September 20, 2023
By Kim Campbell

Large stadiums are known for hosting international touring concerts, professional and collegiate sports games, and other newsworthy events. Smaller arenas commonly host high school athletics, regional festivals, and annual conventions. However, stadiums can accommodate many different functions. If you only book high-profile stadium events, your business might miss out.

In this post, we’re exploring the diverse range of stadium events that prominent arenas host. We’ll dive deeper into special events, private parties, corporate functions, and other events to identify how they differ from highly promoted demand drivers and why you should start booking them. If you’re searching for exciting new stadium event ideas, planning tips, or promotional best practices, you’ve come to the right place.

Discover why you should be hosting more stadium events

What are stadium events?

Stadiums are colossal event venues that host large crowds and provide unparalleled entertainment, and anchor tenants make up a notable portion of their annual profits. Anchor tenants are seasonal bookers who confirm numerous event dates throughout the year, attracting loyal fans. Many stadiums rely on anchor tenants, like seasonal sporting events or repeat tournaments, for consistent and reliable earnings. Paired with high-profile one-off events, like superstar concerts or international conventions, they can make up a sizable portion of a stadium’s revenue streams.

Stadiums may also sell open venue space to accommodate festivals, commencement ceremonies, weddings, VIP tours, or film crews. “Rocky”, “Never Been Kissed”, “Die Hard: With a Vengeance”, and “Zombieland” are just a few box office hits that booked stadium space for iconic scenes.

While major motion picture shoots and championship games are exciting, the stadium events we really want to focus on in this piece lie outside of one-off programs and seasonal athletic schedules. In addition to newsworthy events with thousands of attendees, many stadiums provide personalized event services, which benefit the venue in ways high-demand drivers may not.

How are stadium events different from typical functions?

Special events, private parties, meetings, and other personalized events are scheduled outside of highly publicized gatherings. The stadium may host popular events and anchor tenants on high-demand dates throughout the year while booking separate functions to drive revenue during the week or off-season. Weddings, private parties, business meetings, corporate retreats, team-building events, expos, and trade shows keep the stadium running between commercial events.

Utilizing private clubs, meeting rooms, and even the field, stadiums host various functions to keep business booming in between more notable events. They can drive revenue to the areas that need it most by targeting particular market segments or creating personalized event packages. Extending private event service provides extra opportunities to drive valuable revenue to certain stadium facilities and departments, such as:  

•    Restaurants
•    Catering teams
•    Bartending
•    Retail shops

Specialized events may also occur at the same time as larger events. While a high-profile event is happening on the field, a birthday party may be taking place in another area of the stadium. As long as stadium staff can adequately manage multiple events without interrupting regular traffic flow or impeding operations, they can maximize the venue’s revenue potential by hosting separate functions simultaneously.

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Why should stadiums host events?

Organizing and executing a diverse range of events can help your venue achieve a variety of business goals. Hosting special functions, corporate events, private parties, and other non-scheduled events can benefit stadiums by:

  • Attracting new audience members. Appeal to a broader audience by expanding your event offerings. Engage non-sports-affiliated consumers by hosting private parties, cultural festivities, and other celebrations. Host resident events, like community movie nights, to connect with locals.
  • Strengthening their reputation. It’s all too easy for stadiums to gain a reputation as exclusive, luxury venues only accessible to elite associations, celebrities, or sports teams. Shake off the stereotype and appeal to community members by showcasing your business as more than an expensive sports stadium. Host charity events, offer meeting package discounts, and invite residents to tour the grounds at an open house.
  • Growing a professional partner network. Connect with future clients and meet potential sponsors by using stadium events to show what your venue can really do. Host corporate events, retreats, conventions, and team-building events to attract planners and event organizers to the stadium. In addition to generating event revenue, corporate clients could become major spenders during the regular event season, booking box seats or becoming VIP guests.
  • Offering a communal crowd experience. The unique size, spacing, and setup of stadiums make them fantastic locations for participatory events. Make the most of your stadium’s unique and impressive layout by hosting engaging, immersive functions that provide a memorable event experience for all attendees.
  • Driving food and beverage revenue. In 2023, approximately 78% of stadium visitors purchased food. However, only 44% of those consumers reported feeling “very” or “extremely” satisfied with their food purchase. Put together a dedicated dining team that can provide customized menus to fit any occasion and exceed attendees’ expectations. In addition to driving revenue, incorporating high-quality food service into stadium events can help solidify your reputation as an outstanding event and entertainment venue.

