It’s a question that has been examined on countless panel discussions and trade show floors for years, even before recent global and European challenges. In 2021, however, the difference is that we can now answer this question from a completely new perspective; one where we have seen, first-hand, what stadiums, arenas and theatres look like when no one is allowed inside them.
It’s been a challenging period for our industry, not only considering the pandemic but the changes to [UK] trading relationships with the EU. But despite
the discomfort this period of enforced reflection has caused, it has also served
to show us that without the visitors, fans, and the hard-working staff who fill these venues week-in, week-out, they are little more than empty buildings, in every sense of the word.
This is why moving forward I think it’s vital that we, as integrators, put the user and fan experience first when it comes to installing new audio and video technology. This means approaching integration with a multi-use venue plan in mind, with the goal of turning each of them into the inclusive and, ultimately, profitable venues that will entice fans no matter what the ‘new normal’ has in store.
As integrators, we would all benefit from taking a holistic approach to projects. It is essential to understand the client’s particular requirements, with a mindset of providing an integrated infrastructure that can cater for every eventuality, delivering systems that have an ease of operation. This ensures that they spend less time worrying about technology and more time doing what they are there to do; entertain their visitors.
A couple of great examples of this theory in practice are the installs carried out at SoFi Stadium and Dodger Stadium, both of which are located in California, US.
The former – which is set to host Super Bowl LVI in 2022, the College Football Championship Game in 2023, and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic Games in 2028 – is centrepiece of a 298-acre mixed-use development featuring retail, commercial office space, a hotel, residential units, and outdoor park spaces, making it one of the most futureproof, fan-centric stadia in the US.
The operators of Dodger Stadium are similarly open to new ideas, with the recent additions including updated digital signage and contactless payment and entry throughout the venue: an essential part of building new fan experiences.
Of course, these kinds of multi-use venues are not just for sports fans, and I believe any potential integrator is underselling by not acknowledging that. Being able to leverage a heritage of live production to understand what concert, festival, and sports fans want for their ticket price has real benefits.
System design should focus on an immersive experience for visitors to a venue, using concert-quality audio and professional video systems. For example, providing AV infrastructure that allows local bands to play in lobby areas or small stages within concourses thus supporting the wider live music eco system.
Additionally, integrators must consider the corporate world utilising sports venues and arenas now more than ever before. After all, would you rather go to a typical hotel conference room, or a meeting room in a stadium with total integrated tech platforms that can accommodate multiple use scenarios, venue owners can really start to see a return on their investment.
Setting a healthy budget for AV is not a dead investment; it’s a longer-term strategy that can be a key contributing factor to a successful and profitable venue. Consideration of both capital and operational budgets should encompass the running costs of installed systems, where factors such as green credentials of kit can have significant impact.
To get the most out of any venue, owners can look at moving from a capital investment to an operational expense in regard to AV technologies. It’s more tax efficient and more flexible. If we take a view that the standard lifespan of a venue AV install is ten years, with technology moving forward so quickly, we’re now seeing refurbishments after just five years.
Ultimately, everyone wants the latest tech, and venues have to think about their entire offering, inclusive of facilities such as disabled access requirements, sensory rooms for those with additional needs, and AV descriptive systems in order to cater to diverse audiences.
I am confident that with the right facilities in place, we can create totally inclusive entertainment for all to enjoy, for many years to come.