AEG Presents Special Event Venues (AEGSEV) Are Springing Back to Life
The show must go on – and finally after 14 long months, it will. As the U.S. progresses forward in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, live event venues are getting ready to reopen. Not only does that come as good news for concert and theater goers, but it’s also an exciting development for planners that rely on these types of non-traditional venues for galas, corporate meetings, training and development seminars and product launches.
“It’s a great time for special events to book,” says Stacy Benaderet, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for AEG Special Event Venues, a group of 50-plus historic as well as modern, state-of-the-art locations across the country. Their portfolio includes the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall in Los Angeles, Webster Hall in New York City and The National in Richmond, Virginia, among many others, in which the department focuses on booking social gatherings, corporate meetings and third-party promoted events.
Part of AEG Worldwide, the world’s leading sports and live entertainment company, AEG Presents Special Events Venues was established in 2015 – and though 2020 into the first part of 2021 has been like nothing the group has ever seen before, all signs point to a very promising future as COVID-19 restrictions are eased and people look forward to attending in-person events.
“There’s really a lot of positive energy overall as events are starting to come back,” says Benaderet, adding that AEG expects to bring all employees back, including those on furlough, over the next six months in anticipation of the upcoming flurry of activity. Because of that, she cautions, “Now is really the time to get events booked for fall 2021 as well as 2022, which we think will be an incredible year for special events.”
A great benefit of working with a large, respected group like AEG Presents is that it is a well-oiled machine. The talent buyers, general managers and sales team all work together to make mutually beneficial decisions for the venues and the clients. “That’s why this department is so instrumental in these bookings,” Benaderet adds. “We all talk to each other and put the puzzle pieces together on our side. We have a lot of background conversations between all our teams, and we can make magic happen.”
Image: Georgia Theatre | Athens, GA
Live Event Venues Have Extra Perks
Of course, there’s another great tactical reason for booking with a non-traditional space like a concert venue: they have built-in, high-tech light and sound capabilities, which you can’t find within just any hotel ballroom. “The great part is those services are included in the license fee of our venues, which is really huge,” Benaderet notes, estimating costs upwards of $20,000-30,000/day for the same services if they were to be contracted with an outside third-party vendor. “We just bring in our staff, and clients simply pay for the labor cost of running our equipment in-house.”
Because of this, it’s also feasible for concert halls to maximize the use of the venue and do multiple events in one day. “We can do a special event during the daytime, and our staff can then move the concert in at night. So, it’s possible to have two events in one day,” adds Greg Brennan, Director of Marketing, National Sales for AEG Special Events Venues. Within that dynamic there’s also flexibility for corporate events to plan multiple opportunities in a given day. As Benaderet points out, “We’ve done a number of events where the client hosts a seminar or education event during a noon matinee or the lunch hour, and then they’ll do something again at 5:00 p.m. such as a happy hour or networking event.”
The team at AEG Special Events Venues also prides themselves on thinking outside the box when it comes to how to creatively utilize their spaces. So even though the thought of a concert venue might render images of a massive music hall needing to be filled with thousands of people, with just a few smart tweaks and even smarter ideas, intimate social gatherings are possible as well. Benaderet notes that one of the first things she and her team did when establishing the department in 2015 was to visit every one of the venues in their robust portfolio to understand the layout of the various spaces and how each could best be used. “Some might look at the overall space and think it’s for 3,000-7,000 people, but that’s not always the case,” she asserts. “We can do small events, too. We have done recorded and live filming throughout the venue spaces, intimate dinner parties on our stages, football watch parties in dressing rooms and, at The Shrine, for example, we used the lobby and outdoor street area for a 50- to 100-person event.”
Adds Brennan, “A lot of our venues have a curtain system that closes behind the front, so you can host a totally different event behind it or use the curtain as a reveal and move people towards the stage. And we can shut off the balcony seating, which makes it feel less like you’re in a massive space if you close off some of the venue.”
Benaderet also mentions another example with The Novo in Los Angeles, part of the LA Live campus, where a unique configuration allows for small groups as well. The Novo occupies the 3rd to 5th Floors of the building. While the 3rd Floor is the main event space, the 4th Floor is the VIP lounge that fits up to 300. But, says Benaderet, “We’ll even do events for 30 people in there, and it’s great. We’ve done baby showers, children’s birthday parties – you name it. We never say never. We have spaces within our spaces that are much smaller, and we have done a really good job of seeking those out. By utilizing small spaces and having different entries and exits we can keep the groups separate. It’s not about getting the one event in the building, but it’s about finding ways to make events happen more than once to grow the relationship with clients over years and get them into more than one of our venues.”