Is there a downside to hosting stadium events?

Although expanding into event services can benefit stadiums in numerous ways, there are a few risks venues should be aware of. While special events can drive attendance and revenue, hosting events can also lead to:

  • Enhanced security concerns. Many stadiums have policies to reduce the risk of violence or other contraband from being brought inside the venue. For example, stadiums might institute a bag policy, only allowing clear bags of a specific size to be carried by event attendees, which can reduce the likelihood that attendees will bring a weapon or other restricted items into the event. Failing to address additional security needs from special events could put stadium staff at risk or increase the venue’s liability.
  • Complex staffing requirements. In addition to hiring, training, and scheduling conflicts arising from events, stadiums often need employees with unique skills or technical expertise to oversee elements of special event setups (e.g., electrical or audio-visual (AV) equipment). Moreover, booking multiple events on the same day requires scheduling enough coverage to manage each function without overextending staff.
  • Expanded promotional needs. Hosting events can be expensive, but so can promoting them. To justify stadium events, the venue has to earn enough to offset additional costs required to successfully executive gatherings. Failing to captivate the right audience or reach enough consumers can lead to low-attendance events and losses for the host stadium. Arenas that offer special events may need to expand their marketing team, reinvest in their advertising budget, or implement new venue marketing strategies to get the word out.
  • More inventory management. Accurate inventory management is critical to prevent overbooking event space or overworking stadium staff, which can lead to employee burnout. Tracking inventory for multiple event spaces may require investing in comprehensive inventory management systems with living viewing capabilities.  
  • Higher risks of electrical issues. Depending on the age of your stadium or its last renovation, electrical stations may not be well distributed throughout the venue. Hosting a high-tech event in a space without ample electrical output protection could overload the circuits, causing problems for the rest of the stadium and decreasing facility safety.

What stadiums are known for executing excellent events?

Stadiums are known for the events they host. Whether primarily recognized as the home of a famous sports team or a popular stop for touring musical artists, events bring customers to stadiums. However, some stadiums stand above the rest; they are renowned as top-tier venues capable of hosting a diverse range of high-quality events. Here are a few of the country’s most impeccable event stadiums.

1. AT&T Stadium | Arlington, TX

Most commonly known as the home to the Dallas Cowboys football team, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, hosts various corporate and private events. Offering “true Texas-sized hospitality,” the technologically advanced stadium boasts 22 event spaces and can accommodate up to 8,000 attendees. Six end zone platforms provide more than 24,000 square feet of event space, the Main Level club offers 33,000 more, and 5,000 event attendees can fit on the field.

With private clubs, indoor and outdoor event spaces, and the culinary expertise of Legends Hospitality, AT&T Stadium offers party planners and meeting organizers access to an array of event services. From AV equipment to celebrated catering service, the team at AT&T has everything they need to go above and beyond for clients.

2. Gillette Stadium | Foxborough, MA

In addition to destination events and regional demand drivers, like home games for the New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium hosts many special and private events. The venue’s versatile and expansive layout attracts corporate meetings, receptions, trade shows, expos, fundraisers, team-building activities, weddings, proms, and more. Gillette Stadium is a high-tech venue with LED video walls, an experienced professional event staff, and live streaming services, making it an appealing location for in-person and hybrid events.  Its brand new renovation expanded event space within the stadium, and its location in Patriot Place, packed with hotels, shopping, and restaurants, makes it an attractive destination for events.

3. SoFi Stadium | Inglewood, CA

Located near Los Angeles, SoFi Stadium is a sprawling stadium known for hosting headline-making events. Recently, the stadium hosted the 2023 Rolling Loud Fest, a massive music festival. Over 60,000 festivalgoers visited Hollywood Park to see Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Soulja Boy, and other superstars. Superbowl LVI took place at SoFi in 2021, and the venue is slated to host the FIFA World Cup in 2026.

The venue houses numerous state-of-the-art event spaces, including the Patio and Chairman’s Clubs. The Patio Club is an indoor/outdoor space that provides event planners versatility—the best of both worlds. Organizers seeking a more intimate indoor space will appreciate The Chairman's Club's sleek interior and breathtaking views. At each of SoFi’s end zones, open-air concourses provide a flexible, unique space that accommodates a variety of events.

