by TSBX | December 3rd, 2010
This guest blog was written by Daniel Heck. Heck is the Coordinator of Marketing and Community Relations for Central Michigan University Athletics. He is also a grad student in CMU’s sport management program. He can be reached via Twitter.
Three years of planning and execution, and fourteen months of construction on the campus of Central Michigan University culminated in the form a ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony as well as CMU Men’s Basketball’s home opener in McGuirk arena on Wednesday, December 1st in front of a sell-out crowd of 5,350. For a young professional who is full-time within the department of intercollegiate athletics, and as a graduate student who also did undergraduate work at CMU, it was a moment of pride to be involved with the planning process of the opening game and upcoming inaugural season within McGuirk Arena, specifically in the area of marketing and promotions.
To understand the full effect that McGuirk Arena will have at CMU, one would have to understand how far behind CMU’s previous facility, Rose Arena, placed the university and athletics department in the national and even Mid-American conference facilities arms-race. The unique feature of the arena is that it is built within the CMU events center, which is a university building—not athletics specific, but a first-class venue for university, community, athletic, and academic events. McGuirk Arena at the CMU Events Center is not a facility built from the ground-up—the design of the events center was made to renovate the inside of the previous arena, while using existing Rose Arena structural interface. The main goal of the planning committee was to preserve CMU’s proud past within the facility, while also creating a “bold future” for CMU for years to come.
For our marketing staff, the main focus and goal from the beginning of this past summer was to have a sold-out arena on December 1st. This was accomplished starting in late summer/early fall by working very close with our athletic ticket office, alumni development, and athletic communications office to promote season ticket packages in a consistent/uniform manner. From those season ticket numbers, our “external” staffs unleashed a student ticket campaign and general public ticket campaign that created a “buzz” on-campus and within the surrounding Mt. Pleasant community not seen since the days of Chris Kaman—CMU’s last trip to the NCAA tournament in 2003. This “buzz” for the upcoming season is due partially to the opening of McGuirk Arena and the CMU Events Center, but also because of the strength of CMU’s freshmen class which was ranked the best in the MAC by several pre-season publications.
For weeks leading up to December 1, it was no secret that our grand opening game would indeed accomplish our goal of a sold-out arena. This is a sports marketing best-case scenario, and allowed our marketing staff to shift our efforts to game presentation and production—in an arena which was not accessible or licensed to be occupied until Wednesday, November 24: one week before the grand opening. Game presentation is one of the most exciting aspects for our staff in a new venue, and a huge aspect of our planning leading up to December 1. Many of the hindrances of the previous arena did not allow our staff to use shutter lighting or spotlights for starting line-ups, did not include a modern sound system, was confusing to navigate (finding seats and sections) for fans, and was generally out-dated. You only get one chance at a first impression, and you only open a facility once; to do anything besides provide an electric atmosphere and presentation for our students, alumni, faculty, fans and student-athletes would have been a failure. Despite CMU falling to Temple, 65-53, the day was a complete success.
As a future sport administrator, being a part of the grand opening of a university and athletics facility will pay huge dividends. Opening any facility, but especially a university facility that will impact a wide range of stakeholders outside of the athletics department re-instilled the value and importance of establishing, cultivating, and maintaining vital on-campus relationships with people and departments who will be co-existing in the same facility. From this perspective, the value of being patient, flexible, and keeping an open mind is extremely critical for any situation, but especially for a facility which our staff did not have access to until one week prior to our opening game. The sell-out, atmosphere of the facility, presentation, crowd management, security, and game presentation was all executed due to a team effort, which is a very powerful thing when an athletics department can work together to capitalize on milestone moments. Although the excitement of the grand opening game may be difficult to match in the near future, here’s to another sell-out, and a successful upcoming season for all of our winter sports within McGuirk Arena!
All photos are courtesy of CMU University and Athletics Communications.
Update: CentralMichiganLife has an excellent slideshow with more photos from opening night.