Site, Venue and Facilities
Every event is held somewhere. It could be in a purpose-built facility or a heritage site, on the streets or waterways, or at a unique one-off site. Large public events can be held outside in public parks, in the streets or shopping malls, or in the middle of the desert. Some events are held annually in the same venue, while others seek new and unusual sites for subsequent events.
Many event venues provide enormous flexibility and can be readily transformed to meet the
requirements of the event. The range is extremely wide – from hotel banquet rooms to
theatres to sporting venues. To match an event to a particular site or venue the following must be assessed:
• different styles of venues and sites, services offered and their suitability for particular event types
• venue and site options within a given locality
• the features and requirements of typical venue or site contracts and regulations
• typical operational structures within a venue including relevant on-site personnel, sub-contacted suppliers and concessions
Choice of location for an event
When considering the choice of venue, the event organiser needs to look at a number of key factors, including:
• potential to fulfil the purpose of the event
• access by public transport
• seating capacity
• built features (such as stages)
• cost of decoration, sound and lighting
• cost of hire
• logistics of setting up
• food & beverage, toilet and waste facilities
The event manager should compile a list that takes all the likely issues into account. Although the following list is not comprehensive, and not applicable to specific events, it does give an idea of what should be considered when choosing a location for an event.
Potential to fulfil the purpose of the event
• Accessibility of location for customers, suppliers and emergency agencies and all staff members
• High visibility to attract customers, if necessary
• Appropriateness, atmosphere, attractiveness and image of the venue for the event and for the client
• Cost of decoration, sound and lighting
• Cost of hire, and supplementary costs of making the site appropriate for the event
Existing features of venue or site
• On-site services and facilities available, or the cost of bringing those to the site
• Personnel on the site and professionalism of the venue management
• Storage considerations
• Technical facilities
• Seating capacity
• Logistics of setting up
Safety and security issues
• Capacity of the location, spatial considerations and likely obstructions, and versatility
• Suitability for a safe flow of audience within the site, services, suppliers, performers & participants, and visitors
• Suitability for those with special needs
• Traffic control & parking issues
• Crowd management and control issues
Impacts on the environment and community
• noise pollution,
• environment damage,
• disruption to normal activities
• Cost of returning the site to its previous condition
• Legal considerations and possible constraints on the event
An essential criterion in selecting a destination for events is safety. Site evaluation should include safety and security. Different events have different safety concerns, consider the hazards at a rock festival to those possible at a flower show. All potential hazardous situations concerned with the type of event should be evaluated in relation to the intended site or venue.
Selection of event venues and sites
To undertake the venue/site selection process for an event requires the application of significant analytical and research skills to complete the process of matching an event to a particular site or venue. The following issues must be assessed:
• different styles of venues and sites, services offered and their suitability for particular event types
• venue and site options within a given locality
• presentation styles for venue and site information and interpretation of this information
• information sources for venue and site information
• the features and requirements of typical venue or site contracts
• typical operational structures within a venue including relevant personnel, internal networks and inter-relationships and reporting structures
There are many factors that need to be taken into account in selecting an event venue, but the overall strategy should be to aim for the best possible fit with the client’s and the audience’s needs at the lowest possible cost. If all stages, props, carpets, seating, portable kitchens and refrigerators, and so on, have to be hired, the cost may be prohibitive, even if the venue seems perfect in other ways.
It may be that there is no choice; the venue is already decided upon, and the event manager has to adapt the location in the best ways possible to meet the objectives of the event.
The process for selecting the event venue or site is in three distinct parts.
1. Specify venue or site requirements
• Analyse event-specific venue or site requirements based on a detailed review of all aspects of the design brief of the proposed event
• Develop accurate and complete specifications for venues or sites to facilitate the research process
• Integrate the needs of all stakeholders into venue or site specifications
Aspects of the event that must be considered in developing venue or site specifications include:
overall theme and image
estimated attendance numbers
facilities and services to be provided
audience/delegate profile and location
Venue or site specifications must include details of requirements in relation to:
facilities and services (e.g. catering, size of area, equipment)
production access and timing (set-up and break down)
2. Source event venues or sites
• Research potential venues or sites using appropriate information sources
• Assess the suitability of venues or sites based on comparison of services offered with specifications
• Assess the need for and nature of contingency planning required by specific venues or sites
• Assess venue or site capacity to deliver quality outcomes in relation to customer service, co-operative management and past experience
Information sources may include:
local/regional/State tourism organisations
venue publications and directories
Research methods may include:
using personal event industry networks
calling for tenders
personal venue or site inspection
A site visit is essential.
• Photographs should be taken of the site in order to record important data and to enable planning consideration .
• Evaluate distances, sight lines and any unforeseen issues.
• Obtain, or create, venue building floor plans or a site map
• Obtain, or create lists of facilities and equipment included in the hire.
