Julian Maha, M.D., founded KultureCity, the nation’s best reviewed disability nonprofit, with a special passion for his venture: his own son, who is now 10 and autistic.
“I had experience as an emergency physician and served as a medical director in Alabama,” said Dr. Maha, “but as the dad of a 10-year-old boy who is autistic and non-verbal, we started Kulture City as part of a way to help a huge population that is not able to partake of all the amazing things that our world has to offer to be able to do so.”
Maha will share some of that experience and much more as a presenter at IAVM’s GuestX, February 20-22, in Minneapolis. Specifically, the sensory inclusion initiative that makes public assembly venues inclusive for those with special needs and is being utilized today at NBA, NHL, and NFL facilities throughout the country.
“We started the company primarily because when you have a child with a disability, it’s a very fundamental isolating diagnosis,” he said. “A lot of times you are trying to figure out the right therapy for someone whose tendency is to withdraw from the community, not by choice.”
Maha shared that 1 in 5 individuals in the United States has a disability of some sort.
“Out of that 20 percent, only 16 percent have what you would call a visible disability by the Americans With Disabilities Act,” he said. “There is a huge 84 percent of the population that has what is called invisible disabilities such as autism. The list goes on and on … there is military anxiety, things like bright lights and smells that are not only overwhelming but because of a medical diagnosis can also sometimes be physically painful.
“Because of that, the tendency is to withdraw. By creating a sensory training initiative, you are basically providing venues the option to not only mitigate those things through the sensory training we provide to make their facilities more welcoming. The end result of that is from not only the social good aspect in ministering to a part of the population that has never been ministered to, but you are also enhancing the guest experience and marketing your events to 20 percent of the U.S. population that no one has ever thought about marketing to.”
Maha believes that venues are doing a good job “in the confines of what the ADA law is,” but that more can be done.
“When you look at disabilities as a whole, the fundamental challenge when you are talking about a venue is unless someone has a personal connection to the cause, why do I need to go above and beyond an ADA law?” he said. “Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. It is going to enhance the guest experience. You are going to create a much more welcoming environment. You are going to be able to understand why certain individuals are doing certain things and be able to minister to them and help them a lot better.”
Maha said a second point is that by being smart about the marketing the program, there is an opportunity to increase revenue.
“Ordinarily something might be a tough sell, but now you market it as sensory inclusive,” he said. “You can kind of cater to a population that would never be able to attend an event normally, but now because of this benefit they can buy tickets and you are enhancing your bottom line.
“The third and final thing is that you are doing it with almost no physical modifications to your venue. If there are no physical modifications, why not? Many we have worked with couple it with a nursing room. You are adding a lot more value in your whole process by doing that.”
Maha said that his company started with one arena in November 2015, but today is in 14 different NBA arenas and soon to be in five NFL stadiums. The program is also in four NHL arenas, zoos, museums, restaurants and a new contract was signed with the Pocono Raceway.
“That’s the evidence itself,” Maha said. “You look at the growth acceleration and it’s been huge. That is a testament in itself that venues have seen in partnering with us and learning more about sensory inclusion.”
The Los Angeles Convention Center and the Orange County Water District are among 13 recipients of the state’s highest environmental honor.
The Governor’s Environmental Leadership Awards, which were established in 1993, are given to individuals, organizations and businesses that have demonstrated leadership and made notable contributions to conserving the state’s resources, protecting the environment and strengthening the economy, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency.
“This year’s GEELA recipients are demonstrating exceptional leadership in addressing some of our most significant environmental challenges,” said California Secretary for Environmental Protection MatthewRodriquez. “Whether it’s fighting climate change, conserving our water supplies or reducing waste, they inspire us with their creative and collaborative approaches. Their success expands our view of what is possible. Collectively, they are proving that a healthy environment is inextricably linked with a vibrant economy.”
The OCWD was cited for its educational programs that inform the public about recycled water and its benefits, while the Convention Center was lauded for a sustainability program that has reduced waste, conserved water and cut its carbon footprint, according to CalEPA.
Other award recipients include BMW of San Diego, the only winner in the automobile dealer zero emission vehicle promotion category, for promoting the sale of zero-emission vehicles through a variety of partnerships and programs; and the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Barbara County for reducing its waste stream and lowering recycling costs.
South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa continues a long-standing relationship with Daktronics with the installation of a new state-of-the-art, four-sided video display system for the property’s Arena and Equestrian Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The new, 4-millimeter line spacing video displays replace the previous Daktronics centerhung technology installed in 2006 and nearly triples its size. The 4-millimeter spacing makes the new screen among the tightest LED resolutions of any centerhung video display in any arena in the country. The 13,797-pound display will be suspended from the ceiling of the 4,600-seat arena.
