CLEARWATER, Fla. – Today's youth athletes are highly specialized and often participate on travel teams which require an unprecedented high-level of dedication from children and parents alike. Gone are the days of dusty ball diamonds and patchy soccer fields meeting the expectations of these athletes and sports parents. According to The Sports Facilities Management (SFM), new youth and amateur sports venues must be built and managed with a multi-generational customer in mind to be successful.
Sports tourism is a booming market of over $9 billion, according to the April National Association of Sports Commissions industry report. Run-of-the-mill soccer fields and basketball courts with lackluster programming and amenities suffer when competing for millennial parents' expendable income, compared to those wise communities and facility owners who have invested in the trends of consumer behavior. A 2015 Nielson reporton millennial purchasing behavior finds that millennials (born between 1977 and 1995) want a personalized experience, won't sacrifice quality, expect a seamless integration of technology, and crave authenticity – demands that have not gone unnoticed in the sports and recreation industry.
Preferences of the millennial generation like Wi-Fi, cross-platform social media experiences, live activity updates, and more have not been overlooked by world-class venue managers like Lori McMahan Moore. Lori is the General Manager of Rocky Top Sports World – a pristine 80-acre facility nestled at the base of the Great Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee which opened in 2014. Lori confirms Rocky Top customer's expectations have changed: "The obvious change is timeliness. In the digital age, clients are accustomed to a swift, if not immediate, response. Information and services are expected to be delivered at light speed." To address the need for immediacy and need for information, Lori explains "We deliver a great customer experience with a focus on communication with event providers and anticipation of needs. Regular interactions with our event holders allows our team to be prepared and meet expectations upon arrival of our guests. We continually inquire of their needs and then move forward a plan of action. We strive to provide an overall experience that will keep athletes and spectators coming back to the Great Smoky Mountains for years to come."
From the largest sports and recreation 'megacilities' like Rocky Top to privately owned rock climbing gyms, venues are responding to millennial trends. Chris Warner, famed international mountaineering guide, entrepreneur, and leadership mentor, discusses the evolving customer preferences in his four Earth Treks climbing gyms, "The millennial generation has embraced fitness, gotten their first job, and are exploring what new sports they can do." Chris, who dubs these millennials 'urban athletes,' says, "They want more than just a climbing gym – they want fitness facilities, a club house, and yoga space. Customers expect more and the smart operators are changing their venues to fit that need."