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Stadium managers take centre stage

The annual Stadium Managers Association (SMA) Conference opened on February 6 on a rainy note with a washed-out Foundation Scholarship Golf Tournament, but 350 attendees enjoyed a special Super Bowl party and looked forward to two and a half days of relevant topics to their stadium operations.

SMA Membership now comprises 33% from the NFL, 26% from MLB, 19% NCAA college sports, 6% MLS, 4% CFL, 4% Minor League Baseball, and 2% each from International, City & Park, and Individuals.

SMA Program Chair Rick Nafe, MLB Tampa Bay Rays, welcomed attendees with his usual bonhomie, and introduced keynote speaker Joie Chitwood III, International Speedway Corp. EVP & COO, who gave an update of his dynamite keynote last year.

He had described the planning and execution of the $400 million transformation of the obsolete Daytona International Speedway into the new Daytona Rising 101,500-seat first motorsports stadium.

This year he provided keys to the successful 30-month project, foremost being the Project Realisation Team with all departments and key contractors represented – all reporting to him. They met every two weeks for the entire span of construction to the opening last February.

A state of the industry update included brief reports from Bill Hancock, Executive Director, College Football Playoffs. He cited the success of the recent championship game won by Clemson over Alabama and the great Tampa welcome. He emphasised that the CFP does not plan to expand from four teams.

Steve Swindell, MLB Senior Manager, Security Operations, gave an upbeat review of how all teams and their stadiums are focused on credentials, pre-field access, perimeter security & Gates, administration & club oversight, with safety & security training for all club staff, with a focus on counter-terrorism.

Also providing optimistic updates were Jeff Jarnecke, Director, NCAA Championships & Alliances; and Brent Delgado, MLS Director of Alliances.

Andrea Schultz, Deputy Director, DHS Office of SAFETY Act Implementation, gave an

excellent update on “International Warfare & the SAFETY Act” with a focus on how DHS is working with stadia and arenas to limit their liability from acts of terrorism.

Her talk was followed by a comprehensive session on “Emerging Trends in Stadium Security”, moderated by Rob Gatto, Manager, Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton, ON.

Panelists included key security vendors Russell Mucklow, Aware Manager; Scott Meyers, ISS 24/7; Ed O’Brien, CLEAR; Steve Sandoval, Tyco Simplex Grinnell; and John Pearce, AMK9. Each detailed their newest products and services designed to help all sports venue operators provide the best possible security for their fans.

Among afternoon breakouts, one of most interesting was a “Green Stadiums Update,” introduced by Joe Abernathy, VP, Stadium Operations, St. Louis Cardinals.

He highlighted the Green Sports Alliance that will have its annual summit June 27-29 at the NBA Sacramento (CA) Kings’ new Golden One Center.

Ryan Coker, National Institute of Building Sciences, established by Congress in 1974, introduced first results of an EPA-funded study of “Advancing Energy & Water Efficiency in Sports Venues”.

The first day ended with the newly formed SMA Women’s Leadership Committee get-together for all female members to discuss how best to support and encourage more women leaders in the stadium industry.

Exclusive report from PSAM’s US correspondent, Steve Traiman, at the SMA event in Huntington Beach, California.