• Negotiate and liaise with personnel from potentially suitable venues or sites to ensure all event requirements can be met and to address potential problem areas
• Assess the need for tentative bookings and take action promptly
• Coordinate multiple site and venue selection if required in a logical manner
• Provide clear and accurate briefings on venue or site options to colleagues and key stakeholders to include recommendations and rationale
3. Confirm venue or site arrangements
• Confirm venue or site arrangements accurately in writing when the selection process is finalised
• Review and sign venue or site contracts within appropriate timeframes and within scope of individual responsibility
• Integrate specific venue and site planning issues into the production brief
Following the choice of venue, a site inspection is vital. Detailed information of all aspects of the site should be collected in order to record important data and to enable planning consideration to take place at a later date and with the clients, contractors and suppliers. Obtain venue building floor plans or a site map, and lists of facilities and equipment included in the hire. It is useful for the event manager to walk through the premises in order to evaluate distances, sight lines and any unforeseen issues
When determining where the event is to be held, one of the primary considerations should be how the potential venue is designed and whether certain characteristics are likely to add to or detract from the occurrence of violence and crime. For example, if opposing fans are placed in adjacent seats during a highly competitive match, trouble will most likely occur.
To establish whether the proposed venue provides the required space, access and facilities, it will be necessary to check whether:
- the site allows for adequate crowd regulation, with existing regimented seating areas and flow barriers
- there are spectator overflow areas to avoid congestion should spectator turnout significantly exceed expectations (a common phenomenon in rock concerts)
- there are nearby areas for overflow parking, if anticipated spectator parking areas are filled, and if shuttle buses are desirable, feasible or necessary
- in the event of a mass casualty situation, space is available for an on-site triage area to permit stabilising medical treatment before removal of critical patients
- the adjacent street on all four sides of the venue can be closed to other than emergency, service and resident vehicles, to permit a perimeter for access as well as a buffer zone
Before deciding on a particular venue:
- check that any necessary approvals for the use of the site for public performances have been given and the number of patrons for which they are approved is going to be adequate for what is planned
- check that there is adequate access for arrivals and egress for departures by whatever means of transport are to be used
- check that there are adequate stairs, gangways and walkways within the venue for pedestrians and any planned traffic
- ensure that all emergency equipment is properly maintained and in good working order and, where appropriate, test it; examples of such equipment include fire-fighting equipment, fire alarms, smoke alarms, public address and other communication systems
- check the emergency exits; make sure the exits are unlocked; check that escape routes are unobstructed and free from hazardous and combustible materials; check that the emergency lighting is working and that all direction and information signs are in place and are legible
- carry out a general safety check; make sure that all floors, stairs and other areas which people use are well-maintained and do not present tripping or slipping hazards; check that refuse and combustible materials have been removed to safe storage or disposed of and that switchgear, chemical storage areas, plant rooms and any other potential hazards are inaccessible to unauthorised persons
Assessing the crowd
Assessing the type of crowd will provide information to help design the venue. Every crowd is different, but certain characteristics can be forecast by exchanging information with other operators who have run similar events or by referring to past experiences.
Assessing the capacity of a venue
At some venues the capacity may already be set. If this is not the case and the capacity is being established, think about:
- contacting other organisations that have run a similar event
- the type and probable behaviour of the crowd
- the useable space on the site; exclude steep inclines, suspect ground, water hazards and stairs, gangways, and areas from which the event cannot be witnessed
- the amount of car parking that can be realistically provided; exclude unofficial car parks
The entrance and exit
The entrances should not allow admissions to exceed the rate of crowd dispersal inside the venue. Try to estimate the entry rates and take measures to prevent an excessive build-up of people outside the venue. Means of illegal entry to the venue should be blocked.
The exits should allow people to leave a venue easily and quickly if necessary. Make sure that they can pass through the system at the same speed throughout its length. Think about the potential obstructions and routes that have limited space.
Emergency exit routes can also be used. Check that all emergency doors open outwards into a large open area at the same level (sliding or roller shutter type doors should be avoided). Twisting and complex exit systems should also be avoided.
Stairways, gangways and ramps
Stairways, gangways and ramps should be designed to ensure a steady flow along their length.
Remember that movement down an incline poses risks to people at all times. Stumbling, pushing and congestion may cause sudden, uncontrolled surges downwards. Consider gradients, escalators, approaches to stairways, segregation of conflicting flows of people, widths, accessibility of hand rails, lighting and the length of flights of stairs.
Consider having enough space between rows of seats to enable people to move freely without disturbing others. This should also help reduce the evacuation time in an emergency situation, provided an adequate gangway is available.
