Image: LA Coliseum
Xandra Myers firmly believes that only proper hospitality services in a venue can create that “magical moment” for fans and extraordinary guest experience. As the Coliseum Experience Manager of LA Memorial Coliseum, US, Myers background includes corporate cultural programing and large-scale events.
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Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
The 78,467-capacity Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is a multipurpose stadium in the Exposition Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California (US). As old as the hills, the majestic facility celebrated its centennial year in December 2021.
Conceived as a hallmark of civic pride, the Coliseum was commissioned in 1921 as a memorial to Los Angeles veterans of World War I. Completed in 1923, it will become the first stadium to have hosted the Summer Olympics three times when it hosts the 2028 Summer Olympics. The stadium previously hosted the Summer Olympics in 1932 and 1984. It was designated a National Historic Landmark on July 27th, 1984, a day before the opening ceremony of the 1984 Summer Olympics.
The stadium serves as the home of the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans football team of the Pac-12 Conference and the LA Giltinis of Major League Rugby (MLR).
Xandra Myers provides exclusive details to ‘Coliseum’ on a venue’s legacy, what are the ingredients which comprise a fan’s story and stresses on the fact that no matter how much tech bells and whistles a stadium may boast, nothing can steal the thunder of a real human touch and only human to human interaction can provide the real venue experience to fans.
She also celebrates the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in her conversation which is a 100-year-old stadium and has set a benchmark in legacy.
More Stories than Seats
A venue’s legacy
She sets off by stating, “Today I am going to talk about a venue’s legacy. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum celebrated its centennial in December 2021. It is a century-old stadium. So, I am going to talk about what really defines a venue’s legacy.”
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Known as the greatest stadium in the world, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is a living memorial to all who served in the US armed forces during World War I and has been a civic treasure for generations of Angelinos – “The legacy of events and individuals hosted over an entire century reads like no other. We are the only venue to host two Summer Olympics and soon a third in 2028. It has been home to college football USC Trojan since 1923 and was once home to the National Football League teams Los Angeles Rams, Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers thus hosting three NFL Championships and two Super Bowls.”
She informed that the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has had appearances by US Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan as well as international dignitaries such as Martin Luther King Jr., Pope John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, and even Nelson Mandela.
Myers asserted, “The Memorial Coliseum has been a stage for the unbelievable, for the unforgettable, the iconic and the best in human endeavor and achievement.”
Glorious 100 years
In December 2021, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum started its centennial. It broke ground on December 21st, 1920, and opened on May 1st, 1923. Typically, when one thinks about a 100-year-old stadium, they focus on the events, they think about all the legends that played or performed there.
Every fan has a story
She added, “When I think about a venue’s legacy, I think about the memories that were made and the traditions that were created throughout generations. Every fan has a story of their experience in a venue. Some fans even have multiple stories of events they have attended throughout their lifetime. After a century of stadium-filled events, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum today has more stories than seats.”
How do you have a fan story? How are they created? Fan stories are created through “community magical moments and legendary service”.
Traditions that can be passed on through generations:
- Food – Tradition can come even in the form of food. Some venues have their signature concessions and the very thought of relishing an ice cream while as a kid in a venue also makes for tradition. Tailgating can also make for tradition;
- Activations – Fun zone, family area, all of that becomes a tradition. People come to a venue not just to watch a game but also to savor memorable moments in the family area and fun zone and that forms part of the whole experience;
- Event-specific traditions – Under USC football, there is ‘The Trojan Walk’- the players and coaches amble through the crowd from the sports arena to the ‘Coliseum’ peristyle entrance and all fans cheer them on.
Further explaining event-specific traditions, she provided, “In 2021, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum got its first Major League Rugby (MLR) season and Los Angeles got a brand new professional rugby team called the LA Giltinis and we actually won the national championships in our inaugural year which is very exciting. Event-specific traditions are not a premium experience or a paid experience and that is just included in anyone’s ticket. So, that’s a really fun thing that people look forward to and they get to make that connection with the actual athletes.”
- Venue-specific traditions – That can be collectible pins or doing something special for first-timers – “At the LA Memorial Coliseum, we do first-timers pins, photo opportunities, we do something called ‘Epic Moments’ around the holiday season and graduation season where families can actually take an epic family photo on the field and get their name on the videoboard. So, that’s something that people look forward to annually as well as just community events. Whether as a venue you do community outreach or sometimes it is just a firework show or light show. So, these are traditions.”
Unforgettable moments during an event
As far as magical moments are concerned, some can be planned and some cannot be planned. So, the ones that can be planned are:
- Production special effects – Fireworks, as Myers put in, “Now we are reaching an age of holograms and projection mapping. For us at the LA Memorial Coliseum, even lighting the torch is a magical moment that is very predictable. But it is still magical every single time we do it.”;
- Surprise guests – Surprise guests hold that exciting element when they come in unannounced – “They come on stage or they come say ‘hi’ on the field or whatever it is and that is a special moment that people remember and that becomes part of the fans story”; and
- Unpredictable gameplays and twists – “It is definitely so exciting to be in the audience or in the crowd when there is an unpredictable twist. Unpredictable gameplays that could be like your ‘Hail Mary’ or come back in the last half. That is not in our control but that is still a magical moment that becomes part of the fan story.”
