Christopher Pike

Sports development: Maximising usage and user experience

At the forefront of a stadium capacity discussion will be whether a club can fill the seats it builds on match day, writes Chris Pike.

Stadium size impacts not just on pure build cost but also staff, policing costs and maintenance cost, as well as atmosphere and engagement. A sold-out event generates a buzz, and a full stadium creates the best atmosphere, but this needs to be balanced against potential additional lost revenue and lost opportunity of building relationships with new fans.

Where possible, the capacity of a stadium needs to be flexible, allowing for future expansion as well as the ability to shut down areas with minimal impact on atmosphere and experience.

A club needs to consider whether it can attract more fans by creating a more comfortable environment and presenting an enhanced match day experience both in terms of physical real estate and in technological advances such as Wi-Fi connectivity, already an award-winning feature at Celtic Park for instance.

Value can be generated by improving the experience for fans, staff and the wider community living and working around the club, in turn generating better brand engagement and advertising revenues. Small gestures such as providing clap banners for fans can dramatically transform a stadium’s atmosphere and if similar gestures can be built into the design of a new facility this can create a sustainable advantage over competitor venues.

Celtic’s investment in Wi-Fi has allowed it to enhance the matchday experience for fans. Taking this a step further, the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento has been designed to be the “most technologically innovative stadium in the world” with more than 650 miles of fibre optic cabling opening up the potential for customers to upgrade tickets on the go, get real-time information on parking and order food and merchandise to their seats all through an app that allows the owners to drive content and advertising to their supporters.

Whilst a supporter is unlikely to change their colours over the comfort at the venue this could be a deciding factor in introducing friends or family to the club or considering the use of the stadium away from matchdays. Non-matchday revenue can be equally important and a club should consider whether it can create a destination venue for concerts, conferencing or can share its stadium taking advantage of the off-season with academies or sharing gym facilities, reducing costs and sharing revenues.

It is worth noting that the most profitable stadium in the world, the Staples Center in Los Angeles, has only 19,067 seats. Closer to home, Tottenham’s collaboration with the NFL is a prominent example of how partnering to share facilities can help to fund the development of additional features with the proposed retractable artificial surface opening up further potential revenue streams and allowing increased stadium use.

Find out more about the future of Sport Stadiums and the real estate sector with our interactive ‘Mapping the FutuRE’ section

Chris Pike is principal associate in the Real Estate at Mills & Reeve

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