Sodexo Prestige Venues & Events, which manages catering and events at St James’ Park, home to Newcastle United, scooped gold in the Access for All category at the prestigious North East Tourism Awards 2015.
The awards were set up to highlight the regional visitor economy, which is worth an estimated £3.9bn and employs more than 55,000 people in the North East and the stadium was recognised for the quality and range of facilities it provides for elderly and disabled visitors.
The stadium has a visually impaired section, with access to hard wired commentary provided by a local radio station, while the club also has portable radios to loan to visiting supporters not seated in the commentary section.
Induction loops are fitted in the main function rooms and front of house areas and not only has the team completed the Premier League’s ‘Open for Business’ course, but all general safety stewards have, or are working towards, an NVQ level 2 in spectator safety, which includes sections on disability awareness.
In addition, the stadium has three first aid rooms, staffed by St John’s Ambulance volunteers supported by paramedics and three crowd doctors. All first aid rooms are available to allow those with ongoing conditions to self-administer medication when necessary.
The stadium, which has 170 wheelchair accessible seats, is one of only five in the Premiership to offer a 50 per cent discount for supporters with disabilities and also offers free tickets for their carers.
"It was a fantastic night and our team’s success was very well deserved,” said Samantha Doyle, area sales manager for Sodexo Prestige Venues & Events at St James’ Park.
“We have a large proportion of supporters who have been attending St James’ Park for many years and are elderly and infirm and utilise walking aids, such as a stick or a frame, to access the stadium.
“Our stewards are all trained in-house and, as many have also been with us for several years, they have built relationships with the fans and always offer them help and assistance to their seats.”
Along with the gold award, which was shared with one of the UK’s top music venues, SAGE Gateshead, the Sodexo team at the stadium picked up bronze in the Business Tourism category
And, as winners at the regional awards, Sodexo Prestige Venues & Events at St James’ Park is now automatically entered into the national Visit England Awards for Excellence 2016. James Berresford, chief Executive VisitEngland, said: “Congratulations to all of this year’s award winners. I wish them the very best in competing for our VisitEngland Awards for Excellence in 2016.” Earlier this year, St James’ Park saw off competition from a clutch of the country’s top stadia to win the Operations Team of the Year category at The Stadium Events and Hospitality Awards 2015