Game On: What Super Bowl Sunday Venue Prep Can Teach CRE
On her 2017 album, Reputation, Taylor Swift asks a question equally important to the NFL’s field director as he gets the playing surface set for Sunday and to CRE professionals around the country prepping for big events: Are you ready for it?
The field the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs will play on in Super Bowl LVIII, with Swift herself possibly in attendance, is grown outside in the sunlight and rolled in on a tray for the game. It is crafted under a microscope, using technology that allows for undersoil heating and probes detailing soil temperature and moisture.
Nothing is left to chance, including testing the simulated impact of athletes’ cleats, NFL Field Director Nick Pappas said in a video posted on the league’s website.
The steps to put on an event, from the Super Bowl to a corporate off-site, follow the same pattern, said Matt Weko, managing director of consumer goods, media and entertainment at JLL.
“The Super Bowl is going to get a lot of attention this week,” Weko said. “But the reality is, if you're preparing your workspace for a big pitch for a new client, that might be just as big a deal for your business. The scale, while it feels different, has all the same steps.”
At Allegiant Stadium, Pappas is using sensor and testing technology to give players “the top-level performance while also making sure that they’re limiting the potential for injury from a surface perspective.”
Pappas’ precisely calculated gridiron particularity may seem a world away from worrying about sterile fluorescent lights accenting a key meeting with a top client. But Weko said the similarities lie in the meticulous preparation organizations need to conduct before putting on an event or showcasing a venue of any size.
Important starting points for any large-scale planning are venue, logistics and the included technology, he said. Strategic planning, resource planning and stakeholder management are key to successful preparation, regardless of scale.
As soon as a company selects a venue, it should conduct a thorough inspection of the facility, quickly addressing any issues that jump out at first glance. Weko said dry runs of an event help to pressure-test a company’s planning and make sure its attention to detail is given a thorough once-over.
Technological advances over the last 10 years have enhanced facilities operators’ ability to plan and execute successful events, Weko said. Emerging sensor technologies allow organizers to know when it is time to replace toilet paper or when commodity stocks are getting low.
Networks capable of disseminating information quickly are also key to success, Weko said, even if they aren't quite on the level of what is happening behind the scenes at the Super Bowl.
Allegiant Stadium comes equipped with configurable security management, including access control and video management, which enables security to work with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to share video feeds during stadium events, Facilities Management Advisor reported.
Allegiant will implement enhanced security measures for the big day, including mandatory X-ray scans of vehicles up to a mile away from the stadium, restricted access for stadium district businesses’ employees and a pre-event cyberattack exercise to prepare for virtual threats.
Its security system includes an operations center with 15 to 20 operations personnel from agencies like the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department as well as medical representatives, maintenance, parking and other staff.
“The best innovation in our industry in the last decade has just been the ability to share lots of volumes of data quickly and to pinpoint that to the right recipient,” Weko said.
Even so, the best-laid plans of mice and facilities managers often go awry.
The Superdome infamously experienced a power outage during Super Bowl XLVII, pausing the action for more than half an hour, and last year’s Super Bowl disappointed with a soggy field that saw players slipping for the entire contest.
In the case an event doesn’t go to plan, it is crucial to review the details and incorporate them into future planning processes, Weko said.
“Every single large event like this benefits from having almost a military-style after-action report where we review the details, document and learn from them, and ensure that any of the lessons learned are incorporating that into the planning process for the future,” he said.
In a modern business environment, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, the most common challenge event producers face is adding a virtual element to a physical space, Weko said. Whether at the Super Bowl or in the CRE world, it is important for vendors providing technologies or solutions that might have points of failure to engage in the process and feel empowered to address issues as they come up.
It is also essential to consider what the audience's experience will look like in a hybrid setting as the first step of the planning process for these types of events, Weko said.
“If we're thinking about an event that's going to have a hybrid component, really understand: Who is the audience for a hybrid [experience]? What's the type of engagement that they will experience? How are they going to participate in a hybrid event?” Weko said.
It’s not uncommon for large-scale event preparation to begin years in advance, though the time a company needs to prepare generally scales with an event’s size, he said. Generally, planning should take place with “as much time as you can afford,” often as soon as a date is locked in.
“Everybody who's coming to an event has different expectations,” Weko said. “We saw this with the NFL this year and the Taylor Swift phenomenon and the interest in the event because of maybe a celebrity as opposed to the sport itself.
“For all of us who are hosting events in commercial real estate spaces — and who are catering to an audience who's having the biggest moment of the season, whatever that season is — understand that different stakeholders might have different perspectives. In [the] planning process, really, really vet that out.”