I took the photo above at the AXS reception at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta the night before the 2017 AXS Ticketing Symposium.
Spent much of the night and early morning working (mostly with Abe Madkour) on SBJ’s morning email for the first day of the conference.
Here’s what we wrote:
SUBJECT LINE: Live from ATL: Ticketing Symposium
HUB OF THE “NEW” SPORTS INFRASTRUCTURE: Two ground-breaking facilities, one heavily hyped renovation, and all within 12 miles of each other. It was an easy decision to hold this year’s Sports Facilities and Franchise conference and Ticketing Symposium in Atlanta, which is at the heart of new construction in sports. From the revolutionary SunTrust Park and The Battery to the jaw-dropping Mercedes-Benz Stadium, this city is at the forefront of technology and the fan experience. More than 400 attendees will experience these two new developments, while also getting a sneak peek at the $200M planned renovation at Philips Arena. Wednesday night, both Thad Sheely and Steve Koonin will reveal the vision behind the renovation at Philips, while on Thursday evening guests will walk through The Battery before being greeted by John Schuerholz and taking in the much-talked-about SunTrust Park, which recently completed its first season and drew more than 2.5 million fans. On Friday, after a set-up by Steve Cannon, guests will conclude the three-day event with a tour of the $1.5B Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which has set a new standard for big event facilities. There is so much happening in this city, including one of the hottest stories in sports – the over-the-top success of Atlanta United.
For your reading pleasure and ICYMI, here are a few of our recent stories on SunTrust Park and The Battery, Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Philips Arena. In addition, we took a recent look at the state of the Atlanta sports market.
CHALLENGING TIMES FOR SPORTS: We don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that this event comes in the midst of an emotionally charged time for sports and society, and that will surely drive some of the discussion. From a recent spate of natural disasters, to an unprecedented attack on sports by a sitting president, to widespread player advocacy, to one of the most horrific and violent tragedies in America during an entertainment event, it’s been a numbing six weeks. We’ll have a lot of smart people on stage and in the audience this week, and the perspectives they provide are sure to be thought-provoking.
COMING UP TODAY: The kickoff panel for the 2017 Ticketing Symposium, “The Future Fan Experience,” will touch on all elements of the live event experience. Expect John Collins to talk about growing live events around sports, Jamey Rootes on how the game experience could change in the next decade, and Jared Smith and Bryan Perez on access, packaging, and the future of ticketing. Rootes, who surely must feel for the Texans’ JJ Watt after the defensive star’s injury on Sunday, will also talk about how a sports team can inspire a community in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM THE COACH: One of the goals of this year’s program was to examine leadership, and we’ll do that during a sit-down with 40-year-old Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner. Pastner, who played basketball at Arizona under Lute Olson, enters his second season at Tech after spending seven seasons in Memphis, where he replaced John Calipari. Last year, the Yellow Jackets made the NIT final after most people predicted a last-place finish for the team in the ACC. Pastner doesn’t drink alcohol, coffee or soda, is active on Twitter and is known for his motivational talks. It should be a fun 30 minutes.
CHILLIN’ WITH KOONIN: One of the most entertaining executives in sports is Hawks CEO Steve Koonin, who brings a diverse background from his 14 years at Turner Broadcasting and time at Coca-Cola. He’s been aggressive in bringing life back to the Hawks’ brand and the event experience at Philips Arena, which is in the midst of a major renovation. In a 30-minute Q&A, look for the always opinionated Koonin to riff on everything from the team’s Tinder Night to how to stand out in the crowded Atlanta sports market.
SAFE AND SECURE: One of the more important sessions of the day will examine the use of technology to improve safety. We’ve got ticketing executives, crowd management professionals and vendors discussing innovations such as mobile ticketing systems, turnstile design, body cameras, facial recognition and the newest generation of bomb-sniffing dogs.
HOT TICKETS: Among the hottest areas of ticketing are subscription and mobile pass-based offerings now rippling through the industry, and an afternoon panel will drill into this area, which is a hit with young adult and millennial buyers. MLB teams have been at the forefront of this development, and the sport will be represented by MLBAM’s Mark Plutzer, the Cardinals’ Martin Coco, and Greg Foster, CEO of Experience, which serves as a back-end technical support for many of the Ballpark Passes. The New York Jets’ Fred Mangione will detail his team’s new “Boarding Pass” product, which quickly sold out over the summer.
YIELD MANAGEMENT … OH, YEAH!: OK, so this topic may sound like a finance seminar, but it’s actually one of the more important developments in the last several years as teams have tried to reduce the number of brokers they deal with and consolidate their activities in the secondary space. The Royals’ Mike Bucek, a longtime friend of this event, will discuss how the ticket dynamics in his town have changed as the club has shifted from a World Series champion to the middle of the pack. He’ll be joined by one of our local hosts, Kyle Brunson of the Hawks, and Greg Nortman of leading distribution and inventory management platform Dynasty Sports & Entertainment.
