Industry Press Releases

Millennial Preferences Drive Changes Youth Sports Facilities; Sophisticated Management Required Meet Changing Expectations

Saturday, Jul 30, 2016

Today's youth athletes are highly specialized and often participate on travel teams which require an unprecedented high-level of dedication from children and parents alike. Gone are the days of dusty ball diamonds and patchy soccer fields meeting the expectations of these athletes and sports parents.  According to The Sports Facilities Management (SFM), new youth and amateur sports venues must be built and managed with a multi-generational customer in mind to be successful.

Sports tourism is a booming market of over $9 billion, according to the April National Association of Sports Commissions industry report. Run-of-the-mill soccer fields and basketball courts with lackluster programming and amenities suffer when competing for millennial parents' expendable income, compared to those wise communities and facility owners who have invested in the trends of consumer behavior. A 2015 Nielson report on millennial purchasing behavior finds that millennials (born between 1977 and 1995) want a personalized experience, won't sacrifice quality, expect a seamless integration of technology, and crave authenticity – demands that have not gone unnoticed in the sports and recreation industry.

Preferences of the millennial generation like Wi-Fi, cross-platform social media experiences, live activity updates, and more have not been overlooked by world-class venue managers like Lori McMahan Moore.  Lori is the General Manager of Rocky Top Sports World – a pristine 80-acre facility nestled at the base of the Great Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee which opened in 2014.  Lori confirms Rocky Top customer's expectations have changed: "The obvious change is timeliness.  In the digital age, clients are accustomed to a swift, if not immediate, response. Information and services are expected to be delivered at light speed." To address the need for immediacy and need for information, Lori explains "We deliver a great customer experience with a focus on communication with event providers and anticipation of needs. Regular interactions with our event holders allows our team to be prepared and meet expectations upon arrival of our guests.  We continually inquire of their needs and then move forward a plan of action. We strive to provide an overall experience that will keep athletes and spectators coming back to the Great Smoky Mountains for years to come."

From the largest sports and recreation 'megacilities' like Rocky Top to privately owned rock climbing gyms, venues are responding to millennial trends. Chris Warner, famed international mountaineering guide, entrepreneur, and leadership mentor, discusses the evolving customer preferences in his four Earth Treks climbing gyms, "The millennial generation has embraced fitness, gotten their first job, and are exploring what new sports they can do." Chris, who dubs these millennials 'urban athletes,' says, "They want more than just a climbing gym – they want fitness facilities, a club house, and yoga space. Customers expect more and the smart operators are changing their venues to fit that need."

Leading smart sports operations, The Sports Facilities Management (SFM) has created a network of youth and amateur sports facilities by sharing a wealth industry best practices and millennial sports-parent preferences.  Jason Clement, CEO of SFM discusses how they create a win-win for communities and venue guests alike; "We assist communities tap into the two key ingredients required to capitalize on the economic growth powered by the exploding sports tourism industry; sports and recreation assets and unique character.  Combine those assets with a strong vision, mix with emerging financing solutions, leadership, planning with purpose, and proven operating systems to create a recipe for unique sports tourism destination to provide a world class guest experience."

Clement's management group, whose venues have had more than 50 million visitors in the last two years, leads clients to focus on their mission and the guests they serve. "From the beginning, our focus is working with our clients to provide the best visitor experience possible. We train staff in a culture of fun, excellence, and accountability. Part of our standard training is hospitality teaching that the staff is on stage at all times; their smile, posture, dress, tone, and words all matter to guests."

About Sports Facilities Advisory:

The Sports Facilities Advisory & Sports Facilities Management (SFA & SFM) are leading resources in recreation facility planning and management. Since 2014, SFM's venues have hosted more the 50 million visitors in communities nationwide.


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