Sports fans have more ways than ever to watch games and follow their favorite teams. That means it’s more important than ever to create experiences that compel fans to visit your venue in order for you to grow a reliable, engaged, and enthusiastic fan base.

Stadiums and arenas with thoughtful, deliberate designs and features that focus on the fans attract larger audiences on a more regular basis. And, as you know, stronger ticket sales lead to higher concessions, merchandise sales, sponsorship opportunities, and happier athletes who appreciate playing to a packed house.

Yet, while your first thought might be to make your venue as appealing to as many visitors as possible, recognize that the conventional one-size-fits-most “municipal centers” that host a variety of events — from sports to concerts to circuses — are giving way to venues designed with a specific sport or franchise in mind. This path allows for a much more intentional and curated approach that caters to enhancing the experience of that particular fan base.

We’ll walk you through some of the ways to get the most out of your space to keep fans coming back for more and deliver the best return on your design investment.

Is Your Stadium or Arena ‘Right-Sized’ for its Purpose?

Across the industry, sports organizations are designing more curated or purpose-built venues. As such, they’re increasingly careful about the size in order to be as efficient as possible.

The idea of “right sizing” a venue typically means reducing seating capacity. Rather than focusing on maximizing seating capacity, the trend is moving toward maximizing fan experience. An appropriately sized venue creates more intimacy and energy with fans closer to the action.

This reduced seating supply creates an increased demand that generates more buzz around the team. This also incentivizes the purchase of season tickets, which is the ultimate sign of fan loyalty.

Baylor’s Foster Pavilion opened this season with seating capacity of 7,500.

When Less is More: Replacing Seats With Gathering Spaces

Creating a right-sized facility doesn’t mean cutting corners at every turn. Instead, you need to think about how to provide areas for fans to interact with one another and enjoy the game beyond the boundaries of the bowl. In many cases, less seating means you have more opportunities for fans to congregate in areas like lounges and premium spaces.

And while clubs and suites continue to be in demand to provide  more tailored and exclusive game-day experiences, you can create accessible social spaces for general ticket holders. Viewing decks and beer halls allow fans to connect and socialize while remaining tapped into the energy of the game. The result is differentiated fan experiences depending on interests and demographics. Strive to create something for everyone from students to the die-hards to the C-suite, grandkids and grandparents.

These specific spaces (clubs, suites, social spaces) also present unique opportunities for you to create team-inspired theming and/or pursue co-branding partnerships with sponsors. You can create distinct identities for each and allow fans to forge a strong connection with the venue, their team, and your brand.

Clemson’s Masters Club in the west end zone of Memorial Stadium is a great example of a warm, modern premium hospitality space.

Go Beyond the Game to Give Fans What They Really Want

Remember that for many fans, the game is just one component of their overall game day experience. Fan activations provide memorable moments that are bound to be shared on social media.

Providing backdrops, scenes or moments that represent your area’s iconic attributes (culture, history, climate, landmarks) increase fan engagement and strengthen their connection to your organization and venue. Whatever you’re considering, don’t play the guessing game. Take a deep dive with your fans to understand what they are looking for with a dedicated discovery process.

Infuse your concessions with themes tied to the local culture and invite local artists to put their works on display. Even simple wayfinding and signage can be brought to life through the increased integration of your brand.

And it’s not exclusively about the spaces but what also occurs in them. Be deliberate about how you feature in-game promotions, DJs, fan contests, interactive videos, and team history.

EnMarket Arena opened in 2022, a multi-purpose complex in Savannah’s canal district, where the culture of the city is woven throughout.

Putting Your Fans First Creates a More Vibrant, Stable Facility

It might be obvious to just say more fans = more money. But giving more fans more of what they love will keep them coming back and pay dividends that go far beyond your bottom line.

As experienced designers we love the trend of how stadiums are being designed and programmed for enhanced fan experience. Since these venues are designed for specific teams, it allows us to leverage brands to create themed spaces and fan activations.

If you’d like to discuss your space and see how we might help you create an elevated fan experience, we’d love to hear from you.