nib Stadium

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An historic sporting ground, nib Stadium has a history dating back over 100 years. The land upon which the stadium would be built was originally owned by the Lord Mayor of Perth, who sold it in 1904 in order to give the local residents a recreation area. The land was first used for AFL matches, with other sporting events, such as rugby, quickly following. The stadium’s famous heritage gates were constructed in the 1940’s. It remained an oval field until 2004, when Allia Venue Management provided a significant component of the upgrading funds required to convert it into a rectangular stadium to meet the needs of Perth Glory, who were experiencing a highly successful period at the time. “Our company, Allia, was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Perth Glory,” explains CEO Peter Bauchop. Allia gave Perth Glory back to the Football Federation of Australia in 2006, at which point their mandate changed attracting as many sporting entertainment events as possible back through the venue. “I think we’ve achieved that,” Peter continues, “which is one of the reasons we went through our 96 million dollar redevelopment through 2012 and 2013, which today gives us a fantastic, modern, rectangular stadium in Perth.”

nib Stadium is a rectangular, boutique stadium. One of the benefits of the new design is the impressively short distance from the playing field to the stands. “The fans and the punters are incredibly close to the action, just over 5 meters away from the sideline,” Bauchop says. “If the distance were any smaller, we couldn’t actually fit all of the pitches in here.” One of the most noticeable elements of the venue is the state of the art audio/visual equipment that was recently installed. “We’ve got two screens that are over 100 square meters each, and an audio system that will absolutely blow your socks off,” says Peter. “You put that into a venue that’s just over 20000 seats, and the experience is absolutely sensational.” Another major improvement was the construction of new upper and lower East and South stands. The scaffold stands have been replaced and moved closer to the pitch, on a much steeper rate. “The feeling is that you’re right on top of the action. These stands aren’t just part of the concrete jungle. If you look around, you’ve got an envelope of heritage trees, if you sit on the East Stand you get an incredible view of the city skyline, there’s really nothing like it in Australia. It’s an absolutely unique experience.”

The stadium hosts three core sporting codes being Football (soccer), Rugby Union and Rugby League. The Stadium is host to NRL teams – the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury Bulldogs when in Perth, and are looking forward to holding three NRL matches in 2015. Perth Glory, their longest standing tenants, are well into their planning stage for the next season. “For pacific rugby, we’ve got the Western Force,” says Bauchop, “who have been going through an incredible resurgence in the last 12 months, it’s probably their most successful season on the field, and the the most successful season at nib Stadium.” All three codes are looking at discussions with potential international representative games. Since last year, the venue also hosts Legends Football League events. “They’re looking to come back with an expanded competition to incorporate more cities across Australia,” Peter explains. Not just a sporting venue, nib Stadium is currently in discussions for a number of large international concerts, a core part of its business. “We’ve hosted well over 30 international acts in the last 6 years, and we envisage that will continue into the future.” The stadium is also hoping for the return of other exciting events, such as Nitro Circus, which set the record at nib Stadium for an outdoor one-off Australian stadium show. “We’re looking forward to seeing those guys back again in a year or two.”

While important in any industry, working relationships play a particularly vital role in the day-to-day dealings at nib Stadium. “Everyone involved in an event has to be working towards a common goal if there’s a chance to leverage the maximum success out of that event.” Says Peter. “An outstanding relationship is essential to make sure common goals can be established and delivered.” Bauchop feels that a great relationship can engender an environment of understanding and collaboration, which is essential in the industry to overcome the many challenges that are faced, sometimes at very short notice. “What we need to see across the whole range of every entity involved, from the hirers and the sponsors to suppliers and providers, is that everyone really has to be here for the cause. It’s the cause and the cause is king.“

