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Occupancy vs. Capacity: What Should You Be Tracking?

Are you selling your venue short by reporting only sell-out flatline metrics? Understanding the core differences between occupancy and capacity tracking can impact not only your food and beverage revenue but the value of sponsorship advertisements. 

There’s nothing more appealing than a sold-out event. It’s the epitome of success for sports and entertainment venues as it indicates high volumes of on-premise foot traffic. For venue managers, it’s also a flag that indicates the level of staff required to be on-site, inventory management, and the value of your advertisement placements.

 For a long time, we’ve understood capacity – how many we can fit – and occupancy – how many showed up for the game as clear indicators of success. It seems simple enough, but the advent of machine learning brings deeper insights through visualizations and predictive analytics that have the power to accelerate enhancements of the fan experience.

 So, exactly what happens when you look at occupancy data throughout the entire event to surface deeper insights? The next era of stadium technology is ushering in data like:

●      Peak periods of occupancy on the concourse throughout the duration of the event

●      Total concourse foot traffic patterns and the impact of opening two hours before a major event

●      Empty craft beer patios coinciding with long lines at higher-priced stations.

These are the types of data points the Milwaukee Bucks examined at Fiserv Forum during the 2021 NBA Championship series. With the benefits of AI and machine learning, we are able to surface deep insights that drive decision-making around fan experience and sponsor engagement.

Here’s an example: a sold-out, game three, NBA Championship event at x stadium has a maximum capacity of 18,000 seats. That’s 18,000 people with buying power. Each of those people will enter and exit the stadium through the main concourse.


CONCOURSE OCCUPANCY CAN BE AS HIGH AS 5X YOUR CAPACITY


During a championship basketball game, space analytics software captured a total of 90,000 visits to the concourse in six hours  five times the number of seats available for attendance. How could that be? Well, as a visitor enjoys the entire experience, they move through the concourse on their way to the shops, bathrooms and concession stands several times. When analyzed in comparison to other types of events, the total occupancy through your concourse figures can reveal and predict concession ROI.

Surfacing this number is more valuable to sponsors in understanding the true exposure to their brand. Sponsors understand the value of volume when it comes to ad placement and are willing to maximize their spend. Surfacing capacity instead of occupancy figures provides just a fragment of the total impressions available. Understanding the difference between these metrics is paramount; if there is any hesitancy towards these terms, or there’s relating to space occupancy, check out our definitions blog. Ultimately, this can validate ad spend to sponsors and partners by offering reports with accurate brand exposure and providing them with validation benchmarks for owners.


VISUALIZING FOOT-TRAFFIC PATTERNS ADDS CONTEXT FOR REVENUE OPTIMIZATIONS


Venue operators and managers have historically run successful live events using occupancy as a percentage of capacity (how many arrived vs how many seats were available) as a main data point. That value is still a great way to kick-off event management but as the fan experience evolves, meeting the needs of venue attendees will too. In today’s world, point-of-sale is your smartphone, grab-and-go food and beverage kiosks are a norm, and the speed of gratification is ever-accelerating. A birds-eye view of space utilization can tell you how to map out your venue to optimize traffic flows, validated by historical data and predictive analytics.

When architects and design teams visualize space, they assume traffic patterns based on blueprints and design for efficacy around those assumptions. When we verify those hypothetical movements and fan behaviors through data, we are able to better optimize bottlenecks, address point-of-sale performance, or redirect movement for better flow – i.e., getting more people through lines faster – and ultimately improving the fan experience.

With dashboards that visualize your entire arena, spatial planning and optimization is more easily understood by everyone at your facility. Back-of-the-house crews can use alerting features to identify bottlenecks and re-route traffic, cleaning facilities can become more efficient, and apps can surface queuing needs to attendees. Executives, operations managers, marketing teams, and financial analysts can strategize optimal ad placements and sponsorship tiers, validate costly redesigns, and project F&B revenue more accurately.

About the Author

Madelaine Moeke is Director of Insights & Analytics at Lambent, a company specializing in space analytics and crowd intelligence. She has been working in the sports industry for over a decade with a focus on turning raw data into actionable insights that drive everything from food and beverage sales to improving the fan experience. Her immersion in the sports venue management industry is helping premium entertainment venues redefine the next generation of live events.

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