Paul Turner, CFE, is the senior director of event operations for AT&T Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. Yes, that stadium that carries with it a hypnotizing effect thanks to its grandeur. It is a stadium that offers so much more than just the event taking place on the stadium’s floor, be that NFL football or any other number of events that line up to play there.
“Our product is the experience and memories,” Turner said during IAVM’s GuestX at a session entitled Enhancing the Guest Experience Beyond the Event. “Our product is different for each of our customers. Yours is too. We give you an experience and we can’t recreate that experience. It is unique to everyone who comes into a venue.
“I like to say that we have first time, last time experiences. You are making a first impression or a last impression for people. I remember when my dad turned 86 and could just no longer go to a game. It broke his heart to miss something that he loved so much.”
Turner said that enhancing experiences are created by facilities and also programs and activities.
On the facility side, tailgating is an obvious for several stadium and arena venues. He noted that AT&T Stadium’s lots have perimeters of grass suitable for tailgating that do not take up other parking space. Additional outdoor plazas on the east side and west side of the stadium combine for seven acres of fans enjoying making memories and experiences.
Turner noted how other facilities in recent years have seized the opportunity as well, with San Diego’s Petco Park creating “Major League Memories” for fans and BC Place in Vancouver creating “Make Amazing Happen” following a 2011 renovation. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans created an outdoor Champions Plaza after the venue reopened in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina.
“Now, our footprint is creeping outside our stadiums,” Turner said. “U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis was built with a huge public park at its doorstep.”
Then there is EverBank Field in Jacksonville, home to the NFL Jaguars, which has a swimming pool within the stadium complete with lifeguard.
Programs and activities also greatly enhance the guest experience.
“We keep our Miller Lite Corral open two hours after the game,” Turner said. “It is a way to extend our event, a way for people to have a drink and allow traffic to clear.”
Turner cited other examples such as pre-game field passes, Field Club access and a high-five line for fans. “Many of these ideas aren’t ground-breaking, but they are relevant to the guest experience,” he said.
While all of the enhancements add to the guest experience, Turner emphasized the importance of paying attention to the basics.
“You have to remember the essentials,” he said. “Get back to some of the basics and control what you can control. Examine your status quo. The basics must come before distractions. Walk your building through the eyes of your guests. Pay attention to details. These things may not sound as exciting as some of the other experiences we have talked about, but they have to be done first.”