SMG to Manage Baylor Stadium: Venues Today

Originally published by Venues Today.

It will mark SMG’s first foray into a collegiate football stadium and Baylor University’s first step into private management. Baylor University in Waco, Texas, contracted SMG for preopening services from Sept. 1 through its new stadium’s opening next summer.

According to SMG’s Exec. VP of Stadiums and Arenas Doug Thornton, the $260-million, 45,000-seat stadium designed by architect Populous won’t be like any other college football venue.

“This will be the first football stadium that SMG will manage that is a collegiate stadium, but it will have many of the same fan amenities that you’d find in a modern NFL stadium,” he said. Baylor Stadium is set to open Aug. 30 and will have 1,100 club seats, up from the 600 at Floyd Casey Stadium where the Baylor Bears currently play.

The new facility will cover more than double the square footage of Floyd Casey Stadium, totalling 860,000 sq. ft., and boasts five times the amount of toilets, urinals and sinks. The Bears will upgrade from a 713-sq.-ft. scoreboard at Floyd Casey Stadium to a 5,018-sq.-ft. video board at the new Baylor Stadium.

The new stadium is funded by Baylor University and the City of Waco.

“We haven’t done private management for an entire venue,” said Brian Nicholson, associate VP for facility, planning and construction at Baylor University. “The main reason we went to look for an operator for the stadium was because we wanted to generate other events than our Baylor football games.”

“We draw a crowd for those seven games a year, but we’re looking to bring in more events for the community,” he added.

Though there isn’t a set number of additional events Nicholson is expecting, he said that Baylor University is hoping for “as many as they can get.”

Thornton said that SMG will focus on booking live entertainment and concerts, as well as events like monster trucks and other dirt shows.

“The stadium is located right on the river with a riverfront connect that we want to utilize on event days,” he said. “We think there’s potential to do a lot of outdoor activities like festivals and art programs to really become a gathering place for the community.”

High School football and other sporting events are another possibility, as well as Christian concerts and acts, which Thornton said there is a large market for since Baylor University is a Christian university.

The new stadium will connect to the waterfront. (Photo by Baylor University)

The preopening contract is finalized; however, details are still being worked out for the five-year operating contract that will begin once the stadium opens. Terms and conditions of the management contract have been agreed upon, but wording of the contract is still being finalized.

“The stadium is unique because it is not owned wholly by the university, but governed by an authority that is managed through a board made up of both the city and the university,” clarified Thornton. “We’ve agreed to the business terms of the five-year agreement, they’re trying to further develop the structure between the City of Waco and the university before signing the contract.”

Nicholson said that Baylor University had been working more informally with both SMG and Venue Solutions Group for a few months, but that it was a good time to formally designate SMG as the management group.

“It’s not in question at all [whether the five-year management agreement with  SMG will be finalized],” said Nicholson. “We wouldn’t have done a preopening agreement if we didn’t intend to sign a larger one.”

“The preopening agreement basically gives us 10 months to figure out the management contract,” he added.

The preopening services contract is a bit less lucrative than the facility management contract will be on a yearly basis, though SMG declined to disclose the figures. Thornton called the five-year rate a “competitive fee” and added that there will be a fixed yearly fee, as well as an incentive component based on financial performance.

Scott Neal, currently working with Long Beach (Calif.) Convention & Entertainment Center to open Pacific Ballroom at Long Beach Arena, will serve as the stadium’s general manager, and there will be an additional seven full-time staff.

Along with SMG clinching the preopening and management contract, its food and beverage arm Savor has been contracted to provide foodservice for not only the football stadium, but also other athletic facilities on campus. Savor will be paid a separate fee from SMG and is planning to sell alcohol during non-Baylor University events.