OPENING CEREMONIES: Conference title sponsor AXS hosted a pre-event reception last night in the Harrah’s Cherokee Club at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. After a welcome from AXS VP of Content Justin Jimenez, guests enjoyed a buffet that included triple cheddar mac ’n cheese, smoked wings, honey cheddar cornbread, Georgia barbecue port and smoked beef brisket, which got a thumbs up from SBJ’s resident native Texan. In addition to stadium tours, the event also included a set from recording artist Nya, who was backed by a three-piece band that included the drummer for country artist Garth Brooks, who will be playing Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday night. (We watched the round stage for the show being set up on the stadium floor.)
Eventellect co-founder Patrick Ryan dined last night at the Stats sports bar with the company’s 10 scholarship winners, who were chosen to attend today’s Ticketing Symposium. Ryan said he was excited to see SunTrust Park and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, adding to the more than 100 venues he has visited.
With a sparse sports calendar, which wasn’t helped by the cancellation of the Cubs-Nationals game, the hotel bar was a bit slow last night. We’ll look for it to be a little more active tonight after our reception with execs from the Hawks.
DO YOU HAVE A RESERVATION?: Atlanta’s cuisine scene is hot. Among the tips we got when asking where we should dine: Staplehouse, Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant of 2016, is known for its top-notch service; Miller Union, which is touted to be great for lunch or dinner; Gunshow, a hard-to-get reservation but offers a neat concept where cooks bring a cooked dish to your table for you to decide whether you want it; Bacchanalia, one of the city’s top spots but also known for an almost three-hour dining experience; and Umi, which offers fantastic sushi in Buckhead.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: We asked Bernie Mullin, founder of The Aspire Group and a guest moderator this week, what ATL visitors should expect this week: “Bring your suntan cream and your umbrella, as we are expecting 80 degrees and some showers. And wear your red and black for the hottest experience in U.S. sports – MLS expansion franchise Atlanta United, with 70,000-plus rowdy fans and an explosive, high-scoring team. You WILL find yourselves doing the Viking Chant: Arms held up in a V pattern, clapping and chanting, ‘Aaaa… Tttt… Llll… Aaaa… Nnnn… Tttt… Aaaa… UNITED.’”
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE II: From another guest moderator, Scott McCune, founder of McCune Sports and Entertainment Ventures: “Be ready to enjoy Atlanta’s beautiful fall weather, our award-winning restaurants and, of course, the passion around all of our ‘football:’ Atlanta United’s final push before their unprecedented run to the MLS playoffs, along with the Falcons, Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets, who are all off to great starts. And, of course, take in the College Football Hall of Fame.”
BE A WINNER: Be sure to visit the IBM booth to drop off your card for a chance to win a Garmin Approach S20 Black GPS Golf Watch. The drawing will be held on Friday. You don’t have to be present to win.
SPEAKING OF WINNERS: As mentioned above, Eventellect awarded ten scholarships to allow some deserving up-and-comers to attend the conference. If you get a chance, say hello to them today. They are: Abdullah Arshad, Edward Billington, Savannah Cavanaugh, Olivia Grocholski, Ali Harman, Pax Kaplan-Sherman, Jakub Mikulik, Robert Nanna, Adam Twining and Bradley Wolff.
LAY OF THE LAND: Registration and breakfast start at 7:30 in the International Foyer on level M2 of the Omni Atlanta North Tower. When you check in, you’ll be asked to provide a business card and confirm the networking events you plan to attend. The AXS Ticketing Symposium begins at 8:30 in the International Ballroom.
AN APP FOR THAT: View our event app on any device to see the attendee list, agenda, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors. You can also read and download our digital program guide: http://sbjsbd.biz/sffprogram.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: If you’re in the room today (and, if not, where are you?), speak up! Send questions to our panels in three ways:
— Text SBJSBD to 22-333
— Use the 2017 Ticketing Symposium app
— On your web browser, visit pollev.com/sbjsbd
SOCIAL ANIMALS: Today’s hashtag is #SBJtix. We’ll be tweeting and retweeting throughout the day, and we’re interested to see your thoughts and photos on social media. We’ll highlight some of the best posts in tomorrow’s email.
VOLUNTEERS: When you check in to the conference, you’ll probably receive your name badge from one of our volunteers. If you get a chance, try to take the time to chat with them — they could be the future of our industry. Volunteers are from University of Alabama, Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Braves.