The Chief Administrative Officer of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority discusses the “premiumization” of the venue marketplace and the public-private partnership that built Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Jennifer, at the ALSD Conference, you moderated a super panel entitled “Build It and They Will Come”, focusing mostly on innovation and emerging marketplace trends. What were a few of your takeaways?
The buzzword was “premiumization.” It is a great word to describe how we look at our spaces and create unique and compelling products that don’t necessarily fit the typical suite or club environment. I love this idea that every space in the building can be “premiumized.”
The other takeaway I was fascinated by was what they are doing in Las Vegas with building out clubs for people to come and do gaming during the event. The event really does become the backdrop to the social activity, as opposed to the reason why people come to the venue. They’re coming to the venue to connect with people who have shared interests, and the event is just in the background.
“I love this idea that every space in the building can be “premiumized.”
– Jennifer LeMaster, GWCCA
In your current role, which we’ll touch on here momentarily, you cover everything. But your pedigree is premium seating, and you learned the business in a building here in Atlanta, the Georgia Dome. For those that may not be familiar with who you are, give us that context, and tell us about those lessons and experiences on the premium side at the Georgia Dome.
I’d be happy to! I moved to Atlanta in 2007. I came from the university background, where I had spent ten years in sports marketing and special events. I had a good sense about the event side, but service was not a big focus. So coming into the premium seating world with a Georgia Dome, it was really learning about service in a different way. I wasn’t talking about just transactional service, but how to create high-touch service environments that add to the overall experience.
I cut my teeth on the industry at the Georgia Dome and felt so fortunate to do that, because I describe it to people as it’s like learning the business from the inside out, starting at the heart and working your way out.
At the end of the day, the customers are the focus of all we do, in this case the premium seat customers at the Georgia Dome. Those are the customers at the end the day guaranteeing revenue into the building. They’re paying off those revenue bonds for the building, so they’re critical to the overall infrastructure and success of our venues. I felt very fortunate to be sitting at the heart of the building.
And now with the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, how did that previous experience help inform what you do today?
I’m the Chief Administrative Officer for the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. In that role, I oversee communications and marketing, as well as finance and human resources. I’ll back up and tell you how this connects to premium service and my original job with the Georgia Dome.
About 2010, we started negotiating with the Falcons on a potential new stadium for Atlanta. At that point, I was sitting as close as anyone to the action as it relates to the impact from sponsors and customers. As well as doing PR for the venue, I was tasked to handle public affairs in support of the stadium. I started working on the legislative side and engaging with the business community around what we now believe to be the most successful and significant public-private partnership in the industry – the development of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
After the building deal was done, which was around 2012, I was able to expand my role within the authority and start working more on the finance and talent management side. To me, this puts the whole package together, because what I was doing before was strategy, and now with influence into both finance and talent, I’m helping drive the financial outcomes that support the long-term strategy. I’m also sitting at a seat to engage the A-talent that we need to run the venues going forward. It puts the whole package together.