In addition to national touring concerts and major sporting events, SoFi Stadium hosts festivals, film shoots, and smaller gatherings, including corporate events and holiday parties. Host a VIP event on the field, or book a private room for corporate events, birthday parties, and other celebrations.

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Eight tips for improving stadium events

Whether breaking into the special events business for the first time or seeking ways to get ahead of competitors, following these tips and best practices can help.

1. Analyze load-in time

Although the load-in time for a televised sporting event could take one to two hours, setup for a corporate event might only take 45 minutes. Avoid excess expenses from overstaffing by adequately approximating event load-in and setup time. Discuss the layout details in-depth before the event so you’re prepared to instruct vendors where to arrive, park, and unload.

2. Make crowd flow a top priority

Crowd flow is integral to any function regardless of your venue’s size or capacity limits. Consider the event space, preferred layout, and specific setup needs for each gathering. Double-check that individual event setups will not interfere with standard stadium operations or reduce the venue’s capacity to care for non-event customers. Ensure they account for foot traffic and give attendees ample room to move around.

3. Market your destination

Use attractive destination marketing campaigns to entice corporations and big-name event planners to choose your location for events. Work with a destination marketing organization (DMO) to promote your region as a premier event location. Identify what makes your site stand out—your destination’s unique selling point—and make it the focal point of widespread campaigns.

4. Offer a mix of indoor and outdoor event space

Offer corporate and private party planners flexible meeting space with indoor and outdoor event coverage. By providing clients with a dynamic space, you can expand the setup potential for their event. Encourage clients to utilize the space to improve the event’s atmosphere, reduce congestion, or create a clear separation between distinct spaces, like reception areas and food service stations.

5. Measure event success

Because hosting events can be such a significant investment for stadiums, tracking the success of each is vital to identifying which are the most profitable. Utilize performance reporting to measure the stadium’s return on investment (ROI) for each event, track attendance, evaluate marketing channels, and access other valuable information.

6. Plan for the elements

Heat, rain, wind, and other elements could impact events booked on the field or in open-air club spaces. Do you have a canopy that covers exposed areas? Can you move the event indoors if needed? Where will you move it, and who will help with the transition? Avoid a last-minute crisis with a Plan B. Set your team up for success by factoring heat distribution and inclement weather into the event planning process.

7. Match the event size to the space

Having access to 15,000 seats doesn’t mean you have to fill each one at every event. If a large corporation wants to host a blow-out event but only anticipates 500 attendees, reserving the entire stadium could lead to a sparsely filled, anticlimactic event setup. Instead of closing the whole stadium, impress event attendees by hosting their function on the field or in a VIP club space. Focus less on filling your stadium’s event calendar with back-to-back sellout events; direct your energy toward offering more personalized experiences.

8. Rethink stadium spaces

Get creative in the way you view stadium spaces and approach selling event facilities. Which areas have the fastest access to food and alcohol? How could you turn the field or an end zone club room into exclusive wedding venues for sports-loving couples? Could you set up a round stage with 360-degree viewing potential? How can you turn a café or restaurant into a captivating space for private parties? Look for unexpected ways to use stadium space to create a more involved event experience for attendees.

Now you’re ready to host better stadium events!

With loads of tips, best practices, and event ideas, you’re ready to host stadium events that attract attendees and keep them coming back. Explore opportunities to expand in-person, virtual, and hybrid stadium event offerings, like building new packages or investing in different marketing channels. Next, we’ll show you how to use the hottest wedding trends to bring in more events.

Headshot of Cvent writer Kimberly Campbell

Kim Campbell

Kim is a full-time copy and content writer with many years of experience in the hospitality industry. She entered the hotel world in 2013 as a housekeeping team member and worked her way through various departments before being appointed to Director of Sales. Kim has championed numerous successful sales efforts, revenue strategies, and marketing campaigns — all of which landed her a spot on Hotel Management Magazine’s “Thirty Under 30” list.

Don’t be fooled though; she’s not all business! An avid forest forager, post-apocalyptic fiction fan, and free-sample-fiend, Kim prides herself on being well-rounded.

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