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Three Ways to Maximize a Sports Venue

By Carol McKibben

AT&T Park, home of the 2014 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, is open for anything – from elegant sit-down dinners for hundreds to intimate board meetings and gala receptions and events on the field for thousands.

Why? Because the San Francisco Giants organization realized in the late nineties that the baseball club only occupied the ballpark for about 85 days a year. So in 1999, it created Giants Enterprises, LLC, a new business venture established to develop non-baseball uses for AT&T Park. Since then, Giants Enterprises has become a top producer, manager and facilitator of special events and world-class experiences. Over the past 15 years, Giant Enterprises has produced thousands of private events, including major concerts, sporting events, and entertainment experiences at AT&T Park, PIER 48, and Mission Rock. Here are three ways to maximize a sports venue ala AT&T Park.

Other Sporting Events

For the world’s largest international sporting event in 2013, the first major international sporting event in the USA since 2003, and the biggest event to come to San Francisco since the 1915 World’s Fair, Giant Enterprises worked with the America’s Cup to build out San Francisco Bay, which offered a natural amphitheater enabling mass on-shore viewing.

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Photo Courtesy of America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA).

The 34th America’s Cup (AC) in the San Francisco Bay was a game changer. It redefined sailing for a modern audience, introduced the Cup to a new generation of global fans and transformed it into a spectator sport. The new America’s Cup raised the bar of competitive sailing by utilizing the very latest technology to produce on-the-edge sailing where the best sailors raced in the fastest boats. From July 4 to September 25, 2013, over 1 million spectators packed the two free America’s Cup venues, the AC Park and AC Village, resulting in over 56,000 paid spectator experiences. Races spanned from the Golden Gate Bridge past Alcatraz to the Bay Bridge over 43 days comprising 51 races. Each day on average lasted seven hours. That’s more than 300 hours in total! It was three years in the making.

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Photo Courtesy of America’s Cup Event Authority.

Critical success factors to achieving these goals meant setting up an entire ticketing and customer service infrastructure for 3 new and temporary venues, while simultaneously working around the FREE public viewing area, located alongside the ticketed grandstands, which was a condition of the host city.
Additionally, the AC Park, AC Village and Pier 39 Rooftop Lounge were vacant land with no existing infrastructure. Together with the AC, Giant Enterprises built these venues to create appealing viewing experiences for spectators to watch this historic sporting event in new, exciting ways that were previously not possible. This was achieved despite the challenges presented by a densely populated, urban environment, where transportation, community engagement and municipal permitting were critically important. Over the course of the AC event, they were competing with a busy San Francisco Bay Area event schedule that added to resource and supplier demand.

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Photo above and below courtesy of America’s Cup Event Authority.

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AC FinishLine

The experiences that were provided to fans included both on-shore and on-water viewing venues with food and beverage and direct views of the race course. Giant Enterprises worked with AC to create, market and sell viewing experiences with live streaming of the 51 races. The free public area at AC Park included viewing areas with large screens, interactive sailing exhibits, retail concessions, live music, lounges and facilities for the sailing teams. Together with AC, Giant Enterprises built, marketed and sold a temporary village at Marina Green with premium seats, bleachers, lounges, concessions and private corporate chalets.

Opera at the Ballpark

Giant Enterprises hit a home run when 27,000 people gathered at a free public event featuring a live, high-definition simulcast of Puccini’s Tosca from the San Francisco Opera in the summer of 2009 (and again with La Traviata in 2014). This perfect exposure created both new music lovers and sports fans alike.

Opera 2009

The event featured a simulcast of Puccini’s Tosca broadcast live in high-definition from the stage of the War Memorial Opera House three miles away. A sold-out house of more than 3,000 guests simultaneously enjoyed the performance.

Opera 2009 -2

Both opera and baseball fans alike relaxed on the outfield and in the stands under a full summer moon to experience an unmatched musical event set in one of the nation’s most beautiful ballparks. Their enjoyment was enhanced by selected garlic fries, hot dogs and beer, or an optional picnic basket complete with wine and cheese. VIPs also enjoyed two hosted parties.

The venue’s main goal for this event was to expose as many people as possible – prospective customers – to increase year-long attendance to the San Francisco Opera. Another important goal was to close the gap and connect the sports experience with the arts to increase an appreciation for each. The third goal was to grow an email database exponentially through early registration to the event via the venue’s web site. This allowed them to reach out to registrants with discounted offers for future performances and the San Francisco Opera News.

Pulling off such a production without a hitch required months of detailed planning and resolving numerous challenges throughout the process. Most notable was the actual video and audio transmission from the Opera House to the high-definition scoreboard and sound system at AT&T Park. The two venues are only three miles apart, but a physical connection was too costly and undependable. To solve this problem, Giant Enterprises worked with the Opera to coordinate a simulcast satellite feed that went thousands of miles into space only to be sent from the satellite back down to AT&T Park … in the same city.

Ballpark Idol — A Corporate Event

Imagine transforming a ballpark into an intimate performance studio and cocktail lounge worthy of an American Idol singing competition/incentive event to connect 730 global employees!

This is … Ballpark Idol! America’s most popular reality show leaped out of television and onto the stage at AT&T Park with a singing competition featuring the client’s brightest co-workers. Giants Enterprises created an intimate theater setting on the field. But that’s just the beginning.

ballpark idol 1
The entire ballpark was transformed from a sports venue to a cocktail lounge, along with the intimate performance studio! The stadium’s club level, concession stands, dugouts and Portwalk entrance were re-invented, along with the field which was covered with flooring complete with staging, multiple video screens and all the trappings to create this exciting evening. The venue’s team members from offices throughout the world were selected from video audition entries to participate in this singing competition with their co-workers and peers in the audience.

ballpark idol 2
Guests arrived through a private red carpet entrance and immediately felt their glamorous superstar status. They were immediately treated to a delicious array of food and beverage options displayed around the exterior of the field as they soaked in the exciting Hollywood-quality performance studio produced in center field.

ballpark idol 3

Once the 730 guests had their fill of the food, drinks, and the Giants’ batting tunnels, they took their seats to cheer on their peers that performed for them. Company executives acted as a panel of judges that would have made Simon Cowell sweat! Throughout the night the performers took advantage of the three digital screens, including the ballpark’s HD Scoreboard, and state-of-the art sound system and house band to rock the ballpark! Videos of the contestants’ audition tapes and selection notifications were interspersed throughout the performances Idol style. The final winner was selected by the audience voting via wireless devices.

But in the end, it was the AT&T Park that won with its ability to reach out and secure a wide variety of different events that could maximize its venue.

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Carol McKibben has 35 years of experience in publishing, advertising /marketing /PR, writing /editing, education and as a business owner. She was President and co-founder of McKibben Communications from 1991until it was sold in 2001;and was Vice President/Publisher for a decade for Miramar Communications where she ran Special Events magazine and The Special Event. In 2008, Carol began a career in freelance writing and editing under the McKibben Consulting umbrella and is the published author of three books. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Journalism, a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Publishers’ Certificate from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Journalism.

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