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#SBS24 Q&A: Eden Park’s Nick Sautner

Ahead of TheStadiumBusiness Summit 2024 in Manchester in June, Nick Sautner, chief executive of Eden Park, gives us the lowdown on the future redevelopment plans for New Zealand’s national stadium, and shares his thoughts on a memorable trip to the new Sphere arena in Las Vegas.

In January, Eden Park posted record-breaking financial results on the back of a packed calendar of events that included matches at the FIFA Women’s World Cup and two sold-out Ed Sheeran concerts.

Sautner was named chief executive of Eden Park in November 2017, having previously served as general manager of commercial at the stadium. Here, he looks ahead to #SBS24 and discusses the emerging trends in the venue sector…

TheStadiumBusiness: What’s exciting you in the stadium/events sector at present?

Nick Sautner: “Last year, I had the opportunity to visit 11 venues over five days – all made possible through industry relationships. I was extremely grateful for the individuals who took the time to showcase their venues and share their experiences, highlighting the collegial nature of our industry.

“Each location I visited illustrated the evolution of the entertainment and events industries, aligning with clients’ expectations to embrace personalisation and customisation.

“My experience visiting The Sphere was particularly noteworthy. The site can only be described as a mega-entertainment venue and its ability to create an atmosphere that feels both intimate and open (akin to the blue-sky roof of the Truman Show!) was remarkable.

“The evolving landscape of the stadium and events industry presents unprecedented opportunities for innovation, sustainability, and diversity, all of which contribute to creating memorable experiences for fans and communities. As the CEO and custodian of Eden Park, New Zealand’s national stadium, I’m delighted to be at the forefront of these advancements.

“It is encouraging to witness the growing emphasis on sustainable initiatives within venues, a focus that Eden Park has long championed in our commitment to living in a more eco-friendly manner to benefit the environment. The increased diversity of events at Eden Park over recent years is another welcome advancement, resulting in increased utilisation as we compete in the experience economy.

“We are also seeing athletes like Steph Curry, Luka Dončić, Caitlin Clark and Sabrina Ionescu curating content outside of matches and sharing on their social channels that is attracting new audiences to traditional sports.

 

“For me, one of the most exciting developments in the sector is the seamless integration of technology within stadiums to deliver an elevated fan experience. From cutting-edge AI applications across catering and security, to technology like facial recognition systems that increases patron safety, and automated food & beverage service and point of sale provision, technology is integrated into every element of the event day.

“This integration enables fans to fully immerse themselves in the experience and provide stadia and hirers with new platforms to engage with their audience, all whilst reducing friction.”

TSB: What’s in the pipeline for Eden Park in the next six to 12 months?

NS: “Eden Park’s calendar of content remains diverse, with the upcoming year set to feature a range of major events. From traditional All Blacks fixtures to newer additions like Art in the Park and three Coldplay concerts, our events provide options for everyone.

“At the time of writing, we are set to host the Super Rugby Aupiki Final this coming weekend – a historic occasion as we welcome the stadium’s first women’s Super Rugby Final. This milestone event follows the legacy of three Women’s World Cups at Eden Park within 18 months, culminating in the FIFA Women’s World Cup last year. We are delighted that the stadium continues to play a pivotal role in the growth of women’s sports in New Zealand.

“In tandem with our event planning, we are actively developing infrastructure upgrades to ensure that Eden Park remains a world-class venue well into the future. Titled ‘Eden Park 2.1’, our proposed enhancements include the installation of a retractable roof. This addition will provide greater certainty for event organisers and promoters while optimising the delivery of multi-focus events.

“Eden Park’s recently announced partnership with the University of Auckland is exciting as we merge our respective knowledge and skills. Various opportunities are being created in our respective organisations through education and research.

“The university has a number of exciting projects that align with Eden Park’s strategic priorities. The adaptive reuse adopted in the B201 building is world-leading and the only six-star building in New Zealand. We look forward to harnessing this methodology as we embark on Eden Park 2.1 planning. Furthermore, the University of Auckland’s sports and recreation facilities will be world-class and assist local and international teams through research.”

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

NS: “The Summit presents a valuable opportunity to engage with industry peers from around the globe and gain insights from their experience leading stadia. It serves as a platform for the exchange of ideas, encouraging innovative approaches to enrich the stadium experience for fans.

“The Summit is also a chance to acknowledge and celebrate industry achievements. With its dynamic atmosphere and robust discussions, the event plays a key role in advancing the stadium and events sector. I’m very much looking forward to attending in 2024 and reconnecting with other stadium leaders, experts and innovators.”

Join Nick Sautner – and hundreds of colleagues from the sector – at TheStadiumBusiness Summit 2024 in Manchester from June 17-19. Sign up here.