Legendary service at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum happens when both the staff and fans recognize they are part of the legacy.
Building a second home for staff and fans:
- When staff take pride in their work and in the venue that creates a legendary experience because they will go above and beyond;
- Staffs build relationships with fans and other staff – “Service isn’t always just external, we also have to think about internal too.”;
- Staff shortages – “Talking about the LA Memorial Coliseum, we do not have all-time staff and so how do you keep them wanting to come back, how do you keep those regulars who have been here season after season. How do you keep them coming back with that experience as well internally where they feel like they have a second home and that carries off to those around them whether they are your partners, other departments as well as the fans. They see that, they connect with that, they hold on to that and then when you build those relationships, that can be your season ticket holders and it is such a great opportunity because they always reach out, most of the time they reach out at a time. For USC football, they have a very loyal community and they will keep going until they can’t come anymore.”; and She continued, “Building one to one partnerships with patrons are important as that helps build a family, that builds a connection and that’s part of the fan story because when they have that experience, then the fans take pride in the venue. They want to bring their friends, they want to bring their family, they want to make it a generation-old tradition, and they want to share their experience whether that’s social media or word of mouth or even just picture and their home, it really becomes a part of their life.”
Stories can’t happen in an empty stadium
The COVID-19 outbreak globally in March 2020 established the fact that live events need live attendance. Virtual reality (VR) and Live Streaming isn’t the same, and it simply cannot replace the authentic human experience we get at a live event – “I am glad that we do have the Live Streaming and it definitely helped us during the pandemic but we all know it’s just not the same like the real thing what you get at a live event and that’s that human connection.”
Technology is important, but service is everything
As we look into the future, the implementation of technology is inevitable. Technology is very important but service is everything. A stadium with all the tech bells and whistles holds no value to a fan if the stadium lacks service.
Enhance experience and expedite service
Technology should be utilized with enhanced experience and expedite service. So, automation should be used strategically. It shouldn’t be used for everything and it should really be used to help with FAQs so that the service staff or whoever is on the other end can focus on specific issues that wouldn’t be handled or answered in a FAQ.
Averred Myers, “Mobile ordering I think is great in very congested areas of the arena. Every stand in a stadium does not need this service like maybe the food court areas that can really help with expediting the wait time for a line. I definitely see the value in that but I think it should just help with pick-up. In-seat service is great but that calls for extra manpower and I think we all are going through a staff shortage right now.”
Utilizing tools strategically – again it is not replacing the human experience, it is just helping expedite the service – “So, I think mobile apps are great if you can make it into a one-stop shop – if you can have your parking pass there, your ticket in there, you can make it an all-encompassing app. Mobile apps are becoming more and more marketplace norm.”
With holograms and augmented reality (AR) and all that fancy projection video mapping, it’s wonderful, it can enhance the production value and bring history to life and there is more opportunity for more historic venues. This type of technology should be employed to retell their history instead of just a video or just a stagnant picture. Even museums now are definitely getting more creative with experiential technology to tell the story – “I think there is a lot of opportunity there. And then creating impactful sponsor campaign. Just banners do not connect with fans. Fans want to feel something as a result of which experiential sponsorship campaign and activation are becoming more and more in-thing so there are opportunities to actually integrate that type of technology and have that capacity to offer sponsors with the technology that’s coming out there.”
Myers asserted that despite huge technological strides, nothing can take the pristine sheen off the authentic human experience. But real human support should always be accessible so even with all these tools it helps kind of take off the general questions, those easy answers, but there should be someone who is always accessible – “I am not talking about 24×7 real human supports but just there should be some way your fans can reach to a human and we have all felt the same way because with automatic voice response system (AVRS) one has to go on pressing keys and sometimes it is the wrong key before you can actually talk to a representative (human) and by that time you are already tearing your hair in frustration. So, we want that human support. So, humans want humans and the access should be through email, chat or phone call as well but have the ability to make those connections.”
Every venue has a legacy
A venue’s legacy starts the moment it opens its gates to guests. It is built upon the stories of the past, the present and will continue with stories created in the future.
She concluded, “It is our responsibility to ask the venue to maintain a community to constantly create magical moments and always provide legendary service. It is the authentic human experience that encourages the type of storytelling that defines a venue as iconic and a national treasure.”
This is an age of Artificial Intelligence (AR) and Internet of Things (IoT). But all said and done, Xandra Myers asserted that nothing can beat the pristine glory of the authentic human experience and the human touch which again plays a key role in establishing a venue’s legacy and providing fans that ethereal experience.
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