By R.V. Baugus
I have a side gig serving as the high school football public address announcer for the Irving Independent School District. We have three high schools that I call games for, depending on which one is playing at home on any given week. I pray that we will have high school football this fall with fans in attendance as I prepare for my sixth year.
I love my side gig, but I hate that the support for the three local schools is not greater. I feel for the kids on the field who give their all, as well as the band, cheerleaders, drill team, and really anyone involved with the production of the game.
I say all of this because many a night I am bellowing about a touchdown or an interception that I wish was heard by more fans in the stands. But what to do, what to do?
Both here in the United States as well as abroad, discussions are taking place or verdicts have been rendered about pumping in fake crowd noise to give sporting contests a feel of, well, having someone in the crowd, even if it is to call a guy a bum. Just kidding on that, I think. I hope the crowd noise is restricted to just that — crowd noise.
A couple of weeks ago I blogged about how World Wrestling Entertainment began using a plexiglass barrier around the ring and how that might be utilized going forward once venues are able to return to some sort of capacity. For the first few weeks of the live Monday Night RAW show that has emanated from the company’s training center in Orlando, it was just the wrestlers, the announcers, and the referee. It was cool in the sense that you could hear every person’s voice in any given match, but odd in the sense that was all you could hear.
Now, behind the plexiglass stand men and women training at the WWE performance center as they work their way up to the big time. Like fans in any arena hosting a live Monday Night RAW, these “fans” wear T-shirts of various wrestling talent, cheer and boo as arena fans would and, yes, throw out the occasional “you suck” to a villain wrestler.
It’s not a full arena, obviously, but it’s not fake crowd noise either.
Abroad, plans have been outlined to enhance the viewing experience in football’s Spanish LaLiga and English Premier League, which are both set to return to action this month.
LaLiga, which organizes the top two divisions of Spanish football, has revealed that matches will “look and sound different,” with the virtualization of stands and fan audio among the initiatives planned for viewers watching on television. New camera positions will also provide viewers with fresh images. LaLiga’s official production partner Mediapro will help implement the new initiatives.
The virtualized stand feature will be offered to LaLiga’s international broadcasters and will provide to-scale images of seated fans wearing the colors of the home club. LaLiga has teamed up with Norwegian company VIZRT to develop this experience. When the match is stopped, the image of fans can be transformed into a canvas that matches the color of the home team.
Virtual sound will also be featured through a collaboration with EA Sports’ FIFA game as part of a project called ‘Sounds of the Stands.’ The audio library of EA, which was recorded in real stadia, has been used and digitally adapted so that it can be applied in real time during matches. The sound can be adapted to the flow of the game as certain situations occur, such as a goal or a foul.
Some cameras will also shift their location to positions where they would previously have affected the sightline of fans in the stands. For example, the aerial camera will modify its flight path to offer new shots, while the bench camera will be moved to the opposite stand and robotic cameras will be used in the tunnel for health safety reasons.
Talk about making lemonade out of lemons!
For our industry, though, to become fully healthy again, we know that we need fans in the stands, on the exhibit floor, in the seats, to get us back to where we need to be. But as sports prepare around the globe to play in some fashion or another, until we get to that point let’s thank technology for helping create as much of a real experience as possible.
Australia’s largest live event businesses has announced the formation of the Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF) to ensure fans can return safely to live entertainment, music, theatre, festivals, and sport events following the industry’s complete shutdown due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions.
LEIF’s mission is to support the COVIDSafe reactivation of events with live audiences across Australia as restrictions are eased from July. LEIF will put in place a comprehensive, flexible, all-of-industry re-opening and risk management strategy that meets the needs of the public, Governments, sporting bodies, venues performers and industry, with safety at its core.
LEIF has been formed by Australia’s biggest promoters of entertainment and sport, venue managers, and key peak bodies. LEIF’s executive committee includes the bosses of TEG, Live Nation, Frontier Touring, Chugg Entertainment, AEG, WME, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Sydney Cricket Ground, Marvel Stadium, Melbourne Olympic Parks, Adelaide Oval, ASM Global, Venues West, Venues Live, Michael Cassel Group, Live Performance Australia, Venue Management Association, and the Australian Festivals Association.
The executive committee has appointed veteran sports administrator and former Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland to lead the development of LEIF’s strategy as chair. The Forum will work in conjunction with governments, sporting bodies, venues, and audiences to build confidence in the industry’s preparedness to operate safely, flexibly, and sustainably and explore how industry can be supported by Governments during its gradual return.
LEIF will develop industry-wide measures regarding cleaning and sanitisation, crowd management, physical distancing plans, health monitoring, and contact tracing. The objective is to safely restart an industry which supports over 175,000 Australian jobs and feeds other sectors hit hard by COVID-19 such as tourism, transport, and hospitality.
