Over the past decade sporting venues, like other aspects of industry and business, have been affected by an increasing number of varied societal concerns. This paper concentrates upon a number of key issues and their impact upon the operation, management and upkeep of sporting venues. These concern commoditization, child obesity and security. To provide practical examples in support of the research into these subjects will include two practical examples of sporting venues.
One will be the annually changing venue for the ‘Super Bowl’ and the second will be the Meadowlands Sports Complex in New York. This will provide an indication of how societal changes affect selection of venue as well as the individual venue. Before concluding the report a brief study of the likely future impact of these issues will be addressed. Societal Issues The three issues I have chosen to concentrate on in this research are commoditization, health, and security and safety. As will be discovered these have a significant impact upon the management and development of venues.
Commoditization Commoditization, in its positive sense, is the course of action that a commercial organization takes in an effort to make its goods or services available to a wider audience or group of consumers, thereby enhancing its profits and future growth. In the majority of instances, this event is driven by the need for the organization to remain competitive in an increasingly expanding national and international marketplace. Sports venues are no exception to this scenario.
Before the advent of the information era, most sports venues were dedicated solely to the sports purpose for which it had been designed. For example, a soccer stadium would be used solely for the purpose of hosting matches; an athletics stadium would serve no purpose other than being the venue for the training and presentation of athletic events. However, since the dramatic increase in digital technology industry and the need to return increasing profits to shareholders and benefits to other stakeholders, the designers and management of these stadiums have been forced to rethink their objectives.
The drive now is for multi-purpose venues that are constantly active and revenue producing. We can see this change of direction evidenced in the development and planning of new stadium with the designers using multi-activity facilities as a core element of the project. Even existing venues are being upgraded and re-designed to comply with this latest trend. The majority of soccer stadiums are now hosts to a myriad of activities such as soccer game, other sporting events, concerts, conferences, and evening mass political rallies and music concerts.
A prime example of the industry’s change of direction can be found at the Meadowlands Sports Complex sited in New Jersey. Originally constructed in the 1960’s as a racetrack and home for the New York Giants soccer team, the venue has since undergone substantial development with the building of a third venue. In addition to fulfilling its original purpose the complex now is host to other sporting events, music concerts, and religious rallies. Pope John Paul II held mass in the Giants stadium in 1995. Even the car park is utilized as venue, including the twice-weekly “flea” market.
The continual development of the complex has not been without difficulties; as the owners have had to ensure that all progress and development took into account the demands and concerns of local residents and environmentalists. Yet to keep abreast of its competitors, all vying for a share of a growing market, the Meadowlands Complex needs to be constantly monitoring its facilities. At risk are revenues of close to $1 billion and the jobs of thousands of employees. Health – Child Obesity “In 1960, only 4% of [American] children were obese.
Today, that number has quadrupled. 16% of American children are overweight or obese – that’s 9 million children who are develop risk factors for chronic illnesses that may reduce the length and quality of their lives. ” (Lester Crawford 2005) Child obesity is becoming a serious problem in the U. S. , as can be seen from the above quote. A large portion of the blame for this is being laid at the doors of the manufacturers and retailers of food and drinks, who now spend up to $12 million specifically targeting children, (J. P. Koplan et. al. 2005).
Venues and the entertainments industry in general also stand accused of promoting inactive behavior from children as well as encouraging the proliferation of fast foods, soft drinks, candy and other fattening foods. Venus such as the Meadowlands Sports Complex were quick to recognize the revenue generating potential and customer attracting benefits that the strategic placement of fast food and other similar outlets would bring to their business, particularly if the targeting of children was a key element in the promotion of such facilities.
For instance, the Continental Airlines Arena at the Meadowlands has a complete shopping area encircling the stadium on its concourse level, and the racetrack its own food court and deli-franchise, in addition to the facilities available at the Giant’s stadium. All of these contribute significantly to the business financial success. The brand name of the “Super-Bowl”, and the venues at which it is staged, are also being used both by the soccer organizations themselves, and their venue organizers, are using similar techniques.
