On Thursday 17th November 2022 the sale of Coventry Building Society Arena to Frasers Group was completed.
We are now one year on from the sale and it has been a year of significant positive change and progress across the venue.
Paul Michael, Managing Director at Coventry Building Society Arena, shares his reflections on the last 12 months and looks ahead to the venue’s bright future.
How would you sum up in three words the last 12 months at Coventry Building Society Arena and the impact of new ownership?
It has been remarkable, transformational and most of all exciting!
How would you describe the last 12 months?
When the venue went into administration last year and we were acquired by Frasers Group, they were immediately very clear about their intentions and long-term commitments to the venue.
From the very start they reassured everyone about their plans and highlighted how the initial strategic priority was stabilisation, which would then progress to growth and improvements across the venue.
I use the words “remarkable, transformational and exciting” because that is what it has been. We have completed and made a huge amount of progress in what seems like a very short space of time, and that has created a real buzz around the whole business.
There is a new surge of energy which is creating a brilliant atmosphere where the team are thriving, new experiences are being created and we are enhancing our visitor propositions for the future.
Over the last 12 months we have hosted around 750 events, including conferences, exhibitions, football matches, sport events, live music, meetings and much more.
We are all excited and passionate about taking this venue to the next level and building upon its iconic history – which will without a doubt bring positive benefits to wider Coventry too.
What have been the key achievements over the last 12 months?
Our focus initially was stabilisation and to do this we had to make sure that relationships with our key partners were retained and strengthened.
We have done that and are proud to continue to work with our key strategic partners Coventry Building Society, Coventry City FC, Coventry City Council, Hilton Hotels and all our commercial tenants.
Our relationship with the Sky Blues is stronger than ever before and we will continue to work closely together to enhance and improved the fan experience at the stadium. This is a true partnership and we are excited about what we can achieve together.
GROWING NEW PARTNERSHIPS
After strengthening our existing partnerships, the next challenge was to build new relationships to help drive the venue and stadium to the next level.
We are proud to now be working with Budweiser Brewing Group, Dhillon’s Brewery, Coca Cola, APCOA Parking, Cue Media AV Solutions, PTI Digital and Hilton Procurement.
Key partnerships have also been signed to support the sustainable future of our venue, including with Skoot, Go Green and Trace by Isla.
We also brought our third-party catering team in house as part of our one team strategy, allowing us to have complete control over our catering division.
MAJOR INVESTMENT AND INNOVATION
At the point of acquisition, we put every part of the business under the microscope and identified where we need to improve, some of those changes have been short-term, while others are built into our long-term strategy.
We have carried out, and continue to do so, a programme of investments across all areas of the stadium and venue – improving fan experience for Coventry City fixtures and building on our already sector-leading offer for the conference and exhibition sector.
In addition to that we have just started a full hotel refurbishment of our onsite Doubletree by Hilton hotel, which we are all incredibly excited about.
Visitors for football matches, concerts and other major events will have seen our new East Fan Village proposition which provides a new space for people to relax ahead of events taking place in the stadium.
We have also introduced a new offering throughout the stadium concourse, with 28 retail kiosks being rebranded and our new partnership with Budweiser Brewing Group. This coupled with investment in catering infrastructure, to improve our efficiency, is all building a great offer for visitors.
There have been upgrades to our boardroom and Exhibition Halls, while we have opened the Dhillon’s Lounge, all of which is enhancing our proposition for the conference and exhibition sector.
We have also introduced a new ANPR car park system, upgrading the 2,200 car park spaces we have on site to make parking at the Arena a seamless experience.
Additionally, we have introduced new CCTV and signage to make our visitors feel safer. We have also modernised our 24-hour security control and matchday operations control room, with this focus on safety and security readying the venue for the introduction of Martyn’s Law.
There are changes that people might not see too, particularly with our infrastructure, with upgrades to our fibre broadband, which will benefit our conference and exhibition organisers, and upgraded IT security systems.
These changes are all allowing us to deliver showstopping events, from Harry Styles and Artic Monkeys, to the Billie Jean King Cup and Arnold Clarke Cup.
PEOPLE & CULTURE
Our people are what make everything tick at Coventry Building Society Arena, from our directors and senior management, to our part-time casual staff who provide invaluable support across our operations.
We have grown our team, with a 150 per cent growth in headcount with new roles and bringing our catering operation in-house, and we have restructured our senior team to help drive the venue into its new era.
While we continue to welcome new members to the team, we have launched several schemes to support our existing team. This ranges from a new health and wellbeing scheme, which includes mental health initiatives, introducing of new staff benefits and improving communication with all staff.
A substantial training and development programme has been rolled out, while we have rewarded our incredible team for their efforts with a string of key promotions.
We have launched a range of sustainability initiatives as part of our venue-wide commitment to be sustainable, reduce our carbon emissions and have a positive impact on our local community.
This has included our partnerships with Skoot, Trace by Ilsa, Go Green and the introduction of sustainable packaging for our catering operation.
The venue is also installing LED lighting to further reduce its carbon footprint.
We have been working tirelessly to improve the experience for fans at the venue, and to do that we have launched a dedicated department to focus on visitor experience.
This includes enhancing fan experience for Coventry City matches and improving the catering offering to conference and exhibitions. Fans will start to see even more improvements rolled out as we continue this journey.
COMMUNITY AND SUPPORTING THE FUTURE
We know we have a huge role to play in the community in Coventry and we have been partnering in a range of initiatives with organisations to bring positive benefits to people in the city.
Our new schools and education programme is now underway, and we have already hosted a series of educational tours of the venue to school and local universities to provide an insight into what it means to work at the venue.
As part of our work with schools, we are leading on a number of community initiatives, including a programme which saw us provide over 1,000 school children with a free meal during the summer holidays.
We are also working with young offenders to support rehabilitation and offer a fresh start by offering volunteering opportunities at the stadium.
And we are proud to be supporting Destination Coventry and UK Hospitality with their Step into Hospitality initiative, which will help people to take their first step into a career in hospitality.
What can people expect from Coventry Building Society Arena over the next five years?
It has been a fantastic 12 months, now it is about how we build on that and ensure the long-term success of Coventry Building Society Arena.
As part of that we have launched a new five-year plan which will focus on six core pillars.
We will continue to strive and build upon long-term commercial relationships and attract new exhibitions, commercial partners, sponsors and build our live events portfolio.
We also want to operate sustainably and invest in key identified areas providing the venue with long term financial strength and growth.
This will ensure the venue can continue to have a positive impact on the communities we work in and the visitor economy for Coventry.
2. CREATING BETTER EXPERIENCES
We intend to create an environment where our business visitors, sport and music fans and partners feel valued, engaged, and emotionally connected to the venue and stadium.
3. OUR PEOPLE
Our people are integral to everything we do. We want to give people a real opportunity to build careers in hospitality. A place of work that creates an environment that allows our people to excel and where we become the preferred hospitality venue provider of choice within our region.
4. OUR BRAND
We will soon be launching a new brand which has a clear identity that is connected with every element of our diverse business, where business visitors, sporting and music fans and partners experience the best times.
5. EXPAND OUR PROPOSTION
An integral part of the next step in our journey is expanding our diverse proposition that we have already established. This includes growing our live entertainment strategy and increasing our appeal to diverse international major events.
6. WAYS OF WORKING
Our decision-making will be process-oriented and data-led, enabling us to outperform competitors at all levels.
We have come a long way since the venue was acquired by Frasers Group and we are now focused on the future and achieving our long-term goals