Image: Stage AE | Pittsburgh, PA
Building for The Future of Live Events
Though venues remained mostly closed during the pandemic– AEG Presents hasn’t kept quiet. “We’ve been building venues and renovating and updating throughout this whole time and we’ve been able to move through that process a bit quicker,” says Brennan. Some of the new options coming online include The Ovation in the Greater Cincinnati area and The Eastern in Atlanta, both of which conveniently have outdoor spaces. Soon, venues in Nashville and Boston will be opening their doors as well. One of the great benefits of the current build-out process, says Benaderet, is that “it’s given us the chance to have a lot of weigh-in so salespeople can communicate with our teams about spaces we might need to have purpose-built, such as a smaller area to hold event guests before moving into a wow space.”
And when the guidelines are fully eased and AEG Presents does move forward with a full reopening of all its venues, the Special Events Venues team will be ready. “Throughout this time, we’ve been doing site tours and allowing some small film crews to utilize our spaces, following safety protocols of course,” remarks Benaderet, noting the enforcement of social distancing and facemasks as well as the installment of hand sanitizer stations and following local guidelines. “There are so many different things now that were not happening prior to COVID-19, so as we come back, we’ll be even more modernized,” she adds.
Image: Royal Oak Music Theatre | Royal Oak, MI
Looking Toward the Future
Moving forward, anything could be subject to change as the pandemic continues to be an ever-evolving situation, particularly as it relates to mass gatherings.
Benaderet, who received a COVID compliance officer certificate during the pandemic to work with some of the small film crews that were allowed inside the company’s venues adds, “Going forward, it’s going to be interesting going back to live events. Every state and county has different regulations, so General Managers at each location have had to really work diligently with the health departments in their county and city to know what they are. And we know guidelines will continue to change when we start bringing more crowds inside.” She points to weddings that are, in general, already incredibly detailed and heavily planned out. “We know we are going to have to make adjustments and changes along the way, and as long as clients are on board too, we know we can be safe and compliant.” For those groups that want to remain virtual and/or have hybrid opportunities, the AEG Special Events Venues team can coordinate multi-site events with one contract as well.
The great news, Benaderet says, is that the interest is there. “I see a lot of opportunity going forward. People are really hungry to get back to live events and they’re craving being around people again.” Though she estimates fall of this year as the time when the AEG Special Events Venues can operate 100 percent, she notes, “I have 30 dates right now for 2022, and I’m actively checking availabilities and giving proposals. We are really looking forward to getting clients back in the buildings.”
STACY BENADERET | VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES & MARKETING, AEG PRESENTS
Stacy Benaderet is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for AEG Presents Special Events Venues Nationally and oversees 50+ Music Venues Nationwide. The venues range from historic to modern, classic and contemporary including the Shrine Auditorium, The Novo @ L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles and Bowery Presents Venues on the East Coast. Mrs. Benaderet negotiates and books multi-venue and multi-year agreements for her team around the country and focuses on increasing viable relationships and generating revenue by booking daytime meetings, social and third-party promoted special events. Prior to initiating the Special Event Sales Business Unit in 2015 at AEG Presents and assuming her current role, Mrs. Benaderet held leadership positions within other divisions at AEG. She is an inaugural participant of the Health and Wellness group, AWL (AEG Women’s Leadership) program, member of AEG’s Employee Networking Parents Group at AEG. Mrs. Benaderet most recently became certified as a Covid Compliance Officer and Food Handler and serves as a Leader of the Parents Group at AEG, Health and Wellness Ambassador, active member of AEG’s Employee Network Groups: Asian Pacific Islander, Women @ AEG, Emerging Leaders, PRIDE, Black Equity, Member of WISE (Women In Sports and Entertainment), MPI (Meeting Professionals International and SITE (Society for Incentive Travel Excellence). Mrs. Benaderet is a graduate of James Madison College at Michigan State University where she received her B.A. in Social Relations and specialization in Journalism.