At VenueConnect 2011, IAVM’s annual conference and tradeshow, the SMG managed BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. was presented one of the Association’s most prestigious awards – the Venue Excellence Award (VEA). This yearly award recognizes the best of the best in venue management in arenas, convention centers, stadiums and performing arts halls. Criteria for winning include demonstrated excellence in the management and operation of a public assembly venue including: providing staff with team-building and professional development; safety and security training; and demonstrating service to the community.
We spoke with John Bolton, CFE, General Manager of the BOK Center and IAVM’s incoming Board Chairman, about the BOK’s 2011 Venue Excellence Award for arenas, what it took to win and how the win has impacted his venue.
What was the VEA application process like?
John Bolton: It was difficult. It was really hard to figure out how to answer the questions. The first year that we applied we didn’t have the record keeping in place to answer the questions and think about all the things we had done the prior year that would make sense to be in the document. It was easier the second year because we had the framework of the questions to remember to document the things as they happen for the application. If you don’t keep a good record of what you’ve done you tend to forget and you move on to the next thing you’re trying to accomplish.
Once you see your application compiled all in one place it must be very rewarding.
John Bolton: Yes, it is a collaborative process. One person heads up the application, but each director or senior manager takes different roles for their area providing input. It really highlights everyone’s accomplishments.
“If you’re a finalist or you are in that vein, you are thinking you’re the best and you want to operate like you are the best.”
Once you won the VEA, how did you let your staff and the public know?
John Bolton: We made an announcement about the award before VenueConnect and the presentation of the actual award. We had a press conference with IAVM’s CEO Dexter King, the mayor and our staff. It was a very big deal for us. Our staff ID lanyards had the award noted on them. We have a banner in our lobby above the elevator that announces our 2011 win and we keep the award in a trophy case in our main offices.
Did winning the VEA provide you the opportunity to be more innovative or to make changes and to try something new?
John Bolton: Part of the BOK’s vision is to always be the best, so to our staff and team, winning was really a confirmation of the hard work we’ve been doing. It made people believe that what they’ve been doing was contributing to something positive that the industry recognized. It probably made us maybe do some things we hadn’t done before, but really just to fully document, take pictures of all the stuff we were doing, and keep a record of our accomplishments.
You obviously have a very accomplished staff in place. How has winning the award impacted new hires to your staff?
John Bolton: Absolutely it made a difference. In fact, we have 400 to 500 part-time employees and they all have the lanyard saying “We are the best – 2011 Venue Excellence Award Winner.” So they all take that pride with them. It makes our staff remember that we are the best and we have to act like we are the best. It inspires everyone to continue that theme. Most of the top arenas – if you’re a finalist or you are in that vein, you are thinking you’re the best and you want to operate like you are the best. Even if you don’t win, and you’re in the top three nominees your boss, the mayor, you client think “Oh wow that is pretty awesome, they are great.”
Winning the Venue Excellence Award provides great recognition and allows the BOK to celebrate that we are the best in the world. It is a huge deal for us.
We congratulate the SMG managed BOK Center and all of the previous nominees and winners from each sector for their Venue Excellence Awards. We look forward to the upcoming set of VEA applications and encourage all of our member venues to apply. The nomination window closes April 15. Click here to learn more.