Lived & Learned — 10 Things to Ask When Booking a Sports Venue!

Location, Location, Location! While it is true in real estate, it is equally true in selecting a venue or fields for your event. Along with location, however, many other factors play into helping you create a successful event. Many of the negative things that could happen to an event can be avoided if you just ask the right questions during the contract negotiations:

1 — WHAT OTHER SPORTING EVENTS WILL BE HELD AT THIS VENUE/FIELDS 30 DAYS BEFORE AND AFTER MY POTENTIAL EVENT DATE?

Teams like to attend NEW destinations.If you select a venue that has the same type of event hosted there just before or after you, the team will likely select one of them to attend and but not both.I learned to put a 30 day clause in all of my contracts that blocks the venue from hosting a “same sport event” that would complete with my event 30 days before or 30 days following my event. Ultimately this clause is beneficial for you and the venue/fields because the event will continue to grow due to the unique location you provide the teams.If both events and many events were in the same venue/fields it would split the attendance and all events would be smaller and may move to another location.This creates larger events for you and longevity of your event for the venue/fields.

2 — WHAT OTHER EVENTS WILL BE TAKING PLACE WITHIN A 20 MILE RADIUS ON MY EVENT DATES?

  • This is very important information to be aware of. For example, if there is a large city wide event over your dates, you may get a great rate for your venue but your attendees will have limited or no hotel rooms available for your event. If they do find any, they will likely be a good distance away and at an inflated rate due to the demand on those dates.
  • Other events held on the same dates can also affect many other things such as traffic, road closures (i.e. marathons), parking, over-crowding, etc.
  • Make sure you are working with the local CVB or Sports Bureau to find out this information. It is not likely that the venue location will have this information. Do your homework it will pay off!

3 — IN ADDITION TO THE RENTAL PRICE, CAN YOU PROVIDE ME WITH A BREAKDOWN OF ALL OTHER FEES I WILL BE CHARGED?

  • Many facilities will charge additional fees – many of which you may not be expecting. In some cases, you may even get charged for services such as cleaning the venue in between each event day! Make sure to get all of these additional fees in writing prior to signing the contract. Look for the following items: Security, Local Police & Fire Department, Custodian, Parking, Production, Rigging, Ticket Takers, Hosts, Package Handling/Delivery and any Union Requirements. The best thing to do is to give the venue or CVB the intended schedule of your event and ask for a full cost sheet with a breakdown of each expense along with a total number that you should expect to pay following the event. Make sure the venue and your event manager signs off on that estimated cost so you have ammunition if there are any additions or changes. This is how most event budgets get blown!

4 — ARE WE REQUIRED TO USE YOUR VENDORS FOR ANY SPECIFIC SERVICES?

  • Some venues have preferred vendors to handle certain needs such as, set up, production, food service, security, ticketing and even hanging your signs! Be sure to not only identify these vendors that you would be required to use, also make sure that their fees are listed out in writing and a part of your full cost breakdown. Remember that everything is negotiable and adjustable. For instance, if you must use their vendor to hang signs, see if it is more affordable for you to purchase pop up signage that would be ground bound and avoid that expense. These signs could be used at multiple events so while they may cost a little more now; in the long run you will be saving money.

5 — ARE THEIR ANY CHARGES OR REQUIREMENTS FOR OUR COMPANY TO HAVE VENDORS AT MY EVENT?

  • In some locations, there are licensing fees required to have a videographer or clothing/merchandise vendors. I have found that in these unique cases, you can negotiate a flat rate or avoid the fee all together if you explain what the vendors would be selling and/or advertising. If you are still required to pay a vendor fee, make sure you have accounted for that in your fees to your vendors.
  • Most venues have their own food service and do not allow additional food vendors. You can get around these sometimes by expressing that the product being sold is not sold is not an item being sold at their concessions. Also, some fundraiser companies who have food products like to offer samples. This can normally be cleared if you ask before the event. If they just show up the venue may ask them to leave putting you in a very uncomfortable position.

6 — HOW MANY HOTEL DOUBLE ROOMS ARE WITHIN A 10 MILE RADIUS OF THE VENUE?

  • It is very important for your attendees to have an overall great experience and one of the most important thing is a great place to sleep! Youth sporting events require mostly doubles. Many times, a city will provide their overall number of rooms which could include many king rooms that your attendees will not use. Asking this question along with finding out what else is taking place in the city is key to making sure you have the hotel inventory you need for your event.

7 — HOW MANY PARKING SPACES DO YOU HAVE FOR MY EVENT? HOW DO YOU MANAGE THIS SPACE? WHAT AREA COULD I USE FOR MY STAFF, OFFICALS AND VIP’S?

  • Parking has many variables. But, it is important to know what you have up front. It is also very important to know how this venue will manage the parking. Many tournament games will overlap. While you would have enough spaces for each game, the overlap time will need to be managed. Be sure to think through the needs of your attendees and verify that there is ample and managed space available for them. You can also negotiate staff parking passes and alleviate expensive parking costs for them throughout the duration of the event.

8 — WOULD AREA RESTAURANTS & ENTERTAIMENT PLACES IN THE AREA PROVIDE COUPONS OR DISCOUNTS FOR OUR ATTENDEES?

  • You want you event to be MORE than just a tournament! You want your attendees to receive ‘above and beyond service’ – service that includes activities after the tournament hours too! Most CVB’s have a discount program in place for local restaurants and entertainment venues. Ask what options they have. Your attendees will see the effort you have put in. You have not only made the event organized and fulfilling, but you have gone the extra mile to make sure they have great pricing, food and fun while they are at your event!

9 — IF I SIGN A MULTI-YEAR AGREEMENT WILL I BE PROVIDED A DISCOUNTED RENTAL AGREEMENT?

  • Venues want to secure guaranteed business as far in advance as they are allowed to schedule. In many cases, just asking for additional discounts will get the venue to review their proposal and give you their best offer. However, if you were to offer a multi-year contract, this will give them that extra reason to provide you with a great deal. Remember, this is an agreement of trust. You need to trust that they will do all they have said and they need to trust that you are going to have the size tournament that you indicated. Going into negotiating with a partnership mind frame will increase the comfort level on both sides.

10 — IF I MUST CANCEL THE EVENT, WHAT GUIDELINES WOULD WE NEED TO FOLLOW?

  • While no one wants to cancel an event, there are always things that can happen and would require that you cancel your event.  Make sure to completely understand your liability if you would need to cancel.  There are some situations that are out of your control like extreme weather, war or natural disaster that contracts should not require you any liability.  There should also not be liability if the venue did not follow your 30 day before and after clause or if there were a city wide that came into town that was not disclosed making your dates too hard to teams to attend.  The important thing is to know what you are agreeing to and make sure you feel comfortable with that.

After you have identified a great date for the area and are sure that there are enough teams in that area who would attend, selecting a city and venue for your sporting event is the most important part to a successful event.  After reading the above questions, you now know that the date and venue itself cannot be the only items you measure.  In my event planning years, I experienced a bad situation that related to each one of the questions/subjects above.  My hope is that what I “lived and learned” will now provide you a leg up on contracting for your next sporting event!

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