Releasing this statement on behalf of LEIF, James Sutherland said: “This pandemic has brought our industry to a complete standstill. The thousands of cancelled sporting events, concerts, festivals, theatre, family, and comedy shows, and all the associated revenues related to them, can never be replaced.
“Our industry was the first to close during COVID-19 and it will be one of the last to fully re-open. The cultural, creative, and sports industries supports the livelihoods of around 175,000 Australians, many of whom are casual or part time. The industry also contributes an estimated $150 billion to the Australian economy*. Our live events have a huge economic flow on effect: we support jobs in airlines and other transport companies, hotels, pubs, restaurants, and retail establishments of all sizes all over Australia.
“We need a clear roadmap to get our industry back to work, while playing a bigger role in the post COVID-19 economic recovery of our nation. We are committed to working with all States and Territories, especially with their Chief Medical and Health Officers. We will develop COVIDSafe best practices and a world-leading response to revive our industry, get people back to work and bring fans back together throughout Australia through the unbeatable power of live events.”
Geoff Jones (pictured), CEO of TEG, said: “Our industry has to work together at this challenging time. We must put aside our natural competitive instincts so we can all bring large-scale live events back to the Australian people safely. We want to work closely with the Federal, State and Territory Governments to create solutions that get our industry up and running again and help get the many thousands of people who support our industry back to work. We want to bring fans back and jobs back, safely.
“Live entertainment and sport at scale is the beating heart of Australian culture. From footy Grand Finals to outdoor festivals and from The Ashes series to stadium concerts like FIRE FIGHT AUSTRALIA, the live experience unites us with our fellow Australians and lifts spirits as no other experience can. We are all committed to bringing back live in a COVIDSafe manner.”
Roger Field, CEO of Live Nation Australasia said: “Live events and mass gatherings are not solely for recreational purposes – they play a crucial part in the fabric of Australian life.
“Just as sport plays an important role in promoting healthy behaviours, so too do music and the performing arts. The positive impact culture brings to society is not only seen both psychologically and in social well-being, but in the fact that the live events industry contributes hundreds of thousands of jobs, which flows on and effects the whole economy. I am proud that we stand united to work together to make the return to events a reality and for the people of Australia to enjoy the power of live once again.”
Leif Executive Committee Members:
Andrew Daniels, CEO, Adelaide Oval SMA
Daryl Kerry, CEO, ANZ Stadium, Venues Live
David Etherton, CEO, Venues West
Dion Brant, COO, Frontier Touring/Chugg Entertainment/AEG Presents
Evelyn Richardson, CEO, Live Performance Australia
Geoff Jones, CEO, TEG / TEG Dainty / Ticketek
Harvey Lister, Chairman and Chief Executive, ASM Global
John Harnden, Chief Executive, Melbourne & Olympic Parks Trust
Julia Robinson, CEO, Australian Festival Association
Kerrie Mather, CEO, SCG Trust
Michael Cassel, CEO/Producer, Michael Cassel Group
Roger Field, CEO, Live Nation Australasia
Steve Harper, Chair, Venue Management Association
Stuart Fox, CEO, Melbourne Cricket Club/Melbourne Cricket Ground
Travis Auld, Chief Financial Officer and General Manager of Clubs and Broadcasting, AFL
The live music business in Japan, which has felt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic since February, could be up and running without capacity restrictions from August 1, although social distancing requirements will remain in place. Japan ended its state of emergency at the end of May, laying out plans for the country’s gradual reopening, including those for “mass gatherings.”
According to an estimate by entertainment service provider Pia, by the time of lifting the state of emergency, around 150,000 concerts had been cancelled in Japan, with a loss of 330 billion yen (€2.7 bn). Concerts are now allowed to take place with up to 100 attendees at indoor venues and up to 200 if held outdoors.
From June 19, the capacity limit will be increased to 1,000, further expanding to 5,00 from July 10.
If the virus has been kept under control by the start of August, the government may remove capacity limitations, effectively allowing shows of any size to take place.
However, in order to comply with social distancing rules, indoor venues should still operate at no more than 50% of usual capacity. Organisers of outdoor events are advised to ensure a distance of two metres is maintained between attendees and staff “if possible.”
In Tokyo, the government is asking smaller live music venues to remain closed until it has completed stage three of its reopening plan. Currently in phase two of reopening, the city is allowing events of up to 100 people take place in larger venues.
In March, dance music promoter Mindgames urged bars and nightclubs to shut their doors to prevent the spread of the virus as venues, particularly those in Tokyo, were identified as high-risk spaces.