The type of seating required is dependent, to a large extent, on the type of event being organised. As a guide it is recommended that:
- individual movable chair seating should not be used in all enclosed and restricted facilities at events for more than 2,000 people
- individual movable chair seating can be used in unconfined, outdoor areas
- general admission seating can be used for events that are expected to attract a disciplined and orderly audience
- reserved seating should be the only seating allowed for those events that attract excitable and competitive crowds
- special facilities should be provided for handicapped patrons
- the legal capacity level of each area should be prominently displayed for public viewing and enforced
People generally treat temporary structures in the same way as permanent structures and the same degree of comfort and performance is expected. Therefore temporary structures should be designed on the same principles applied to permanent structures.
The risk of fires starting can be minimised by examining the fire regulations applicable to the venue. Most new venues will conform to current safety requirements. However, the building structure and fabric in older venues may need to be upgraded to meet requirements.
If the event is to be staged near water, especially when alcohol is to be available at the venue, adequate patrols should be arranged to prevent accidental drowning.
There may also be a fire risk at the venue, particularly in campground settings in country and bushland districts. Provision must be made to ensure fires are restricted or banned altogether during periods of high fire risk.
Facilities provided in campgrounds should be adequate for the number of people present. They should be adequately lit at night and kept clean. Access to the facilities should be maintained and the pathways kept clear. In addition to the provision of showers and toilets, adequate signage, litter bins and litter clearance must be arranged.
A street activity or parade has particular problems for crowd control:
- there are usually no entrances or boundaries to the venue, so in addition to the expected number of visitors and participants, there will be people who live and work in the area to be considered
- there may be friction between those taking part in the parade and residents who feel that their territory, privacy, peace and quiet and freedom of movement are being compromised
- there may be practical difficulties in getting visitors and residents to and from the area because of the limited capacity of public transport, the absence or suspension of parking facilities, together with road closures and diversions
- they offer opportunities to pickpockets and petty criminals which can lead to a disturbance
The feasibility of holding any street event should be discussed at an early stage with the police, emergency services, residents` representatives, local authorities and any other interested parties. If the event is to go ahead, plans will need to include arrangements for effective monitoring of overcrowding at the venue and at associated areas such as approach roads and bus/train stations, and crowd behaviour, as well as ad hoc occurrences such as accidents and injuries.
It may also be necessary to consider closing the bus/train station for the venue. Where access to certain streets is controlled, residents could be encouraged to carry some form of identification to allow them into the area.
Where the event is a moving one, such as a parade, procession, or a fun run, choose a route which will minimise possible trouble, and not place additional demands on police and security resources.
Food and drink
At all events there should be, at least, readily accessible drinking water available at no cost, even if no other drinks are on-site. At events lasting longer than a few hours there should be some provision of food.
Where possible, drinks sold at the venue should be in plastic containers or in plastic or paper cups, rather than in cans or bottles.
Litter, especially broken glass, can cause major problems at events. Not only is it unhygienic to leave litter lying around but serious injuries can occur from broken glass and it may even be used as a weapon or missile. In order to minimise these problems it is important that:
- adequate litter receptacles are provided
- a `no glass` policy is considered
- a container is provided specifically for the disposal of glass and sharp objects
- a separate syringe disposal unit is considered
- litter is collected regularly throughout the event
Independent stall holders
If the event incorporates stalls run by independent operators they must comply with the appropriate health and safety regulations. Power cables and leads should be safely installed, and away from hazards of pedestrian movement or water sources.
Fireworks and flares
If there is to be a fireworks display, check on the following:
- how fireworks arrive at the venue
- what happens to them while they are there
- the types of fireworks and the safety distances for operating them
The operator will need to obtain the necessary permit from the appropriate regulatory authority, police and fire brigade. Permits generally stipulate that the fire brigade must be informed that a fireworks display is being held, and ideally a firefighter should be in attendance whenever fireworks are being let off. The fire brigade must receive a list of fireworks beforehand so that they know what precautions are required.
Fireworks have to be set up at the ground itself as it is illegal to transport fireworks in a trailer when they are fused.
Once the fireworks are at the venue:
- when the fireworks are set up they need to be locked away for safety
- establish a security cordon to prevent people from coming into the area where the fireworks are stored since cigarette butts or sparks could set them off
- establish whether any security arrangements that may have been made for the fireworks impinge on any other arrangements made, for example the arrival of teams
- make sure that fireworks are out of the way before people arrive
- check that everyone knows what to do in the case of an accidental fireworks explosion
- check if there is anything combustible in the area where the fireworks are to be kept prior to the show, such as gas pipes
- place metal water buckets filled with sand at regular intervals around the venue in case of fire
Flares can be an issue at some types of events. You could:
- check State government legislation on carrying and/or igniting flares
- advertise in the media the penalties for carrying a flare inside the venue
- have large temporary signs at the entrances to the venue highlighting the penalties associated with flares .