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Shared Venue Views

02 August 2011

Take That play at Sunderland FC's Stadium of Light

A new UK association is forging closer links with FM, and giving its Venue Manager members the chance to share knowledge and best-practice

VENUES OF ALL SIZES, BOTH INDOOR AND OUTDOOR, are under increasing pressure to become multifunctional and increase revenues by extending their core purposes – and a new community for those with the responsibility of running these facilities has been established to help maximise profitability and service. The UK Venue Managers Association is committed to knowledge sharing based on collective peer support and information gathering between its members to get the best return, without wasting time and money seeking solutions that others have already found.

Their inaugural meeting was held recently at Grace Road, Leicester, the headquarters of Leicestershire County Cricket Club, and one member summed up one of the prime reasons for forming the Association.

“Last year I was told that we would be hosting a pop concert. For our entire existence we have been a one-sport venue with a stadium dedicated to meeting the demands and needs of a particular type of fan, so this was going to be quite a challenge. Thankfully I had a good relationship with the manager of a modern, multi-purpose stadium and conference centre less than half an hour’s drive away, so I was able to pick his brains and ask his advice.

“It worked out really well and was a successful event, but it would have been so much easier if I had answers to the interminable list of questions that kept popping up. That is

where the UK Venue Managers Association is going to help other venue managers who might find themselves in the position I was in. We can share solutions among ourselves and achieve excellence without too much hassle.”

The UKVMA has grown out of the former UK Stadium Managers Association but it has a major difference: the UKVMA is open for membership to venues of all sizes, and is not restricted to sports stadia. Association Director Neil Levett commented:

“We have estimated that there are roughly 500 venues in the UK who have a venue manager of the profile that we are seeking to serve and they are all, in general, working alone and in a ‘business vacuum’. What we are aiming for is a shared portal of information so that the purchasing advantages of the biggest organisations can be immediately available at the click of a computer mouse to the smallest venue where the manager is responsible for hosting a wide range of different events throughout the year.

“The range of shared interests extends much further than purchasing, cost-control and the environment. We could be looking at specific educational standards as well as targeted courses, cross-venue collaboration over licensing and legislation, and sharing knowledge of what worked and what didn’t,” he said.

Two of the leading lights in the formation of the Association are responsible for two of the UK’s Premier League grounds. Peter Weymes, who is Manager at Sunderland FC’s Stadium of Light, says: “One of the aims of the Association is to establish the same start point for the managers of smaller venues and to provide them with the advantages of managers of larger venues. They will be able to tap into the purchasing benefits of the larger buyer.

An artist's impression of the new 18,000 capacity St Helens Rugby League club stadium

Manager at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park Stadium, Eddie Rutherford added: “Within the confines of this “closed” and member-driven forum we are now able to openly discuss topics of shared interest, such as how to reduce carbon footprints and share experiences, without the influence of commercial organisations who have their own agenda”

Meet the Buyer

Alongside the xSolutions event, being held at London’s ExCel exhibition centre in October this year, there will be an opportunity for commercial interests to present their product or service in person to members of the Association. This affords an ideal opportunity for suppliers to meet the most influential decision makers in the industry – and will offer the venue managers an opportunity to meet multiple suppliers in a short period of time. PFM magazine is partnering the UKVMA in this “Meet the Buyer” initiative.

Further details are available from Association members have highlighted cost control as one of the key benefits. This works in a wide variety of ways, from purchasing power through to achieving the best service. A large complex of venues, such as those for the London Olympics 2012, has the muscle and infrastructure to negotiate the best possible deals with suppliers and now, through the network of contacts built up by the UKVMA, much smaller, single venues will be able to lock into the same buying processes. This will not only reduce costs for all users and purchasers, but will also introduce conformity of standards and quality.

Association members are also able to share their experiences of suppliers, so those that provide the best products and services at the right costs will see their businesses benefit. As Michael Lloyd of Arsenal, said: “Controlling costs and other practical matters are important. I am sure that other venues have the same problems as we do, and it is good to share solutions. This Association has immense buying power that we can, and will, all now tap into.”

Sharing solutions 1: Venue Cymru achieves ‘Green Dragon’ cut in gas use

Venue Cymru has announced that, in just two years, gas consumption at the theatre and conference centre has been reduced by over 50%.

“This is fantastic news for the theatre. A real achievement, as we are always striving to lower our carbon footprint, and this is a major step in the right direction,” said Marketing Manager, Richard Jones, a member of the UK Venue Managers Association.

As part of the Green Dragon initiative Venue Cymru have been striving to cut down on energy and fuel consumption. Green Dragon is a standard with 5 levels, which recognises effective environmental management. It looks at how the work of services and businesses affect the environment, from the waste created in offices, to ways of dealing with the waste collected.

Venue  Cymru in Llandudno - gas consumption cut by over 50% as part of the Green Dragon environmental initiative

John Owen, the Technical and Health & Safety Manager, who is leading the initiative said: “I am incredibly pleased with this result and it is a reflection of the hard work and effort put in by all staff members.”

One key factor in the large saving of energy is the recent refurbishment of the Theatre Control System which provides greater control over the boiler and heating structure of the building. Aswell as this, staff members have been enrolled on environmental awareness courses to provide information on how they can further reduce carbon emissions in the workplace.

Venue Cymru in Llandudno, Conwy, is North Wales’ leading 1500-seat theatre, restaurant, conference centre and arena complex. The venue was previously known as the North Wales Theatre and the North Wales Conference Centre. A £10.7 million project to enhance and redevelop the facilities at the then derelict site involved a new conference atrium and suite of meeting and conference rooms, plus a new 1550 square metre Arena providing a total capacity of more than 5000 for the conference centre.

Sharing solutions 2: Rugby League’s ‘Saints’ to move into conferences and exhibitions

St Helens Rugby League club – one of the giants of the sport – is leaving its tired, historic Knowsley Road stadium and moving into a new, multi-purpose venue this year and will for the first time be hosting conferences and exhibitions as well as Premier League rugby.

Stadium Manager, Phil White, is a member of the team that has managed and supervised the project from design through to completion. He says that one of the key reasons for investment in an 18,000 capacity venue is the ability to generate more income.

“We need to be operating as a business seven days a week and not just match days. At Knowsley Road, apart from the rugby we had nothing else to offer; with the new venue we are tapping into a groundswell of excitement in the town. We will always be, first and foremost, a rugby league club, but the ability to become a multi-purpose venue not only ensures our long term survival, but also breathes new life into the area,” he said.

The first phase of the development will be the new Stadium, opening in the Autumn of 2011, and a large superstore.

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