IOWA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE
G. Theaters and Performance Venues: Any theater or performance venue at which motion pictures are shown or live performances are held may reopen or remain open, but only to the extent that the theater complies with the following requirements:
(1) Social distancing: The theater or performance venue must ensure at least six feet of physical distance between each group or individual attending alone when seated in the theater.
(2) Other social distancing, hygiene, and public health measures: The theater shall also implement reasonable measures under the circumstances of each theater to ensure social distancing of employees and customers, increased hygiene practices, and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 consistent with guidance issued by the Iowa Department of Public Health and, for any food service, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.
H. Race tracks: A speedway or race track, including a track conducting horse or dog races, may reopen or continue its operations, provided that the establishment complies with the following requirements:
(1) Social distancing: The establishment must ensure at least six feet of physical distance between each group or individual attending alone when seated.
(2) Other social distancing, hygiene, and public health measures: The establishment shall also implement reasonable measures under the circumstances of each establishment to ensure social distancing of employees and customers, increased hygiene practices, and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 consistent with guidance issued by the Iowa Department of Public Health and, for any food or beverage service, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.
GEORGIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE
Conventions of 100 or more people can begin July 1 subject to additional rules, such as screening guests for COVID-19 symptoms and staggering registration and gathering times.
Sports and live performance venues that hold less than 1,000 people will be subject to a number of restrictions, such as limiting people in all areas including private suites, and putting empty seats between patrons “to the extent practicable.” But the largest sports venues, which host more than 5,000 people, are subject only to the rules their professional, college or high school sports league has imposed. Kemp also says he’s suspending any other regulation which might prevent sports leagues from operating.
Drive-in performances where people stay in or near their cars aren’t subject to the performance venue rules.
MGM RESORTS INTERNATIONAL
On the heels of reopening its first three Las Vegas properties, MGM Resorts International announced it will add several of its resorts in the weeks ahead. Luxor and The Shoppes at Mandalay Bay Place will reopen on June 25 at 10 am PST. They will be followed by ARIA at 10 am PST, and Mandalay Bay, Four Seasons Las Vegas at 11 am PST on July 1.
“It was exciting and emotional to see the energy in Las Vegas last week as we welcomed back our employees and reopened our doors to guests for the first time in months,” said Bill Hornbuckle, MGM Resorts’ Acting CEO and President. “Our guests are having a great time and are thrilled to be back in the city they love. We are eager to get more of our employees back to work and enhance the Las Vegas experience with additional resorts.”
Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Four Seasons Las Vegas, and ARIA join Bellagio, MGM Grand and New York-New York, which opened earlier this month, and Excalibur, which is opened on June 11.
The Swiftel Center in Brookings, South Dakota, fully re-opened the facility to the public on Monday, June 8. In preparation, the administrative team has worked closely with the City of Brookings leadership and VenuWorks leadership as well as public health professionals at Brookings Health System to create a comprehensive health safety program based on the most effective health safety practices currently available.
The Swiftel Center actively strives to maintain a facility that provides a diverse, exceptional and positive guest experience including providing a clear and transparent safety program to our guests. It is crucial for all Swiftel Center services to meet and exceed health guidelines, continuing to provide “MIDWEST HOSPITALITY AT ITS BEST” and ensuring guests can come back with confidence.
MICHIGAN GOVERNOR’S OFFICE
Indoor arcades, bowling alleys, cinemas, climbing facilities, convention centers, meeting halls, night clubs, performance spaces, sports arenas, theaters, outdoor concert spaces, race tracks, sports arenas, stadiums and similar venues re-opened Wednesday, June 10, in the Upper Peninsula and Traverse City Region.
Please share information about re-opening dates for public assembly venues by sending to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Kristina Barnes and Clare LePan
The Calgary Stampede and development partner Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) unveiled the design for the expansion of the BMO Convention Centre – Calgary’s premier meetings and convention venue since 1982. This visually stunning expansion, valued at $500 million, will significantly grow and modernize the facility and enable Calgary to host major conventions on a global scale.
Last year, the Calgary Stampede and CMLC carried out a rigorous competitive process to select the internationally recognized design team now leading this transformation—Stantec, Populous and S2 Architecture. These firms, valued for their complementary experience and proven collaborative approach on major projects, have spent the past 12 months crafting a world-class design for a revamped BMO Centre that’ll enable Calgary to compete with major convention destinations the world over.
Dana Peers, President & Chairman of the Calgary Stampede Board, shares his excitement about this milestone project. “Calgary’s citizens are world-renowned for their community spirit and their drive to achieve great things,” Peers said. “When complete in 2024, the expanded BMO Centre will provide Calgary and southern Alberta a significant platform for economic diversification through growth in both the convention and tourism industries.”
