Russ Simons, Venue Solutions Group, welcomes the first attendees at the Venue Operations Summit, advising them they would leave with actionable knowledge. (VT Photo)

REPORTING FROM NASHVILLE — “Sell your way to prosperity, don’t save your way to prosperity,” said Jeff Cogen, CEO of the Nashville Predators, the closing keynote speaker at the inaugural Venue Operations Summit here April 12-14. Tasked with enlightening operations managers on how CEOs think, Cogen did an entertaining and thorough job of revelation.

He was balanced by the opening keynoter, Richard Andersen, Lighthouse Management, who advised operations professionals to “change your outlook if you want to change the outcome.” Andersen emphasized the need to embrace differences and forego judging and complaining in favor of goals defined as dreams with deadlines.

Safety for the patron and the staff was a major focus of the Venue Operations Summit. Presenters addressed everything from safe practices and learning to chart and trend those practices to reach maximum levels of efficiency.

The summit, co-presented by Venue Solutions Group and Venues Today, was created to share information that makes a difference and to establish a robust sharing network among operations professionals in the public assembly facilities world, said Russ Simons, VSG, in his opening remarks. There were 125 attendees from operations departments in stadiums, arenas, convention centers and performing arts centers at the inaugural event.

And, it was all about the nuts and bolts. It was about how to correctly set up and retract telescopic risers to avoid damage to the equipment and injury to patrons and employees.

“The biggest problem with telescopic seating is with alignment,” said Bill Waldo, Irwin Seating Co., Cape Coral, Fla., a presenter at the summit. “What screws up telescopic seating is simply not following the manufacturer's specifications.”

He warned that “the bump,” which is the use of a forklift to force tellies into place when set-up crews are in a hurry, is going to damage the entire system. The only answer if alignment is off is to take them in and back out again. There is no quick fix, he said.

It was about training housekeeping employees to be aware of dangers of diseases transmitted from bodily fluids, how contamination happens, and the best practices for protection and handling the situation with patrons.

“The CDC has identified the most dangerous of the blood-borne pathogens,” said Fernando Gambirazio, Pritchard Sports and Entertainment Group, Miami, Fla., another presenter. “They are HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and Ebola. They can come from vomit and urine, semen and vaginal fluids, skin tissues and blood. Dangers can be found in trash cans, by cleaning bathrooms, and in a variety of ways.”

Brett Conrad, Interstate, Fort Worth, Texas, addressed how to prepare for a disaster to avoid a disaster.  “Whatever plan you have now,” Conrad said, “you can always make it better.”

For example, a disaster that affects an entire community will create backlogs. “So you are calling the same companies to help you that everyone else is calling,” Conrad said. “What do you do then? You have to have a predetermined plan.”

Greg Poole, Toyota Center, Houston, Texas, demonstrated the use of historical trends to improve operations. He showed his detailed energy consumption and demand charts, and told how these charts have helped improve his overall operations, thereby decreasing operational expenses.

“You can use historical data for budgeting,” Poole said. “If you have the data, it's easy.”

For example, historical data revealed an inordinate number of leaks caused by a coupling break in a ceiling. “I went back and checked on it,” he said. “What I found was that food service kept shoving something down the drain that wasn't supposed to be down there. It was clogging the drain and pressure was causing the coupling to break.”

Mike Rogers, Smith Seckman Reid Inc., Nashville,  addressed building operating systems and gave some strategies on boiler controls, such as having an indoor/outdoor reset control system and using proportionate controls instead of off/on switches.

Craig Kaufman, principal, Populous, Kansas City, Mo., stressed the importance of operations managers being involved in the design phase of a business. “And, the earlier the better,” he said.

Kaufman went through all stages of an architect's role in the design to clarify any questions operational employees might have such as what is a concept/schematic design? What is included in the construction documents?

Throughout the conference, there was an underlying common thread. That thread — the importance of the operations director and the operations team to the overall success of any facility.

Indepth coverage of the VOS can be found in the upcoming May issue of Venues Today.

Interviewed for this story: Jeff Cogen, (615) 770-2301; Richard Andersen, (619) 850-1088; Russ Simons, (816) 352-1000;  (786) 777-Brett Conrad, (800) 622-6433; Greg Poole, (713) 758-7384;  Mike Rogers, (615) 383-1113; Craig Kaufman, (816) 221-1500