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Forget about the matching T-shirts, glow-in-the-dark pens and branded tote bags. Conference attendees are increasingly looking to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences versus trinkets and swag. As a result, meeting planners are booking such unique venues as airplane hangers, art museums and stadiums that can deliver an immersive conference experience.
More than merely a trend, the demand for unique, flexible, immersive spaces will continue to increase into the foreseeable future.
“Meeting planners are looking for something their clients will remember a bit more than your typical hotel ballroom,” says Ryan Holmstedt, vice president of ticket sales & events for the Arizona Diamondbacks. “They want attendees to come away saying, ‘That was amazing. I will never forget that.’’ In fact, 92 percent of planners and property professionals said they believe events are more likely to be booked outside of a hotel than they were five years ago, according to CVENT.
Downtown Phoenix’s Chase Field, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks, has become increasingly popular among meeting planners because the stadium—located across the street from the Phoenix Convention Center—offers unique meeting experiences both on and off the ball field, Holmstedt explains.
“Everyone thinks about the field as the space you can recreate,” he says. “You absolutely can do that but there are other spaces as well. We have multiple spaces that, with a little bit of creativity, can host a smaller event if your conference isn’t big enough for the field.”
Chase Field is home to a variety of lounges that can host different sized meetings with the expansive ball field or even a majestic view of Phoenix as the backdrop.
Events at Chase Field can be as elaborate as sponsoring a plated lunch on the field for 2,000 people or as personalized as a dinner for 300 attendees in the third base lounge followed by batting practice on the field. “Not many people can say they’ve taken batting practice at a major league baseball park,” Holmstedt says. “That becomes a memorable event.”
Yet, events don’t need to be fancy to be memorable. During baseball season, conferences have hosted an all-day meeting in one of the lounges and then provided tickets to the game to all the attendees, Holmstedt says.
In addition to the baseball field, Chase Field offers meeting planners seven other options including the Diamondbacks Club House, which is only available in the off-season because it includes a tour of the locker rooms; the Audi Lounge and the Draft Room, both of which overlook the field; Legends Suites and Conference Center, which offers incredible views of Phoenix; the indoor/outdoor Game Seven Grill; La Terraza, a Latin-themed space with colorful murals; and The Plaza, which offers wide open space with an outdoor, elevated stage. There are also a number of private suites available for smaller meetings.
Beyond batting practice, Chase Field also offers several one-of-kind experiences including a behind-the-scenes tour, an appearance by the team’s mascot D. Baxter the Bobcat, the Legends Racers, the World Series trophy, or use of the scoreboard for conference programming.
“While we have these unique spaces, we are still a baseball stadium at our core. It does take a bit of creativity to turn these spaces into the perfect meeting setting,” Holmstedt admits. “You need to come with an open mind and some creativity.”
To help meeting planners get their creative juices flowing, the Diamondbacks’ staff is available to help create the perfect event. “We love taking what we know about baseball and applying it to corporate events,” he says. For instance, the Diamondbacks’ in-house marketing team can help create signage and graphics that reinforce the meeting’s key messages and an in-house caterer will help develop a unique menu.
“The ultimate goal is to engage attendees in a way that a typical ballroom or hotel room wouldn’t, and to enhance the event and the content so that people remember it,” Holmstedt says. “When you’re able to provide great content and you put it in a unique setting, it engages people.”
This story was written and published by Associations Now. For more meetings trends in Phoenix, visit AssociationsNow.com.