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The uncertainty of today’s post-pandemic environment makes data-driven decisions more important than ever. Intuition and anecdotal evidence alone won’t suffice; franchise and venue owners must leverage multifaceted industry data to ensure long-term project success. Guidance in the form of sound estimating, objective problem solving, and ROI-focused insights will contribute to strong capital investments.
Analytics is not a new concept within the sports industry. Teams have been using data to make strategic business, player-personnel, and gameplay decisions for years. Similarly, experienced construction companies rely heavily upon historical cost, schedule, and material databases to estimate project budgets and timelines. However, this data only offers fragmented insights throughout the nuanced sports facility construction process. It is in the understanding of successes, failures, opportunities, and deficiencies of peer facilities from a design and construction lens that is compelling – and can be the differentiator that sets a facility apart from the competition.
FINDING THE OPTIMAL MIX
Facilities are comprised of a diverse mix of seating products, experiences, ticketing options, operational needs, and revenue-generating spaces – each unique to their own stakeholder goals, market, and budget. The vast collection of building elements – all of which influence the final venue product and performance – bear their own project implementation costs. To best optimize a facility’s program, comprehensive data must be considered.
For example, different markets have different needs for premium spaces. Some have more demand for mass general admission and family areas, requiring a bigger commissary for food storage and concession services. Others may have a higher demand for communal areas with bar rails, resulting in larger concourses and plazas with open views of the playing field. Choosing how much to invest in each of these areas will have a range of financial implications – both short- and long-term. By leveraging market data and construction insights, stakeholders can make sound business decisions that positively impact ROI.
THE DATA IS IN THE DETAILS
Mortenson, a leading sports facility construction company in the United States, has doubled down on data. Its ever-expanding database infrastructure catalogs key variables vital to sports facility development. Inputs represent material, labor, and equipment costs aggregated from trade partner relationships and contractual work spanning 30 years of sports building. Data extends into design and program detail curated from historical document libraries and partnerships with sports architecture firms. Wide-ranging sports business and market data augments the built environment intelligence. Housed records of attendance, gate receipts, sponsorship value, concessions prices, team performance, ticket products, etc., contribute to facility ROI and proforma refinement. Other data encompassing socioeconomic features, consumer behavior, financing, and even weather provide valuable benchmarking and project planning insights.
Access to a robust collection of venue-specific data provides a powerful advantage to forward-thinking customers. Capital expenditures can be validated alongside key business implications, and dynamic and timely decision-making throughout the development planning process can deliver bottom-line value to team and facility stakeholders.
THE STATE OF THE STADIUM
The sports venue landscape has undergone immense growth and innovation. Building variances between leagues, markets, venue types, regions, and project budgets are indisputable. On the heels of the Nashville Soccer Club’s GEODIS Park grand opening, it’s timely to highlight the rapid evolution of MLS soccer-specific venues over the past 10+ years.
There is a 280,000 SF2 size range between the largest and smallest MLS stadiums built over the last decade. Considering each was constructed to showcase a synonymous, core entertainment product (professional soccer) demonstrates the league’s explosive growth.
What’s more, decisions made within that 280,000 SF2 range have real business and cost implications. There are different ways to produce a facility that showcases an MLS product, and by leveraging facility intelligence that analyzes how square footage is used in combination with robust cost estimating, stakeholders can make astute decisions for the league, community, and business.
GEODIS Park – the largest soccer-specific stadium in Major League Soccer history – despite the pandemic, finished under budget and seven weeks early. GEODIS Park is large, not due to superfluous structure or building program, but rather the number of seats the venue holds. In fact, GEODIS Park is efficient in allocating building square footage to the number of programmed seats. Additionally, the volume and stratification of premium offerings across suites, loge boxes, and club seating sits towards the top of league benchmarks.
GSF/Seat captures the amount of building space put in place to accommodate event goers and operational needs
Healthy league adoption, attendance growth, market strength, and venue trending data allowed the team to analyze the cost/returns tradeoff of having the largest seating capacity in Major League Soccer. What’s more, early recognition of cost savings and efficiencies for GEODIS Park, identified across the most expensive scopes of construction work, allowed for the team to be more opportunistic in its scope/budget planning – and deliver upon myriad stakeholder expectations. One specific example was identifying the canopy design and size as a significant cost premium. By evaluating alternate canopy designs that reduced size without sacrificing fan experience and comfort, a significant amount of money was saved in the budget.
Mortenson built venues apply early facility analysis with construction cost inputs to maximize building outcomes.
When investing in a new facility, franchise owners are faced with a host of considerations. From square footage to seating products to ticketing strategy and revenue-generating spaces – each venue solution is unique to its market, tenant(s) and stakeholders. These solutions must align with a precise management plan across cost estimating, planning, scheduling, trade partner procurement and oversight, systems integration, and building execution for maximum effectiveness.
As sports facility capital expenditures accelerate and expectations elevate, data will become increasingly necessary to make better, more informed decisions on stadium investments. Mortenson’s continued advancement and application of a data-centric approach has cultivated a new perspective in sports construction management that will impact sports venues for years to come.