The value of the “name” from a marketing viewpoint is substantial and its attraction from a child’s position is guaranteed to increase sales considerably. These are the situations that are causing concern to organizations such as the DHHS and the Committee of Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth. At this stage, there are attempts being made to engage in dialogue between the health and commercial organizations in an effort to explore the possibility of a successful format of self-regulatory guidelines for the food and beverage industry. The problem rests in how to equate the conflict between the various interests involved.
Security Probably the issue causing most apprehension within the sports venue industry is security. The global expansion of terrorist atrocities, commencing with the 7/11 disasters in New York and circumventing the globe with similar attacks in the UK and Spain, has become the focal point for the security departments of sporting venue organizations and governing, governing bodies and governments. The logistical problems of maintaining an effective security strategy at a venue such as Meadowlands, with its capability of housing well in excess of 200,000 persons at its three sites at peak capacity, are immense.
A similar situation arises at any venue that is chosen to host the annual “Super-Bowl. ” Added to this, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that, as a result of global media coverage, the viewing audience can potentially run into hundred’s of millions. Although society, as indicated by Laura Petreacca (2002) in her research paper on sports industry security post 9/11 feels that, “at this juncture, it’s a price everyone seems willing to pay,” everyone involved in the security industry is aware that it is impossible to guarantee total security against the determined terrorist.
The problems facing the sports venue industry is not simply limited to the direct consequence of terrorists’ actions, there is the related costs resulting from the threat to consider as well. In the UK in 2003, the “British insurance industry and their reinsurers began to publicly express concern about their future liabilities to such risk, and hence their ability to underwrite terrorism insurance in the UK. ” (Jon Coaffee. 2003). A global survey of venues conducted by Cliff Wallace (2002) for the Venue Management Association supports this contention.
The results found that, in the cases where underwriters were prepared to issue policies that covered acts of terrorism, the premiums were prohibitive and only a minor percentage of the value of the buildings would be covered. In addition almost all such policies would not include bio-terrorism. The result was that the majority of venue operators made no attempt to purchase insurance cover that included terrorism acts, relying upon governments of self-generating polices to provide the financing.
A worrying factor Wallace also discovered was that it was probable that a significant number of the venue organizations surveyed did not have the financial capability to survive such an event. In other words they would not be able to rebuild the venue. From the neighborhood viewpoint, the fact that these venues were so high profile nationally and internationally had the effect of bringing an additional risk factor to their lives and property. Future developments There appears not to be any prospect of the issues discussed in this paper becoming easier in the foreseeable future.
In fact the reverse is closer to the truth. As the global expansion of the media and its insatiable interest in sports activities continues to grow, the pressure upon venues to find more diverse sporting usage for their stadiums will grow. The dilemma the face is how to equate that with increased public awareness of the social and environmental damage that accompanies such development and diversity. The sports industry and their venues rely heavily upon the money generated from sponsorship be commercial food and beverage corporations, and the revenue produced from food franchises operating within the stadium.
Therefore it is difficult to see a voluntary resolution the issue of their involvement with products that contribute to child obesity. It seems that this may lead to some form of compulsion to act being imposed on them. Perhaps the most difficult problem facing sports venues in the future is the security against terrorism. It appears from current information that terrorist organizations are likely to become increasingly sophisticated in their method of construction and delivery of their modes of killing.
This means that the US is likely to follow the lead of countries such as the UK by introducing personal photo electronic identity cards for every citizen, even though this impinges upon their individual human rights. These cards will need to include biometric information such as fingerprints and eye prints, enable automatic scanning facilities at venues to collect this information and automatically cross reference it with a national and international database. Conclusion
As the research carried out for this research shows, there is no doubt that the societal changes facing the venue are diverse and complex, and their solutions even more so. However, having considered the matters raised in depth it is my opinion that some of them can be addressed in part. With regard to Commoditization, the way forward is the continued search for the use of sustainable products in the building of venues. To address the neighborhood issues, the towns where these venues are located need to address the question of public transportation to ease congestion problems and improve the lives of local citizens.
Terrorism remains the core problem. In my opinion the only solution here is the imposition of a legal identity card program with a high degree of accuracy. Unless there is a determined global and international effort to eradicate or come to an workable understanding with the terrorist organizations, which seems highly, unlikely, this is the only options that will properly secure the safely protect the venues and the citizens who use them.