ALSD International 2023: Key Takeaways

Everything from in-stadium swimming pools to a floating walkway above the crowds and watching gameday ‘live’ from your hotel bed were just some of the offerings that were outlined over the course of the 2023 ALSD International Conference, as the battle to attract fans to stadiums and arenas heats up, as John Sheehan reports.

These were just some of the innovative ideas highlighted at the recent ALSD International 2023 Conference and Exhibition at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, organised and delivered by Sports Venue Business on behalf of the ALSD.

More than 400 venue professionals packed into the Legends Lounge at the stadium for two days of high-level presentations and panel sessions.

Matt Seu, Director, Premium Sales, Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum, was delighted with the event. He said:

ALSD International was an incredible experience! As a frequent attendee of the yearly ALSD event in the US, I was very impressed with the quality of attendees, panel discussions and topics, as well as the hospitality offered at The Etihad Stadium. Getting to chat with colleagues from all over the world gave me some great takeaways to bring back to Milwaukee.

As was Javier Doña Viaña, Stadium Project Manager, Real Betis Balompié, who said:

The ALSD International event is no doubt one of the best gathering places to catch up with stadium and arena industry colleagues, meeting with top professionals and sharing new ideas. It has been a very fruitful and high-value two days of networking at The Etihad Stadium, and really well organised. It would be great to host the event once our New Stadium opens.

We get inspiration from looking at and following market trends. There are a lot of best practices that we can tailor to our market. That plus innovation is the perfect recipe.

Gary Roden, Executive Director & General Manager, Co-op Live, shared some invaluable industry insights during his keynote


Some of the key takeaways included:

Flexibility is key: Make the most of your space

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

My message is – anyone who has got so much as a storage cupboard can use it as a bar.

Jake Bye, Senior VP, Ticketing & Premium, New York Mets, said:

The obvious thing is trying to make decisions backed by data, so doing a lot of surveying in a way that encourages people to give feedback. We shouldn’t just assume what people want. This sounds extremely elementary but walk the venue because that’s what we did at Citi Field.

We stress tested all the different areas that looked under-programmed and under-utilised. We built a speakeasy behind our right-field wall and it’s very successful. The challenge is what to do with all the spaces that we have.

NB: On-demand videos of all panel sessions from the main conference track and one-day Tech Symposium, will be available to all ALSD International attendees and members in the coming weeks. Details on the 2024 event are to follow…

Jen Mitchell, General Manager, AO Arena, said:

It’s about us refocusing and looking at the flexibility and opportunities we have within the building. We have to re-establish what our goals are for the arena, what the expectations of our clients and guests are. Everybody who walks through the door has different expectations, whether that’s F&B for the GA clients, the expectations of premium guests, the back of house spaces for the artists.

How should you invest in your venue?

Nick Sautner, CEO, Eden Park Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand, told delegates:

For us, its innovation and increased utilisation. People have been speaking about how you can sweat the asset outside of the event day. We shouldn’t be designing stadiums as stadiums, we should be designing them as public spaces that get used 365 days a year.

Peter Filopoulos, Head of Marketing, Communications & Corporate Affairs, Football Australia discussed CAPEX projects with speakers Andy Price, Commercial Director, Ticketing & Arenas, NEC Group; Nick Sautner, CEO, Eden Park Stadium; Javier Doña Viaña, Project Manager – Stadium, Real Betis Balompié; Tom Doyle, Vice President of Project Development, Legends International; and Andy O’Sullivan, Venue Director, Tottenham Hotspur


Tom Doyle, Vice President of Project Development, Legends International, advised:

It’s about doing more with less. We need to be really smart with redeveloping rather than complete new builds.

Doña, Stadium Project Manager, Real Betis Balompié, added:

Our project is more than a redevelopment, even though it is just the main stand that will be brand new. We will act in the whole venue, generating activity 365 days, through two business model profiles, such as tourist destination and corporate events, and  implementing a PRE-PAR-POS matchday approach. It is why we call it a New Stadium.

