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SMA tackles sports venue challenges

The Stadium Managers Association (SMA) has wound up its 44th annual convention, held February 4-8 at the historic Del Coronado Hotel in Coronado, California.

About 450 delegates were on hand, according to Mary Mycka, group executive director and Rick Nafe, Tampa Bay Rays, programme chair.

The SMA is in excellent financial condition, with excess revenue over expenses continuing on track, and 179 stadium managers plus 130 corporate sponsor members on-board.

After a great opening afternoon Super Bowl party, social highlights included the annual golf outing benefitting the SMA Foundation scholarship and industry efforts, with over 100 participants; a visit to PetCo Park, home of the MLB San Diego Padres; and a wonderful gala and tour aboard the USS Midway, the historic carrier that served afloat from 1945 to 1992 with 4,500 seamen and marines aboard, now a favourite local museum location.

Women took a much more active role with Nicole Andrews, managing director, global sales for Matrax, manaufacturer of totally recyclable portable event flooring and turf protection, elected Corporate Sponsor board member – the first woman on the board in several years

SMA also endorsed a mentoring programme for women stadium executives, which Andrews confirmed at the excellent “A League of their Own” SMA Women in Leadership Committee session. She moderated the programme that featured four successful lady stadium executives who detailed their tough career stories.

Sports venue safety & security was a key topic, with a featured session on “Public Attacks, Drones & Other Emerging Threats”.

SMA legal counsel Mike McCormick moderated, with Charles Raley, FAA senior attorney, enforcement division, covering the threat of illegally-operated drones over key airspace.

Dave Wulf, DHS acting deputy asst. secretary for infrastructure protection, and Christy Riccardi, regional director, office of infrastructure protection, both emphasised the importance of all sports venues joining the DHS Safety Act that offers key protection from liability for use of approved safety and security vendor products.

More stadia are signing on and John Skinner, MLB vice president, safety & security announced at the “Concerns & State of the Business” session that the MLB had just submitted a Safety Act application for all 30 of its clubs across the US.

SMA also spotlighted energy conservation with “A New Light on Sustainability” panel moderated by Joe Abernathy, VP of facility planning & engineering, MLB St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium.

Insight was provided by Rahui Devaskar, Green Sports Alliance; Brad Mohr, director, stadium operations, NFL Cleveland Browns, First Energy Stadium, for Lights Out Cleveland, one of 26 US chapters focused on turning lights off in downtowns to protect migrating birds; and former MLB Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers player Dusty Baker, now head of the Baker Energy Team, partnered with San Francisco-based Dyamic Energy to lower energy costs for all size stadiums and arenas.

In addition to a video report on the highly successful Super Bowl LII at the new US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis by Peter O’Reilly, NFL senior VP of events, other key sessions covered “Spotlight Atlanta” on new and renovated sports venues; keynote address by Paul Zikopoulos, IBM VP of information management, technical sales & big data; “Planning on Managing the Big Event: Welcome Back World” by Bill Hanway, AECOM executive VP & global sports leader, who focused on the 2028 Olympics coming back to Los Angeles for the third time, with 75% existing facilities and 25% temporary venues; “Renovation Design in Your Off-Season” with Earl Santee, Populous; Tab Baker, AECOM Hunt Construction; and Vinnie Spataro, Shawmut Construction.

Also featured were “New Revenue Generation”, moderated by Matt Kaster, MLB Orioles Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore; and a “Did ‘Ya Know” overview by Dave Broughton, Sports Business Journal.

The SMA’s 45th annual convention is set for Feb. 3-7, 2019 at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Resort, Hollywood Beach, Florida.

Image: At SMA venue security session, from left, Charles Raley, FAA; Dave Wulf and Christy Riccardi, DHS   (Photo: Steve Traiman)

Words by North America feature writer Steve Traiman

@PanStadiaArena