VenuesNow Conference Heating Up Down South

LA28 Chief Executive Officer Kathy Carter Photo Shoot
Kathy Carter, Chief Executive Officer, LA28. Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for LA28

The time has come. The sixth VenuesNow Conference is upon us from Palm Springs, a desert oasis known for live entertainment, leisure and, more recently, hockey.

Ahead of, and just in time for, the big event, here’s some supplemental information, preview content and talking points to help get you up to speed for a gathering of the most influential leaders in the live entertainment and facilities business.

Tied to the recently opened, world-class Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert, home of the AHL Firebirds, this year’s event promises a distinct SoCal look at the venue scene, while bringing together major figures from all over the world.

Keynote: From Goalkeeper To The Games

LA28 CEO Kathy Carter will weigh in on the planning process for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and how LA28 is leveraging the best of Los Angeles’ venues, operators and executives to reinvent the model for global-scale sporting events.
Carter has blazed trails during 30 years in sports, where she’s led successful organizations, developed and implemented commercial strategies and challenged the status quo across the sports industry.

She was named CEO of LA28 in September 2021, where she oversees the event and operations, reporting to LA28 Chairperson Casey Wasserman.

Prior to being named CEO, Kathy led the commercial efforts for Team USA and the LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games including sponsorship sales, consumer products, brand marketing, hospitality, ticketing and events. She joined the organization in October 2018 and is the third woman in the history of the Games to lead an Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee.

Her career in the sports industry began before the 1994 FIFA World Cup, when she worked for the World Cup Organizing Committee. After the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Carter was a founding member of MLS and was instrumental in building the league from the ground up.

Jason Clement

Beyond The Big Four: Alternative Sports as Premium Content

While major and minor leagues keep many venues busy year-round, facilities of all types are seeking alternative content. Live event professionals will inform conference attendees how to book, produce, promote and execute these new and exciting entertainment opportunities. The panel discussion will discuss developing alternative content, creating niche events, tapping into consumer interests and providing content opportunities for venues, including pickleball tournaments, professional darts, competitive dirt events such as PBR and e-sports.

Taking part in the discussion is Jason Clement, CEO of Sports Facilities Companies, who says things “have really accelerated” in the past seven months for pickleball as a whole. His company manages 45 venues in 18 states, working with cities to repurpose existing recreational facilities into pickleball courts and manage several sites, including Louisiana’s West Monroe Sports & Events and Bill Noble Park in Gardendale, Alabama.

“Our organization has hung its hat on understanding trends for sports and helping communities, cities and private developers across the country determine the assets to put into their community,” Clement says. “We’ve studied the demographics and believe pickleball is here to stay. It doesn’t take a lot (of physical talent) to play. It’s a small court and the games are fast-paced.”

Hollweg Bryce 500x500

What Tech Advances Mean For Marketing, Operations & Fan Engagement

The explosion of artificial intelligence applications and other advances in tech and data have blown open the door for new and alternative ways of creative booking, efficient and responsible operations, and connecting venues and events with fans for information, promotion, experience and engagement. Leaders in the tech space will break down and simplify new tech in ways venue operations can take home and put to use now.
Panelists taking part include Bryce Hollweg, chief operations officer at FLA Live Arena, home to the NHL Florida Panthers.

The arena, which recently announced a new naming rights deal with Amerant Bank, has undergone recent renovations and improvements, with new hospitality areas, back-of-house amenities, HVAC upgrades and more.

“We take pride in doing everything in house, that’s F&B to security, to housekeeping, to parking,” Hollweg said of the arena. “Our advantage there is it gives us agility and flexibility to make changes on the fly.”

Another venue exec who knows a thing or two about tech is Alex Rodrigo, senior vice president of the Sacramento Kings and general manager of Golden 1 Center.

The arena made substantial commitments in tech designed to “future-proof” the building, including in 2021 opening a Tesla Supercharger Station powered by solar energy produced at the arena. Commitments in sustainability include being the first NBA venue to receive LEED Platinum certification.

Kings officials say the success of the arena shows the big bets and capital investment can be an example to other cities across the word.

“The level of investment required and the commitment to build a project like this is incredibly hard today but the conversations are getting easier, as we’ve seen,” Rodrigo said. “This arena has created a springboard for other facilities to open with that vision in mind, because this is a proven entity in itself. To take on that challenge, that risk to be innovative and forward-thinking, 10 years ago is something that gives us a tremendous amount of pride. As we’re building out the next five to 10 years and seeing where we stand in innovation, technology and community, we don’t take that lightly.”

The Future Of Convention Centers

In the midst of a post-pandemic rebound, the conventions and meetings industry is undergoing an evolution in operations and design that will lead this robust business into a new and exciting era. This panel of leaders in the convention business will explore the elevation of the customer experience and its impact on the planning and execution of events in convention facilities, as well as the overall destination paradigm. Further, the panel will discuss the impact on the physical infrastructure and the evolution of convention center design to address these changes.

Taking part is Greg O’Dell, OVG360 president of venues, who was recently part of the company winning the contract to run Chicago’s McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America.

“We presented a vision that resonated with them: that we will optimize that building and that campus in a way that hasn’t been done, and that came through clearly,” O’Dell said of OVG winning the contract for McCormick Place.

OVG360 CEO Chris Granger called the facility “the most important convention center and meeting space in the country,” adding, “We go to great lengths to demonstrate our attention to detail, focus on execution, entrepreneurial spirit, authentic commitment to diversity and inclusion in multiple ways, our authentic commitment to sustainability as it relates to venue management, and food and beverage. So, all of those values of ours were effectively communicated over a multi-month period to the team at the MPEA and to Chicago and other stakeholders.”

As president, O’Dell oversees OVG’s venue management portfolio consisting of more than 240 accounts, including convention centers, arenas, stadiums, performing arts centers, and fairgrounds around the globe.