Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Great American Venue Hunt

Everybody loves the Phoenix venue. Except for all those Left Coast teams that don’t routinely show up.
I am writing about this because, well, it’s that time of year. Does that mean the leagues deserve carte blanche in taking care of their business? Of course not.
Like you I want to know at least 3 months in advance where and when the next event is gonna be too. Like you I frequently wonder what is the hold up? Why is this taking so long? How come nobody seems to manage getting their venues sorted in a, dare I say it, professional manner?
The simple answer is that even under the best of circumstances it’s a more complicated process than it might seem to the uninformed. And Phoenix is the ideal example.
Let’s look at the numbers first. First year for Phoenix, 123 teams. (A modest drop from the year before when there were 130 teams in LA.) Second year in Phoenix, 143 teams, Third year, 109 teams. Each time Phoenix was the first event of the year. First year for Galveston, 126 teams. Second year for Galveston, 150 teams. (Followed by a Phoenix event that only had 114 teams. Were the two events scheduled too close together? Was there some fallout from the deluge in Galveston? Who knows.) What the numbers do show is that for all the positive reviews players have given that venue the number of teams participating haven’t justified returning (over going somewhere else) and when you look at all the other factors involved Phoenix loses much of its panache–at least for the league.
What factors might those be, you ask? (Not unreasonably.) Let’s look first at the factors directly impacting the teams. Nice area. Easy highway access. Lots of hotels/motels, restaurants and entertainment options nearby. Excellent grass. Compact venue with good (free) parking, permanent facilities on site and perfect weather–if you account for the aridity. Phoenix is otherwise a little on the pricey side for flights but within driving distance of SoCal for those willing to make the trek.
One question the PSP raises when it considers a venue is related costs to the teams and players. At what price point do airline tickets become a reason not to go to an event. The same for hotel rooms. Rental vehicles are similar most places–at least the big vans are. So a place can appear ideal but if the associated costs are too high the league immediately projects how many teams won’t come on that basis alone. [I wonder if that was more of a concern when significant numbers were playing 5-man back in the day or RT2 now.]
At any rate we now have some conflicting data. While everyone wants a great venue it seems that the venue alone doesn’t have a significant impact on attendance.
And we still have yet to look into the other considerations that the PSP has to factor into their decisions. Remember Omaha? Turned out it wasn’t particularly cost effective or easy to fly in and out of and with the airlines reducing and consolidating flight schedules the number of viable destinations is shrinking. Remember Pittsburgh? Had numerous NPPL events plus years of the IAO. Not a good place to fly into from much of the country however unless you enjoy multiple connecting flights.
What is an acceptable travel distance from an acceptable airport to a venue? It seems like the league figures around an hour’s drive tops. So another limitation. Let’s see. Grass? Check. Large enough for between 6 and 10 fields plus vendors plus parking. Check. Within an hour’s drive of cheap to fly into airport. Check. Reasonably priced accommodations. Check. Dining and entertainment options. Check.
Now comes the tricky part. Vendor travel and transportation costs plus accessibility and placement on site. Paint trailers? Transportation of all league equipment. Equipment rental costs on site. Local labor costs. Staffing transportation and accommodations. Rental cars. Miscellaneous ad infinitum. Then there’s the venue itself–and we’re back to Phoenix. In the early years the league negotiated with a property management company responsible for the stadium and surrounding properties. Every year they would charge a bit more but the deals were pretty straightforward and manageable. More recently control was held by a bureaucratic panel within the city government that seemed more determined to see how many hoops they could make the league jump through than in continuing a positive and profitable relationship. And, oh yeah, the price went thru the roof for use of the venue. And when you’re contracting a property use like this as a venue you have additional issues of indemnification, use rights granted and related use costs demanded–like paying overtime to off duty cops for security, etc. The list can be exceedingly long and expensive.
I’ve left out a bunch of stuff but this post is way too long already. The point is that finding and getting a deal done on a good venue (for everyone) is a bigger more complex process than it might seem at first blush. And that the league physically travels to lots of potential sites that don’t pan out for whatever reasons and with a full time staff of four it is a demanding–and can be a time consuming–effort.


Anonymous said...

I submit this is certainly a valid way of grading an event location from a promoter perspective, but the least valid. The most valid way, quite frankly is to find where the paint companies ship the most paint and grow highend paintball in those areas.

By definition, those areas have a lot of paintball being played, which means a decent amount of teams, but it also means tons of rec ball. Tons of recball translates more easily into "converted" tournament players.

Anonymous said...

They should have an event in Atlanta. Hartsfield-Jackson Internation Airport is the busiest airport in the U.S. and there should be no shortage of flights directly to the hub. Weather is hot but if the event were to be in April the weather would be very nice. The grass is good all over the state. I'm sure a suitable venue could be found here but I don't personally think any of the local fields would be ready to accommodate the PSP crowd. Then again, Phoenix has their event at a stadium and World Cup has theirs at Fantasy of Flight so the event doesn't have to be at a paintball field.

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