Improving communities through sport

Countdown to Ribbon Cutting: Everything that Happens Before Opening a Sports Facility

3, 2, 1, the scissors clasp firmly on the ribbon and cuts straight through as what feels like the entire town cheers on. Finally, the dream of bringing a great facility to your community is a reality and guests are excitedly pouring in to check out the new facility. Your staff is providing tremendous service and everyone from stakeholders to six-year olds have plenty of smiles to go around. The first day of your sports and recreation venue may look free and easy to outsiders, but an army of dedicated professionals poured months of effort into countless tasks to help make this moment and, ideally, many more possible. 

While the facility is being developed, the brand and operational and business development systems must be built. Staff must be hired and trained as well. This is all a part of the process we call start-up operational development. During this 12-18-month process, we perform all of the tasks that are critical to opening a successful sport, entertainment, recreational, or event venue. In this article, we will discuss the major components of start-up operational development and how they all contribute to not only the grandest of openings, but to an efficient operation that drives revenue, meets definitions of success, and delights guests.

Organizational Development

The staff is the heartbeat of any facility. This group is an extension of your brand and must be hired and trained prior to opening day. Staffing decisions start with outstanding leadership. At the SF Companies, we do an extensive national search to find the industry leader that best fits the general manager role for our SFM Network facilities. Often these women and men were leaders at other prominent facilities or demonstrated leadership abilities in their current role.

Once leadership staff is hired and trained on best practices and leadership principles, they hire the staff that will make the venue operational. It can take months to fill all staff positions, but when your guests rave about the service they receive or you reach your financial goals because of the innovative minds you put in place, it will be worth it.

Additionally, risk management, HR, and finance processes are developed during this phase.

Operational Development

Each day a myriad of processes take place to ensure that a safe, fun, and functional environment is established for guests. To accomplish this, systems must be developed and implemented. Within the start-up operational development process, daily processes for customer service, safety, cleaning, and facility and equipment maintenance are created. These processes are the difference between an operationally efficient facility that meets its goals and a dysfunctional one that struggles. The more time and thought put into these procedures, the higher level of success you will likely experience.

Marketing and Branding and Business Development

Part of building a facility that delights guests is developing campaigns and systems that drive them to your door. A critical component of start-up operational development is building a compelling brand. Creating logos, a website, marketing materials, and other graphic elements are a part of the marketing and branding process, but it goes beyond that. A brand is your promise to future guests and will inform your messaging, whether it’s online or in your facility.

Along with brand development, a marketing and business development plan is established to determine your audience and build strategies and tactics for reaching them. Whether your goal is to obtain sponsorships or fill programs such as summer camps, developing a comprehensive strategy with online components like social media and SEO is essential.

In terms of events, the earlier you start building relationships with event rights holders and tournament organizations, the better chance you have to fill your calendar by opening day. Building these relationships starts with reaching out to the event rights holders and tournament organizations in your region and can include participation in industry events. Direct outreach is effective as well as collaborating with your local destination marketing organization.

Grand Opening Preparation

Everyone loves a good party. However, this is more than table settings, food and beverage and live music. Your grand opening will set the tone for how your community receives you. It not only needs to be grand, have the right people from your community in attendance, and be flawlessly executed but it must also send the right message. For the grand opening of Panama City Beach Sports Center, kids from the local community broke through a branded banner symbolizing the opening of the complex and who it was there to serve. Build a team and spend 8-10 months planning the event. It will give your venue momentum at the start of its journey and likely garner some positive media attention.

The team at the SF Companies have built success at some the preeminent sports, event, and recreation facilities throughout the country. It’s through this experience that we create unprecedented success for our clients. We stand by you at every step and every stage of development from concept to opening day. To learn more, contact us at 727-474-3845.

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