What to Expect During a Renovation

by Matt Salata: Vice President of business development and premium sales at the phoenix suns
September 08, 2022

Reflecting back on the two year $250M renovation at of the Footprint Center in Phoenix, there are several key learnings to share with the next team/arena planning for renovations. Below are six main categories of what to expect during a renovation.

1. Do your homework.

· Reach out to every team that went through a new build from ground up and major renovations over the last five to ten years and ask them what worked and what didn’t. What products would they have added more of if they could go back to the planning stage? What didn’t work, what would they redo or take out? What were their key learnings as they went through the project? What did their staffing look like? What was the timeline? What was the process they followed? How did they roll it out to their team? Their fans? After gathering the facts plan on making a few site visits in person. See for yourselves the new spaces and new products. Look to find that inspiration for your building. Look at all facilities including top resorts, casinos, restaurants & clubs across the country to check out the décor, the service, the activation, and the atmosphere.

2. Talk with your members.

· It is vitally important to conduct surveys to get a pulse from what your members want to see in the renovations. Conduct focus groups of members from throughout the building and find out what is most important to them will be a guiding light for you to follow as you consider upgrades and changes. After sitting down with members and reviewing our survey results we noticed we received consistent feedback; our younger fans wanted more open spaces where they could enjoy drinks and meet up with friends while seeing some of the action. Our club members wanted a more fixed space with lots of seating to enjoy high end food and beverage before heading to their seats. Our suite members wanted access to a space where they could network and continue to drum up new business with other suite members. We took all this feedback and used it during our ideation sessions as we focused on changes to certain areas across the building and in our premium spaces.

3. Figure out your process.

· Prior to the Suns, I was fortunate to have worked for Legends as part of the team focused on opening Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Atlanta Falcons & Atlanta United. Legends has mastered the process of a new build and have given everyone else the blueprint to follow. Start early and only release the suite and multiyear contractual inventory first. Second, go through a relocation process for all members starting at the top with your club spaces. Follow suit with your lower level and upper-level members. Once completed, perform the member relocation process, and allow everyone who committed to seats the ability to upgrade and add on. After that you work with the deposit list and get those accounts set. Then you are off and running to begin your new business campaign.

· For a renovation you might not have the luxury of following this process. Here in Phoenix based on construction timeline etc. we were not able to do it this way. Our suites were the second phase of our renovation, so we had to start with clubs, then lower level and upper-level seating. In an ideal situation, you would start at the top and work your way down but just know you’ll have to stay nimble and adjust on the fly as needed.

4. Train your people.

· Once your process and the timelines are set it’s time to focus on training your staff to make sure they understand the process and to help them master the new products and benefits. Ensure that you work on what the flow for your Transformation Center process and appointments will look like and have many trial runs until you have it perfected! We had to work on our storytelling abilities since we were selling through renderings and a virtual platform. As soon as we could get into the building for hard hat tours, we started doing them. This was a major win and helped us paint the picture even more clearly by being able to see the size of the spaces and clients could visualize it for themselves. We went through about a month of intense training, product knowledge and role-playing before we were ready to go out there and execute.

5. Collaborate at the highest level.

· Your collaboration both internally and externally needs to be on point. There are so many moving pieces when it comes to a renovation. Develop those relationships with the construction company, the architects, the furniture company, your building GM, your Executive Chef, your team members, your leaders, the list goes on. Everyone needs to be on the same page and understand the vision and goals of the project. Setting up weekly meetings is critical to tracking progress, discussing updated timelines, creating new ideas and shelving ideas that aren’t working. We were very fortunate to have some great partners and internal champions from all these groups which made the process as smooth as it could be. Being able to challenge the right way to get things done the right way was critical to our success.

6. Under Promise & Over Deliver.

With new spaces and new benefits comes a lot of questions from your clients and prospects. Be very careful not to promise them something that won’t come to fruition or is impossible to activate. Being honest and transparent is the best plan of action. If you are unsure of how a space might work or the benefits that would come with those seats be open and say that you aren’t sure and then go, get the correct answers from your leadership. This will help you continue to earn trust and credibility from that client or prospect. The adage of “under promise and over deliver” rings true here for sure.

As you can see, there is a lot of time, energy and effort that goes into making renovation projects a success. If you do your homework, figure out your strategy, train your people, collaborate at a really high level and sell with integrity your project will be a smashing success.

Personally, the Footprint Center renovation and Mercedes-Benz Stadium launch have been phenomenal learning experiences while being challenging too. If you are about to embark on similar projects, please reach out to me directly to be a resource. Good luck!