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SMA conference focuses on security

The SMA wound up its 43rd annual confab since its founding in 1986 with more than 400 on hand February 3-7 at iconic singer Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Beach Resort in Hollywood Beach, Florida.

Rick Nafe, Program Chair and group founder, from the MLB Tampa Bay Rays, welcomed attendees.

Included were a good mix of stadium and arena managers, and corporate/sponsor members, plus an excellent array of speakers on key topics of most interest to all attendees.

The conference opened Sunday with a rousing Super Bowl party at the hotel, sponsored by 24/7 Software and Trex Commercial Products.

The Monday SMA Foundation Golf Tournament was held at the nearby Topgolf Miami Gardens course, with increased attendance and income from last year. All 18 holes were  sponsored by individual corporate members.

The SMA presented its first annual Ron LabinskiScholarship, honouring its long-time member, and two other scholarships.

Social highlights included a tour of Hard Rock Stadium, home to the NFL Miami Dolphins, and a closing night Dinner Cruise had 200-plus on the four-deck, 192-foot South Beach Lady yacht for a lively Intracoastal Waterway route.

The closing day annual Business Meeting was notable for a good list of SMA accomplishments the prior year. At the top was increased collaboration on drone threats – and potential possible usage, with the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) and DHS (U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security).

The group continues in excellent financial shape, with ample cash reserves in the event of another major economic downturn.

Membership at both the manager and corporate/sponsor levels continues to increase at a good, modest pace, with a focus on getting more attendance at the annual conference.

Women again took the spotlight with Kelsey Smith elected to the SMA Board as a director at large. She is Event Manager at CenturyLink Field, home to the NFL Seattle (WA) Seahawks, MLS Seattle Sounders and new XFL team.

She joins Nicole Andrews, managing director, global sales,at Matrax, elected last year as the first female Board member in some time.

Andrews also led a well-attended “Women in Leadership Networking Session” on Wednesday afternoon.

Security was definitely on all attendee minds with a half-dozen sessions focused on various aspects of keeping venues, teams and patrons safe from an expanding array of threats around the world.

Coverage began with a general session “DHS: Analyzing and Anticipating Today’s Threats. WHAT has changed and WHAT keeps these folks up at night?”

Moderated by Mike McCormick, principal, MC McCormick & Associates, the panel included Scott ‘Birdman’ Breor, DHS Director, Protective Security Coordination Division; Shawn Stallworth, DHS Chief, Protective Security, Region 4 (Southeast); and Andrea Schultz, Director, NFL Strategic Security Programs & Policy, after many years at DHS, most recently as Deputy Director, Office of SAFETY Act Implementation.

The event/facility breakout session Wednesday (6) afternoon focused on “How Security Can Benefit the Guest Experience”.

It was moderated by Chip Shuttlesworth, NFL Seattle Seahawks. Speakers were Ed O’Brien, CLEAR; and Scott Meyers, 24/7 Software.

A later breakout session highlighted “Emergency  Preparedness Resilience Strategy”. Moderator was Kathy Lupia, Esq., Petrone Risk; with Troy Brown,NFL Cleveland Browns; and Joe Cicini, NFL Miami Dolphins.

Other speaker highlights included the Keynote by Eugene “Mercury” Morris, member of the NFL Miami Dolphins team with only perfect (17-0) league record in 1972; Super Bowl LIII (53) Report on Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium event, by Peter O’Reilly, NFL Senior VP, Events; and Dave Broughton, Sports Business Journal, with an excellent “Don’t Chu Know?” rundown on new and unique N.A. sports venues, with a focus on the record $6 billion in new venues opening in 2020.

At the close, Nafe announced that the 2020 conference would be held Feb. 1-6 at the Pointe Hilton Tapacio Cliff Resort in Phoenix, AZ.

Feature writer, Steve Traiman, covered the event for these program & topic highlights.