Calgary Stampede CEO, Warren Connell, adds, “This project would not be possible without the support of our three orders of government, and we thank them for the opportunity to undertake this important project to support economic diversification and job creation for our region.” The BMO Centre will be the largest conference facility in western Canada (and the country’s second largest after Toronto’s) and will launch Calgary as a bona fide competitor in the international meetings and conventions industry.
“The Government of Canada is making historic investments in infrastructure projects that create jobs in the short term and support significant growth for the local economy. The BMO Centre’s expansion will help drive tourism activity in Calgary and generate more foot traffic for local businesses in and around Stampede Park,” said the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. “I am pleased to be a partner in this important project and look forward to continue working together to build a better, more prosperous, and more resilient Alberta and Canada.”
The raw numbers are impressive—over 1 million square feet of total floor space, including 350,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, and more than double its current rentable area—but more important, the new facility will espouse, inside and out, today’s best practices in premier conference facility design. The interior spaces will be ample and adaptable; meeting rooms will be wired for instant connectivity; flexible breakout areas will facilitate those all-important human connections; and outdoor spaces will invite attendees to experience the natural surroundings, diverse amenities and western hospitality Calgary is rightfully famous for.
“As we prepare Calgary for the future, solidifying our role as the ultimate host city will be a major driver of jobs and economic activity. The expanded BMO Centre is going to be a major draw for tourism and travel,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “From design to function, I’m confident this building will capture the attention of event organizers from around the world, creating opportunities for our local economy for decades to come.”
The BMO Centre expansion is significant also for being a keystone project set to catalyze the transformation of east Victoria Park into Calgary’s Culture & Entertainment District.
“This project defines an incredibly important phase in realizing the Calgary Stampede’s and CMLC’s long-term vision for east Victoria Park and Stampede Park,” says Kate Thompson, CMLC president and CEO. “The mission shared by the whole BMO project team—Together we will design a world-class facility that celebrates Calgary, captures the Stampede Spirit, connects the city with the Rivers District and activates the site all year long—speaks to this commitment.”
“An expanded BMO Centre will bring new energy, talent, and revenue into our city while adding another world-class attraction to the area,” Thompson said. “This design reveal is confirmation that our vision for the city’s Culture & Entertainment District is truly coming to fruition—and I couldn’t be prouder of what the team has accomplished so far.”
The announcement comes at a time when, in a typical year, Calgary would be preparing to host the world at the annual 10-day community celebration. Although the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the cancellation of the 2020 edition of the Calgary Stampede, all project partners remain fully committed to the project and enthusiastic about the opportunities it heralds for the city.
“This exciting project will not only enhance the world-class infrastructure in Calgary but will create jobs in this city when they are needed most. Once complete, this upgrade will continue to positively impact the Calgary economy, as conventions and events from around the world take advantage of the BMO Centre, creating jobs and supporting the hospitality sector,” said Jason Kenny, Premier of Alberta.
Kristina Barnes is Manager, Communications & Media Relations, for the Calgary Stampede, and Clare LePan is Vice President, Marketing and Communications, CMLC.
By Stacie Bauer
In times of such great uncertainty and social distancing, event organizations worldwide are relying on technology to rethink their events and bring live events back safely. It is important, now more than ever, that event professionals invest in learning technology and best practices applicable to the industry to prepare for the future.
Ungerboeck recognizes this and is pleased to announce the launch of its role-based certification program. This is open to all Ungerboeck customers. These certifications are designed to validate that event professionals have globally recognized skills and abilities with the Ungerboeck platform required for a given role in their industry.
Ungerboeck has developed 4 certification paths that consist of passing a series of exams to earn certification in a specific event field:
• Venue Sales & Operations
These certification paths are tiered based on proficiency level from Associate, to Professional, to Administrator.
“The digital transformation of events businesses has always been important but never before has the use and learning of technology been so imperative to the future of the industry. Two of the most important elements of success with technology are learning and change management. We are thrilled to be offering high quality online learning and a certification program that gives our customers and their employees the tools they need to ensure success in their digital journey. We are very excited and overwhelmed with the customer response received so far,” said Manish Chandak, President & CEO of Ungerboeck.
With a growing need for professionals to keep their skills up to date in a very competitive environment, the Ungerboeck Certification program offers event professionals the opportunity to stand out and advance their career at the time they need it the most.
Ungerboeck is offering complimentary access to their Associate Level Certification Program and unlimited online learning to all their customers until 31st December 2020.
Request access here.
Stacie Bauer is Event & Sponsorship Coordinator, Marketing, at Ungerboeck.