Editor's Note: The 2016 fall issue of SEAT Magazine has arrived in mailboxes. Published here is this issue's Publisher's Note which previews this edition of the magazine and its themes.
The future. Two syllables, one word that frightens many, invigorates others. For all of us, the future is coming whether we’re ready for it or not.
Over the past two years, Delaware North has commissioned a group of futurists to forecast relevant trends through the next 25 years in a now two-edition report, entitled The Future of Sports. Combined, The Future of Sports is one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking pieces of research that I have ever consumed. It is a must-read for anyone in the sports and entertainment industry.
The experience leaves readers with more questions than answers, but at least we know what questions we need to be asking. It leaves readers with no clear endpoint, but at least it provides the direction in which people are going. If organizations know where people are going, they can begin to understand where their businesses should be leading those people.
The 2016 edition of The Future of Sports was released this fall, and once again this year, the Buffalo-based foodservice and hospitality company has hit the mark by publishing a report that has nothing to do with foodservice or hospitality. The ten themes this year are: Machine Medicine, Generation Remix, Globalized Fandom, Neurocoaching, AR/VR, Betting/Fantasy Convergence, eSports vs. vSports, College Megabusiness, Alt-Athletes, and Youth Sports Reform.
The results of both editions have been celebrated and questioned, but what is not eligible for debate is the fact that to understand the future of sports, one must understand the future of human behavior, steered and accelerated by technology and the ferocious speed with which it moves, moving the future ever closer to us. Unlike the 2015 version, this year’s issue focuses on a more near-term future. Instead of 25 years from now, this report could be applicable 25 minutes from now.
Case in point is eSports. Just about a year ago, I started seeing video highlights of eSports “athletes” pop up on my social media feeds. Admittedly at the time, I thought, “Oh, that’s cute.” There was no second thought. It didn’t register in me that gaming could be a mainstream form of entertainment for SPECTATORS. But I got that one wrong. Very wrong.
This fall, eSports arrived. It might not be my taste, but it is for many others. And it tastes like money. An eSports franchise known as Team Liquid was just sold to an ownership group led by Peter Guber and Ted Leonsis. Kobe Bryant has spent his early days of retirement sniffing around the eSports world. His former teammate Rick Fox already owns a team. TBS now airs eSports in primetime. ESPN.com published an article on Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, eSports’ most famous competitor. The title of the article? eSports’ Michael Jordan: The Global Faker Phenomenon. Faker sold out Madison Square Garden when the arena hosted the 2016 League of Legends World Championship. He’s not playing hide-and-seek at League of Legends, but I can imagine him saying, “Ready or not, here I come.”
In this issue of SEAT, I’ve interviewed Delaware North Chief Marketing Officer Todd Merry (page 20), who has attended a number of eSports events in the past year. Guided by Delaware North Chairman Jeremy Jacobs, it was Merry and his team who worked closely with the futurists to produce the entire Future of Sports series.
There are many memorable quotes on the following pages, but one standout that left me both confident and unsettled has to do with the most popular spectator sport in 1970: horse racing, a spectacle that has all but disappeared except during the first weekend in May.
“The lesson to be learned from that,” says Merry, “is no one has a right to exist.”
A second feature in this issue also touches on the future: our cover story, written by AECOM’s Mike Wekesser, that chronicles this fall’s opening of the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento (page 110). The Kings have been heralded for their “NBA 3.0” philosophy, inclusive of its state-of-the-art arena design. But as Wekesser has pointed out to me before, what’s state-of-the-art today will be obsolete tomorrow. He does a masterful job in this story of opening the doors of the Golden 1 Center, but also opening the doors of imagination to what Arena 4.0 might include.
Bookended by these two articles, this issue is a crash course in the future of our industry, one ignited by secular shifts in younger demographics, growing global middle classes, and on-demand, mobile-first lifestyles, one that’s not mutually exclusive, one that’s both frightening and invigorating.