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#SB23 Guest Spotlight: Etihad Arena

Images: Etihad Arena

Images: Etihad Arena

Ahead of TheStadiumBusiness Summit 2023, Jerome Mazet, Head of Commercial & Marketing at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena, discusses the importance of adaptability in the venue marketplace.

The 18,000-capacity Etihad Arena, which is located on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, opened in January 2021 with an Ultimate Fighting Championship event. Since then, the arena has hosted the World Swimming Championships, NBA games and concerts from the likes of Imagine Dragons. The arena was also shortlisted for the Project of the Year Award at TheStadiumBusiness Design & Development Awards 2022.

Mazet joined the Etihad Arena team in February 2019 after previously serving as head of sponsorship at Flash Entertainment, a live entertainment company based in the United Arab Emirates.

TheStadiumBusiness.com: What are the key current challenges and opportunities in the arena marketplace?

Jerome Mazet: “From an event perspective, modularity plays an essential role in most arenas’ business models. At Etihad Arena, it allows us to host any type of event, from a 2,400-capacity theatre set-up to an 18,000-concert mode. Being based in Abu Dhabi, we have a very diverse calendar of events, from global sporting events (NBA Abu Dhabi Games, UFC, boxing) to Bollywood artists, international music acts, Broadway musicals or ‘arena classics’ like Disney on Ice or Monster Jam.

“In 2021 we even hosted the FINA World Swimming championships and had to build two 25-metre swimming pools. Today, event organisers expect the venues to adapt to their needs, and not the other way around. This in turn means that the arena team works as an advisor or sometimes as an extension of the promoter’s team.”

TSB: What are the most interesting trends you are witnessing in the arena sector?

JM: “There are two underlying trends that we have identified as priorities since breaking ground for this arena: digital integration and sustainability. Today, everything needs to be digital, fast (not to say immediate) and easily accessible for the guests. Whichever process we are looking at, it always starts with collecting the data and analysing it with a clear goal in mind.

“Digital integration takes many forms, from being a cashless and paperless arena, to constantly upgrading our ticketing and website journey. Regarding sustainability, the reflection started at the design stage. For example, to combat the Middle East’s extreme heat, the arena includes several design-sustainable strategies, including shading on glazed areas, low window-to-wall ratios, self-shading and a reflective angle façade to eliminate external heat gains.

“Another example of this sustainable approach is the heat energy recovery for ventilation systems, and we also use water-efficient features across the venue that contributes to 28% indoor water savings. The arena has the capacity to use TSE water for its energy centre cooling towers through a reverse osmosis system.

“Additionally, the venue accumulates water condensation from cooling systems and re-uses it to irrigate its surrounding landscape. This year, the UAE will also be hosting COP 28, which is a great opportunity for us to lower our carbon footprint and launch some new initiatives – expect a big announcement in the next few weeks.”

TSB: What’s on the roadmap for the Etihad Arena over the next six to 12 months?

JM: “In terms of events, we will continue at a similar pace as last year with the NBA Abu Dhabi Games returning in early October, featuring the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves, and UFC 294 scheduled for later the same month. We also just revealed a few days ago that we will be hosting Hamilton the musical which will be coming to the arena for a multiple-week residency in early 2024.

“Finally, we are also delighted to see that big concerts are back touring. In the spring we hosted two sold-out concerts: The Backstreet Boys and Guns and Roses – and we are expected to announce more exciting events shortly. We also have an ambitious roadmap to lower our carbon footprint and implement new sustainable initiatives.”

TSB: What are you looking forward to most about the Summit?

JM: “It is extremely inspiring to attend the Summit and get new ideas. We particularly love to visit other venues and compare how things are done in other markets. We do not attend a lot of tradeshows, but every time we do, we always come back with a handful of actionable ideas. It can be as simple as putting new signage on a wall to upgrading a whole hospitality experience.”