Trends in hospitality 

Mike Forrester, Vice President of Premium Sales & Service, SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park, told delegates:

At SoFi Stadium we have 284 suites, so that’s quite a lot of inventory we have to sell for two NFL teams and a lot of other events. After the pandemic, we have seen a big decline in corporations and wealthy individuals who want to lock this in long-term. 

We’re trying to sell these on three-, five- or 10-year terms but now everybody is saying wait a second, our budgets are different, we need to rethink how we’re entertaining. Can we just do this for a handful of events rather than an entire 20 football games plus all the other events? We’re seeing less of a long-term commitment and more a focus on individual events.

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

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.

Optimising Premium & Hospitality Spaces was the topic taken on by 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


NY Mets, Jake Bye, said:

My favourite trend in our spaces now is that there really aren’t rules any more. Some of the concepts we’re activating in the building now would have been completely absurd 10, 12 or 15 years ago. That’s fun. Our owner is extremely forward thinking. We had four seating concepts in 2009. We’ve got a dozen now and we’ll probably have 20 plus.

Look to other venues and industries for inspiration

Tom Doyle added:

Allegiant Stadium and The Sphere are genuinely inspirational and are doing some really interesting things. We could look at things they are doing there and replicate them in Europe.

Andy O’Sullivan, Venue Director, Tottenham Hotspur, said:

We scan the high street for F&B ideas, and looked at the airlines industry for membership inspiration and at the car industry for marketing expertise.

Sautner noted:

We have to look at experiences across the wider industry and look at membership initiatives like Netflix. How do we get a membership that cuts in monthly, irrespective of people entering the stadium?

Vicky Jaycock, Head of Premium Sales – New Stadium, Everton, advised:

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.

Moderator Tom Roche, Director, Sports & Events, The Parker Company, discussed the subject of “Flexible by Design: Why Venue Flexibility is Key to Maximising Revenue”, 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


Embrace technology

Scott Spencer, President, Suite Experience Group / SuitePro, said:

We think about building a great website or great technology for buying a suite and we analogise it much more to Airbnb than to Ticketmaster, for example. If you think about what you’re selling, pictures are the most important aspect of this by far, whereas if you’re buying a regular ticket, it’s where the seat is on the map. It’s all about delivering a really rich experience with pictures.

The other aspect is that most suites are still going to be purchased after someone talks to a salesperson. The data says around 15% up to 20% of suites are booked online. If people are going to spend $25,000 they usually want to talk to a human. But the salesperson’s job becomes much easier and it weeds out unqualified leads once you put the price in the site.

Share your successes

Sara Tomkins, Marketing & CSR Director, Co-op Live, shared:

We’re part of Oak View Group and our leaders are passionate about the planet and doing things differently. We’re not going to achieve our ambitions without everyone buying into it, so working with Oak View Group, I get the opportunity to work with the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle who are doing amazing things.

They are doing really well when we talk about waste and the consumer journey and what we can all do differently to make that greener. We can share each other’s stories.

Some 400+ C-suite executives from sports & entertainment entities across the globe descended on Manchester for the 2023 ALSD International event, for 2.5 days of knowledge-sharing, networking and doing business


Community engagement

Sautner noted:

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.

Speaking about the event, Mirko Cucchiarelli, Head of Premium Sales & Business Community, AS Roma, said:

Compliments again to all of the ALSD International organisation. I found the event really interesting and efficient; an excellent opportunity for discussion and sharing ideas.

Huge thanks to all 400+ attendees and 80+ speakers representing an amazing 30+ countries worldwide, as well as to The Etihad Stadium for hosting us and to our Presenting Partner Sponsors Co-op Live, HPE Aruba Networking, KAPPTURE, Populous, Sodexo Live!, Triple Jump Technologies and Venuetize by Everi, sponsors and exhibitors, as well as to our co-locating sponsor, IIFX (Innovation Institute for Fan Experience).

Information to follow on the 2024 event soon!

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 400+ attendees, who benefitted from a very special tour of The Etihad Stadium, complimented by a high-level conference, exhibition and networking events. This year’s edition also featured 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




Share This Article

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