Improving communities through sport

Best Practices for Pre-Opening a New Sports Facility

They are all there; the mayor, city councilmen, prominent business owners, and so many excited faces from the community. All waiting for that moment when the ribbon is cut and a venue that will come to define their community opens its doors. There is no more of an exciting time than when a new sports, recreation, or event center hosts its grand opening. However, ensuring that this day and every day after is special requires a plan and the efforts of a strong and knowledgeable team.

At the Sports Facilities Companies, we offer start-up operational services in which we perform all the tasks necessary to ensure that your facility is striving towards operational efficiency and a full roster of events or programming upon opening. These tasks include recruiting, hiring and training staff, establishing brand and marketing campaigns, and establishing back of house systems such as HR and finance. Aided by a comprehensive pre-opening checklist, we meticulously cover every detail of opening a sports, event, or recreation venue.

Through this work, we’ve established several best practices to consider when in the pre-opening phase of facility development. Through these processes and many others, we’ve been able to prime numerous award-winning facilities for success.

Find a General Manager as Soon as Possible

While you certainly don’t want to rush this hire (or any hire) this one sets the tone for how the facility will be run. The GM is the cultural and business development leader of your facility and will provide direction on all functions, including operations and customer service. The process of hiring a GM takes about 3-6 months but is well worth it if you find an individual who will immerse themselves in all aspects of the facility business and become the face of the venue.

Don’t Wait to Start Business Development

One of the most important rules to follow in business development for facilities is the sooner you start, the sooner you start seeing results. Sports, event, and recreation facilities represent a major investment and there will be a high level of urgency to see a return on that investment, regardless of your definition of success. While your facility is still under construction, build your brand, your business development team, and your strategy. Start working with event rights holders to book events and start building partnerships within in the community for sponsorships.

Create a List

Preparing your facility for opening encompasses a wide list of actions that will take a great deal of coordination in order to complete on time and on budget. At the SF Companies, we have a comprehensive checklist of every step of the pre-opening process. This list is similar to a Gantt Chart and allows us to track progress on a variety of items including:

  • Business development
  • Marketing and brand development
  • Developing a staff
  • Operational systems set-up
  • Events and programming
  • Grand opening event planning
  • Information technology
  • Financial systems set-up
  • Legal and risk management

Start with a Soft Opening

It’s difficult to perform at optimal efficiency on day one. Mistakes are going to be made. Procedures are going to require fine tuning. And because first impressions are critical, consider doing a soft opening prior to a larger grand opening. This will give your staff a few weeks to warm up before hosting a big, publicized event. Your soft opening should be about 4-6 weeks prior to a grand opening to work out operational kinks and prepare for your guests.

To learn more about how we guide communities from vision to opening day and beyond contact us today at 727-474-3845. 

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