The two larger “sideline” screens measure 12.5 feet high by 21.5 feet wide while the two smaller “end zone” screens measure 14 feet high by 9.5 feet wide. In addition, the panels are comprised of 588 individual modules with a total of 2,718,912 pixels at three LEDs per pixel, totaling more than 8.1 million LEDs.
“Michael Gaughan and South Point’s relationship with Daktronics began well before the property opened in December 2005,” said Steve Stallworth, South Point Arena and Equestrian Center General Manager. “When Michael Gaughan first built the Orleans Arena he used Daktronics exclusively and purchased the first ‘ring beam’ LED fascia in Nevada at that time. When he opened the South Point, he purchased Daktronics screens for the Arena and his state-of-the-art tournament Bowling Plaza. Daktronics was the only company in the business that we trusted to provide us with the quality and experience we were looking to deliver to our guests.”
The new displays are each capable of variable content zoning, allowing each to show one large image or multiple windows of content. As a result, the system can show any combination of live video, instant replays, real-time event results and statistics, graphics and animations, and sponsorship messages.
The Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority has named Michael J. Sawaya as president and general manager of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and executive vice president of the Authority. He succeeds Robert L. “Bob” Johnson, who retired on September 25 after 10 years of service.
“We could not be more pleased with the selection of Michael Sawaya to lead our Convention Center to its next level of success,” said Melvin Rodrigue, Authority president. “He comes to New Orleans with a skill set and experiences that are the right fit at the right time. He recently led the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center through a major renovation, including the development of a convention headquarters hotel, that has shined a bright light on San Antonio as a major convention destination. The Authority had an impressive slate of candidates to choose from in a nationwide search. The Selection Committee and my fellow Commissioners were very diligent in making the right choice.”
Sawaya, a 40-year veteran of the hospitality industry, comes to New Orleans from San Antonio, TX, where he served as Executive Director of the Convention and Sports Facilities (CSF) Department for the City of San Antonio. In his role as Executive Director, he oversaw operations of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Lila Cockrell Theatre, Alamodome, and Asset Management and ground lease management for the Nelson Wolfe Baseball Stadium, Toyota Field Soccer Stadium, and the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
Sawaya’s career with the City of San Antonio began in 2003, when he was hired to merge the Convention Facilities and Alamodome departments. Most recently, he directed the $325 million expansion of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center – the largest single capital improvement project in the history of the City of San Antonio, and recently completed a $60 million renovation of the Alamodome. He served as Interim Aviation Department Director from 2008 – 2009 before returning to his role as Executive Director of the CSF Department in 2009.
Before joining the City of San Antonio, he served as General Manager of the Omni Severin Hotel in Indianapolis, IN, the Omni San Antonio Hotel, and 11 other hotels around the country. He also served as Chairman of the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Commission, President of the San Antonio Hotel and Lodging Association, as an executive committee member of the San Antonio Area Tourism Council, and on the board of directors of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.
“I am thrilled at the opportunity to lead the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and to become a part of the New Orleans community,” said Sawaya. “New Orleans’ storied reputation as a world-class city and convention destination make it the ideal fit for me and my family, and I am excited about the vision for the future that together we will execute over the course of my tenure.”
Venue Solutions Group (www.venuesolutionsgroup.com), an industry leader in operational consulting to the public assembly facility industry, announced that registration is now open for the 2018 Venue Operations Summit (www.venueopssummit.com). The Venue Operations Summit (VOS), now in its fourth year, will take place in Nashville, TN, Sunday, April 29 through Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at the Nashville Downtown Hilton
VOS is the premier industry conference for public assembly facility operations and engineering professionals. This year’s topics include leadership, risk management in housekeeping, vertical transportation maintenance, electrical system management, venue-specific Town Halls, life safety, and much more. Regardless of venue type, attendees can be assured of a program that will provide actionable information to assist them in their facility responsibilities along with very valuable networking opportunities. Keynote speakers include industry veteran Richard Andersen, CFE, who will focus on how to become a better leader.
“We have created a meaningful opportunity for venue operations and engineering staff, employees who are often overlooked when it comes to professional development,” said VSG’s Managing Partner, Russ Simons. “Engineering, maintenance, event setup, security, and housekeeping are all vital components to a successful venue, and they should have the same educational opportunities as the sales, marketing, premium and
box office staff.”
Established in 2015 and held annually in Nashville, Venue Operations Summit fills a special need for shared knowledge, best practices, and networking recognizing an integral workforce element in sports, entertainment, performing arts, and convention facilities. The Summit, spanning three days, includes general sessions and breakouts, as well as tours of local facilities and an Opening Reception for attendees to get to know each other.