Jacky Isaac, General Manager of the Ricoh Arena, tells of a novel way of selling a multi-facility complexWhen the Ricoh Arena opened in 2005 it put the city of Coventry on the MICE map.
It is a complex of a wide range of facilities and it makes the most of many advantages of its location. It is only 25 minutes drive from Birmingham Airport, which has direct links with most countries in Europe and many long-haul markets. It is a few hundred yards from the M6 Motorway, so it is only about an hour from London by road and easy to reach from the North of England and Scotland. Now things are to get even better, with a railway station to be opened in 2014 linking with London via Nuneaton.
‘We are so central within the UK’, says Jacky Isaac, ‘that organisers can happily assume that people can travel from all over the UK to attend an event for the day. And we can offer 2,000 car parking slots.’
Jacky, who moved up to be General Manager from Operations Director about a year ago, reigns over a facility that does not have its equal anywhere else in the UK. It comprises a 32,500 capacity outdoor stadium, the Jaguar Exhibition Halls 1 and 2 that can seat 6,500 or cater for up to 12,500 for a concert. It has a 121-room De Vere Hotel, of which 50 rooms have views of the pitch. The Grosvenor G Casino, incorporating a show room, is the largest in the country and will shortly be open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
The City of Coventry must be very pleased to be a 50-per-cent owner of the complex, seeing the new business it brings into the area that was previously not feasible.
Jacky says that the extensive facilities cater for so many different requirements, that the Arena enjoys a fairly well-balanced level of business throughout the year. ‘The autumn and winter months keep us busy with conferences and exhibitions. The summer sees bookings for concerts and sporting events. We had to call ourselves the City of Coventry Stadium during the Olympics, but we were a very highly regarded and successful venue for them in 2012.
Because of the Ricoh Arena, over 35,000 fans from Coventry and its region have been able to enjoy concerts by such performers as Bruce Springsteen, Oasis and Coldplay.
The Arena is currently in the news for unfortunate reasons. It should be the home ground for Coventry City, but the football club, to the horror of its fans, has chosen to use a ground 35 miles away because of its financial difficulties.
The year round, the Arena has a staff of about 150. ‘When there are concerts’, Jacky points out, ‘we can engage the help of up to 2,000 casual helpers from the local area and from our nearby universities’.
‘Event organisers who make enquiries receive a very good personal service’, she emphasises. ‘We have separate managers who specialise in short-lead and small meetings; others who deal particularly with large conferences, exhibitions and weddings. When potential clients make an enquiry, from the start they are in touch with someone who can understand all their requirements.’
With the emphasis constantly on nurturing the markets, Jacky and her Marketing Director, Liz Cooper, have a novel way of introducing potential clients to the region.
‘Newcomers’, she says, ‘need to know where amenities are in the area, how far away they are and how their delegates will travel between, say, hotels, airport, stations and the Ricoh Arena.’
Maps are all very well, even interactive maps, but Jacky and her team take clients up in a helicopter and literally show them exactly where everything is in relation to the Arena. That certainly deserves to be described as a high level service.