From booking to load-out, staff works cohesively for weeks, months and even years to manage events throughout the facility.
A group of young couples entered the Great Hall of the Peoria Civic Center on January 12, 2013, at around 7:30pm and were greeted by a large crowd. A sea of thousands of people, dressed in black-tie attire, cowboy boots and jeans, and athletic shorts and bandanas, caused them to pause in the doorway.
Confused, they approached an usher standing near the escalators and asked what was going on. “Well, tonight we have the Zac Brown Band concert in the Arena, a Roller Derby bout in Exhibit Hall A, and the OSF Angel Ball in Exhibit Hall D and the ballroom. Can I help you find the event you are looking for?”
Shocked, a woman remarked, “The whole building must be full!”
“Not tonight,” replied the usher. “We are only at about 60 percent!”
The Process Begins
These types of interactions are not unusual at the SMG-managed Peoria Civic Center. With more than 650 events staged at the facility each year, nearly 700,000 people attend events in the arena, convention center and theater. Many of these events are packed into 12 weeks, spanning January to March. While attending an event in any area of the Peoria Civic Center, it is hard to imagine that the entire process begins simply—with a phone call and manila file folder passed from department to department.
Events are booked into the Civic Center on various timelines. Some events, such as large conventions, are booked up to five years in advance. Banquet booking can range from a few years in advance to just a few weeks prior to the event. Arena and theater concerts are usually booked two to six months in advance, while shows on the Broadway Series are often booked at least a year ahead of opening night. The Booking and Sales departments work with their clients to get space reserved and contracts drawn up, and to gain a general overview of the event. That information is put into a file, and the process continues down the line.
If the show requires marketing support or use of the box office, those departments receive the file first. The moment the show is announced, the Marketing Department works diligently every day to increase awareness and ticket sales. It works to place TV, radio, print, outdoor and Internet advertising to promote the show, as well as scheduling interviews, distributing press releases and monitoring and enhancing the social media buzz.
Before any ticketed event is announced or goes on sale, the Box Office works with the concert promoters, band representatives and tour managers to create a concert layout and inventory the seats available. On January 12th, while the Great Hall was packed with patrons, the marketing staff was escorting TV cameras and photographers, providing live updates to more than 11,000 Civic Center Facebook fans. The Box Office was checking and double-checking seats, testing the ticket scanners, and selling tickets to the walk-up crowd.
Logistics & Teamwork
The Operations Department and Centerplate Catering are the next groups to receive the event file, and the ones who make it all happen. The weekend of January 12th was one of dozens that require extensive logistical planning and cohesive teamwork between the two groups. These event professionals are responsible for everything that happens in the building during an event, and they are the best at what they do.
The Operations Department consists of the event managers, housekeeping staff, operations (set-up, tear-down) staff, usher staff, security staff, maintenance staff, parking staff, IT staff, audio-visual staff and the IATSE Local stagehands. The team is charged with the planning and execution of all events in the building, as well as maintaining the building year-round. One of the Civic Center’s four event managers is assigned to every event. They work with the client on setup, IT needs, AV needs, usher staff and security personnel as needed.
Each area of the building requires a different approach to planning. The event managers at the Peoria Civic Center can have a Broadway show in the theater one day, and a banquet in the ballroom the next. On busy weekends, one event manager can be responsible for the large arena concert and a small meeting in the meeting rooms. Every Tuesday, the event managers bring their event folders to a scheduling meeting with the entire Operations Department. They go over every piece of equipment needed, every staff member needed, and the overall timeline of the event. These marathon meetings have been known to last up to three hours.
Simultaneously, Centerplate Catering works with clients on all of their food and beverage needs. Centerplate provides food and beverage for all events in the building. Their staff is skilled at creating a personalized menu that fits the flavor of each individual event. Centerplate staff meets with the clients alongside the event managers and prepares menu drafts as changes are made. Preparations for events of all sizes begin a few weeks out, placing the necessary orders and making sure all items needed are in inventory. Centerplate staff also runs the concessions stands and bars throughout the facility.
A Job Well Done
By the day of the event, all of the planning is done, food is being prepped, and staff is in place to execute the plan. The event manager arrives early in the morning to make sure the building is open and ready to go. They check and double-check that everything in their file is correct, and the fun begins. When event attendees arrive, Centerplate staff spring into action, while the event managers troubleshoot any problems that arise.
The Peoria Civic Center staff works cohesively for weeks, months, even years to put together events in all areas of the facility. And one thing rings through from start to finish—communication is key!
At 2am on January 13th, the event manager in charge of the Zac Brown Band concert heads up to her office, event file in tote. After completing the load-out and getting the trucks on their way to the next city, she drops the file in the accounting box. Accounting will close out the final bill and place the file in storage.
Early the next morning, the phones will ring again, new files will appear on PCC staff desks… and a whole new series of events will begin to come to life. iBi