At the end of 2013, nib Stadium underwent a complete occupational health and safety review with Risklink. “It was great to see that we were delivering the requirements, but they also indicated ways to have us move towards the best practice in the industry.” Bauchop says. The updating and streamlining of safety measures has been aided by the redevelopment of the stadium. The new, state-of-the-art infrastructure has enabled the venue’s staff to automate more of their emergency resources. “We saw that from the very first emergency drills with our new audio/visual systems, our automated announcements, it really has had an incredibly positive impact on making things so much more efficient.”

nib Stadium appreciates that the success of an event is not just a reflection of the hirer, but also a tremendous reflection of the stadium itself. “If the event is successful, everyone wins,” says Peter. “So what we like to do is provide a support marketing plan for all of our hirers, whether that be someone coming in for a whole season, or someone coming in for a one-off special event.” Many of nib’s initiatives draw tremendous results in the last season, one of which, in collaboration with Football West, was to incentivise their clubs to attract increased attendance for the first game. The stadium put up a range of prizes, including trips East to other sporting events, free use of the stadium for the club that brought the most people along, and a number of prize incentives for administrative attendance, such as iPads. The result was tremendous for everyone, essentially doubling Perth Glory’s average attendance, with over 17000 fans attending the last event of the season. “We also love seaming the event whenever possible; one of my fondest memories is when we had Leonard Cohen out at the venue here,” Bauchop recalls. “We had bought fedora hats for all 500 staff that worked that night. Leonard noticed it, and it put a smile on his face, and it was just a fantastic experience and initiative, and it really added to the event.”

When nib Stadium first became a rectangular stadium, a significant amount of temporary infrastructure was still in place. The venue was initially very football centric, only conducting 12 large commercial events a year. Since that time, nib Stadium has more than tripled its annual content, having expanded into rugby, concert entertainment events, and more. “To see that level of content increase by that amount is something that the whole team is incredibly proud of,” says Peter. “That’s what we’re all about; delivering as many unique and memorable event experiences as possible.” The continuation of that content holds equal importance. “We want those people coming back and we want those hirers coming back. It looks like that has been achieved.” The public has unanimously embraced the stadium’s redevelopment, which was made possible by the State Government’s supply of funding for the 96 million dollar project, as well as the plans that went with it. A recent survey measuring satisfaction ratings found the level of attendants being satisfied with what they came to see at 98%, satisfaction with the stadium at 96%, satisfaction as customers at 95%, satisfaction with the management at 92%, and satisfaction with the quality of the facilities at 90%. “To get those results is just extraordinary,” says Peter, “and we’re all so proud of what’s been achieved.”

Looking to the future, Peter feels that networking technology will play a significant role in the further development of the industry. “I think that technology has the ability to enhance access to the venue and all the events, and also assist in changing and improving the experience at events, if applied correctly. I think we’re on the precipice now, where people are not just embracing it, but starting to demand it. If it can be embraced, and an investment made to the required levels, we will see access for a greater community.” The use of smartphones to buy tickets online at any time, the acquisition of updates and reminders of upcoming events and the features of said events, and even direct interactions with the key personalities in the commentary box, are all examples of the next steps that the stadium can take. “The world’s embraced mediums such as Facebook, and people are losing the opportunity to make real connections,” says Peter, who believes that such a societal shift will put sporting clubs and other stadium events in much higher demand. “You can share your experiences with 3000 friends on Facebook, but if you’re sharing that all by yourself, it’s very different from being part of a successful sporting club and being here and experiencing it with your friends. There’s really nothing that will equal that, and while technology can enhance it, I don’t think it will ever replace that human interaction.”

Peter Bauchop has always loved sport, and has competed on a number of levels in the past. “As well as sport, I’m a bit of junkie for unique experiences, and this role in this industry has given me the opportunity to experience those on a very regular basis,” he says. Having held his current position for nearly a decade, Peter looks forward to making some possible changes in the future. “Time flies when you’re having fun, and it’s been a lot of fun,” he says. “I’d like to take on another challenging role within the industry, something that could offer me the opportunity to have a broad, positive influence on the community.”

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