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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Sport Management Students Team Up With Arena Proponents

A graduate class of Old Dominion University students has been given unique insight this semester into the proposed new arena project in Virginia Beach.

Students in Sport Marketing, taught by Stephen Shapiro, associate professor of sport management, are spending this semester working on a group project to learn about, and provide marketing suggestions, to United States Management (USM).

USM, one of the ESG Companies, plans to develop an approximately 18,000-seat capacity, multi-purpose entertainment and sports facility using private financing. USM/ESG and the City of Virginia Beach are currently negotiating final details of an agreement on infrastructure, traffic management, parking and other issues prior to an expected vote by Virginia Beach City Council later this year. The Arena would be built in part of the existing parking lot across from the city's convention center on 19th Street near the oceanfront.

For the students, it has resulted in a front-row seat for a project similar to the type of work they hope to do as professionals.

"This project is a great opportunity for students to receive real-world experience developing marketing initiatives that will be implemented as part of the Virginia Beach Arena development process," Shapiro said. "This type of practical experience is invaluable for career preparation in the sport and entertainment industry."

On Sept. 2, arena marketing and research associate Brittany Williams and Joel Rubin, president of Rubin Communications Group, met with the students in their class in Old Dominion's Student Recreation Center, to provide a general overview of the arena project.

The following week, the class met with David Keith, design director with Clark Nexsen; and Joe Gelardi, arena program director with USM, at Clark Nexsen's offices in Town Center in Virginia Beach, to discuss design aspects and functionality of the proposed arena complex.

Students in Shapiro's class have been divided into groups and tasked with developing plans for subjects such as local sponsorships, social media campaigns and premium seating marketing as well as convention center/arena collaboration and bidding for conference basketball tournaments.

"It's wonderful that we have a high quality sport management program in the area, and I expect we will be having interns and even hires from among their students and graduates," said Andrea Kilmer, president and CEO of ESG, a 1978 Old Dominion graduate in accounting, and a member of the University's Board of Visitors from 2011-15.

Old Dominion students have previously worked on arena-related projects. In 2014, civil and environmental engineering students chose the Virginia Beach arena for their capstone senior design project and collaborated with USM and local architecture firm Clark Nexsen on infrastructure needs and design features. Their senior project culminated with a presentation to a group of educators and industry professionals.

"We want the Arena to be not just a Virginia Beach asset but a regional one as well," said Joe Gelardi, vice president of USM. "Getting our colleges involved is a good way to do that, and we are open to other ideas from higher education institutions who would like their students to learn the ins and outs of facility development, management and marketing."