SVG Sit-Down: Diversified’s Justo Gutierrez and Stuart Reynolds on Developing the Surrounding Live Entertainment District

Getting the fans to arrive earlier, stay longer drives success

Avid fans love to get to the ballpark, arena, or stadium early. Whether it’s to watch batting practice, tailgate with a juicy hotdog, or relax in the warm summer sun, fans enjoy making their time at the game an all-day affair. More recently, teams have taken notice and are building a complete fan experience that includes shops, restaurants, museums, bars, and interactive exhibits before stepping foot inside the main building.

 SVG sat down with Stuart Reynolds, director, sports and live events, Diversified and Justo Gutierrez, director, AV and sound, Diversified to discuss the increasing efforts in creating a playground for fans outside of the venue.

Stuart Reynolds

Who are some teams that are pushing the immersion envelope?
SR:
We’re starting to see the joining of primary sports facilities to what I might call live entertainment adjunct facilities. For instance, a Ballpark Village at Busch Stadium, Wrigleyville at Wrigley Field, Texas Live for the new Globe Life Park. These adjunct facilities are meant to extend the fans’ stay within the ballpark or stadium environment. Teams are trying to find a way to get the fan to the venue earlier, give them a reason to stay longer, and keep them connected to what’s going on at the main venue. When we were working with the St. Louis Cardinals on Busch Stadium’s production room, we were also working on all of the fiber transmission gear to get a signal over to the Ballpark Village [in order to] encompass all of the real-time data going on at the ballpark.

In the past it was, ‘No, we want you to get up, come on over to the venue, and then you can come back for the postgame entertainment.’ Now, it’s, “Hey, if you want to stay there, we’ll give you everything you need. We’re glad to have you here.’ [This idea] brings in some large LED screen displays — digital signage, digital menus, etc. — for all of the activities surrounding the ballpark as well.

How are these entertainment districts capturing the different interests of fans?

Justo Gutierrez

SR: Since fans come for the social experience as much as they do for the game experience, we began to look at [venues] as an overall entertainment space. For instance, the new Atlanta Braves facility is designed to be so friendly to various demographics. They’re there for the ballgame, but you’ve got a zip line and so many cool things to do from a family perspective. There’s something to engage everybody.

JG: On another side, all of the major sports are contending with all of the entertainment options that everybody has outside of sports. Organizations are also trying to create environments that will actually draw people to the stadiums. I’m one of those traditional fans that just want to sit with a beer and a hot dog and keep score at a baseball game because that’s what I love doing. There’s still a segment of fans across all sports that are like that, but there are many more now that are going to be distracted by other things. They would rather go do [some other activity] than pay money to go to a stadium, unless there’s a concert on the entry plaza before the game, or there’s fireworks night, and there’s all these bars, clubs, and restaurants that you can go to right after you leave the stadium. So, that’s the other piece of this. Team owners are trying to figure out how to get people there and keep them there for the dollars that go beyond just the tickets of the game.

How will teams further engage the younger demographic in the future?
SR:
Some fans are just not going to put down their handheld device, so we’re finding new and interesting ways to engage that. How do we let you know that hot dogs are on sale or that beer just went on sale? How do we engage you to come back for the next concert in a month, and allow you to buy tickets while you’re onsite? [The goal now is to] digitally market to people in their seat through their device and acquire the metadata that comes along with that.

JG: Everybody’s trying to find the right formula. With AV, new technologies, all of the digital signage, and addressing both cellular data and WiFi [concerns], sports franchises are trying to capture the fan the whole time they’re within that geo-fenced area. Knowing who [their fanbase] is, where they are, and how to serve them is the rage.