaoz, CCO, Triple Jump Technologies discussed ‘Arsenal’s Hospitality Platform: A Fan Centric Digital Transformation’ with speakers Amy Trynka, Ticketing & Venue Strategy Lead, and Sav Rathour, Senior Manager – Premium Services, Arsenal Football Club.

Jessica Gaffney, VP, Tech Division & Founder/CEO, ALSD and Wavework moderated the ‘Transforming Limitations into Innovation: Reimagining Hospitality at Hampden Park’s Historic Venue’ panel with speakers: Kathryn Morgan, Business Development Director, Sodexo Live!; Rucelle Soutar, Chief Financial Officer, Scottish Football Association; and Roy Westwood, CEO & Director of Strategy & Innovation, Forward Associates.

Other panels included:

The New Role of Technology Providers in the Venues, Media & Entertainment Industry. Sponsored by HPE Aruba. Moderator: Graeme Kane, EMEA Hospitality, Sports & Entertainment Business Development Manager, HPE Aruba. Speakers: Leighton Griffiths, Head of Stadiums, Venues, Media and Entertainment (EMEA/APAC), Verizon Business Group; and Simon Wilson, CTO UK & Ireland, HPE Aruba. 

The Fan Journey. Moderator: Bas Schnater, CEO, Fan Engagement Consultancy. Speakers: Peter Filopoulos, Head of Marketing, Communications & Corporate Affairs, Football Australia; Dr Louis Marciani, Director & Founder, IIFX; Alex Gaigne, Product Marketing Manager, SumUp; and Mark Bradley, Founder & Director, The Fan Experience Company. 

Collaborating to Create Sustainable Premium Spaces. Speaker: Paul Lavery, COO, Portview

A Brighter Future with Unilumin. Speaker: Oscar Feng, Head of Sports & Entertainment Division, Unilumin.

Business Communities: Communication is Key: Bjorn Poels, CCO, Bundeling; and Mirko Cucchiarelli, Head of Premium Sales & Business Community, AS Roma. 

Keynote: Premium Outcomes Through a Computer Vision Strategy. Speaker: Randy Lack, GM, Computer Vision & Edge Vertical, Dell Technologies. 

The conference sessions ended with the launch of the ‘2024 IIFX Innovative Venue of the Year Award’ before attendees were taken on a very special behind-the-scenes tour of the Etihad Stadium, getting to experience The Mancunian, The Ardwick, Manager’s Corner, Kits, The Asahi Super Dry Tunnel Club, The Chairman’s Club, the dressing rooms, and pitch side.

The night finished with world-class food, drinks and networking. Huge thanks to tour sponsors Populous, Terraplas, DawnVale, KAPPTURE, Fabulous Fan Fayre (F3), Unilumin, Legends and Diageo.

Author’s credits: John Sheehan,

Sports Venue Business organises and delivers ALSD International – the leading event and 365 community for the Premium Seat & Hospitality sector – on behalf of the Association of Luxury Suite Directors (ALSD).

ALSD International 2023 featured venue tours complimented by a high-level conference, exhibition and networking events. This year’s edition included the inaugural Tech Symposium and a Fan Experience breakout delivered by IIFX.

#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




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