The 2015 US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center enjoyed record attendance on Opening Day. 61,392 fans made their way through the turnstiles, and I had the pleasure of being there for the experience.

I think the success of this event from a ticket sales standpoint has to do partly with the uniqueness of the event grounds. The Center is comprised of two stadiums, the Grandstand, fourteen additional courts, five practice courts, two plazas for dining and shopping, and a hospitality pavilion. Fans can purchase tickets to one of the main stadiums or just enjoy a grounds pass. For this reason, while matches were going on in Arthur Ashe, plenty of fans remained outside of the stadium, watching other matches in person or eating and drinking while watching matches on big screens.

While this set up may be unique, I think other sports and events would benefit from adopting a similar approach. Some teams are already trying to mimic this concept at their stadium/venue. For example, Mississippi State has plans to open premium tailgating suites near their football stadium. These suites will include TVs, restrooms, appliances and more.

Many stadiums/venues offer a Fan Zone outside of the venue, but should look to expand those offerings. Then, those who do not have a ticket to enter the stadium might still be drawn to the stadium grounds.

The benefits of adopting a ‘grounds’ approach are plentiful. The team/event can increase fan engagement by increasing the number of connections the team makes with its fans. Furthermore, having a ‘grounds’ atmosphere makes an event more than a game – it becomes a whole gameday experience. Also, of course, the hosting team benefits by being able to draw additional revenue from new onsite purchases. Several value-added services that could help a property create a more ‘grounds-like’ atmosphere include:

• Hosting youth league games/competitions near the venue before the event to engage fans earlier
• Creating a park-like plaza viewing area near the stadium/arena with a big-screen TV, food/dining options and seating
• Offering tailgating add-on services like the use of a game zone with ping-pong tables and/or pool, and food trucks to purchase from

What do you think could add value to the pre-event experience at your favorite team’s facility? Let Christina know!

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