Community upgrade-sustainability OVG essence



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Mark Donnelly at Coliseum EUROPE 2023 Image: Coliseum GSVA

Mark Donnelly is a top honcho at the Oak View Group (OVG) in United Kingdom and his observations best mirrors the set of values which forms the essence of his organization.

He makes it clear that OVG does look into the commercial angle of their various projects but it is not the summum bonum and sustainability and doing community welfare stands high on their list of priorities.

Mark Donnelly joined OVG International in 2019 as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and he boasts nearly 30 years of operational and financial experience and is also proficient in the art of handling major projects.

Mark Donnelly, COO/CFO, Oak View Group International, UK, tells ‘Coliseum’ in a candid conversation that though raking in the moolah is a prerequisite for all OVG projects but making a long-term impact on the community and keeping the sustainability flag flying high is of equal import.
 

Oak View Group (OVG)

OVG Oak View Group, LLC is an American Global Advisory, Development and Investment Company for Sports and Live Entertainment industries. Based in Los Angeles (US), it was formed on November 16th, 2015 by Tim Leiweke and his business partner, Irving Azoff. Leiweke is the company’s Chief Executive Officer.
 

OVG International

OVG International focuses on growing OVG’s core business pillars and embarks on new synergistic opportunities in the live entertainment space globally.

Mark Donnelly starts off on an assertive note, “The reason we take projects is we want to do the right thing that is from the sustainability aspect, making a long-term impact on the community, and our venues are indeed making a positive contribution. However, we are also a commercial organization with private equity investors and making a return is almost a prerequisite for all our projects.”
 

OVG Feats

The OVG is a global leader in the sports and entertainment industry with a unique portfolio of strategic service offerings – “We develop buildings and we have got about 10 arenas which opened in the last two years and we have in the pipeline 10 arenas which we want to develop in the next five years. We also saw more naming rights in the last five years than any other organization.”

OVG is the largest developer of sports and entertainment facilities in the world – “We have currently got about 10 billion dollars under development and in the pipeline. That is currently we are working on 10 exciting projects and lessons we have learned from our past projects we are trying to employ them in some of our current projects.”
 

Understanding Venues

He averred, “We understand the buildings, we understand the venues, we understand the operations because we operate them every day and that gives us a 360 view of the services.
 

Climate Pledge Arena

The 18,300-capacity Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington is one of OVG’s groundbreaking projects – “It is the only project of its kind where the naming rights partner is actually a pledge to the climate as part of Amazon’s climate pledge charity.”

He stated that every project is different as every arena has to respond to its individual market and the individual factors within those markets.
 

OVG Purpose

OVG believes in doing things differently and not the run-of-the-mill kind – “We want to try and disrupt the industry. I think it is bit of a buzzword but we don’t want to do the same things that have been done for the last 20 years. So, we challenge ourselves and that helps us in delivering successful projects.”
 

OVG Pillars

 

Sanitization

With the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, the sanitization factor has become key for every venue – “Today, venues are all about touch points and how to make the same contactless, using digital technology and going cashless, and, of course, the cleaning regimes.”
 

Safety

OVG does not compromise on the safety quotient – “We have got in-house Safety Advisory Groups comprising Advisors who work with the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and we take pages out from those organizations and make sure that we employ them in our global projects.”
 

Sustainability

Sustainability is clearly the major challenge which venues and the sport venue industry are facing at the moment and it is “probably one of the biggest fights of our generation and we have got responsibilities towards posterity. Sustainability is providing opportunities to the community on which the venue sits – providing jobs and honing skills. It is also about minimizing waste in the venues.”
 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

A lot of venues run by the OVG sit in areas which has a diverse community skirting them – “We invest back to that community by providing jobs and sharpening their skills.”

The latest venue project from the OVG stable – the Co-op Live Arena in East Manchester (UK) – sits in an area which is “socially challenged and has pretty low skill and education level. So, we committed to work with our partners and with the Manchester Council as to how we can help address that and help the community evolve.”
 

OVG 360

“We partner with 50 venues worldwide and arenas and theaters sort of internationally and we understand the buildings because we live them every day and we know how to monetize the good things and we know how to kind of invest in the important things.”
 

Co-op Live

The 23,500-capacity Co-op Live is an indoor arena currently under construction in Manchester, England (UK). Due to open in April 2024, it is planned to have the largest maximum capacity of any indoor arena in the United Kingdom.

Enthused Donnelly, “The Co-op Live is the first venue designed for music. The venue has been designed specifically for music which is quite a departure from most other indoor arenas. Historically, indoor arenas have been very much sports-focused.”
 

Getting along like a House on Fire

As OVG and Co-op share the same set of values, they have hit off very well when it came to the naming rights deal. Both the companies strongly believe that naming rights is not just about commercial benefits but it also comes with responsibilities towards the community and the sustainability factor.
 

Co-op

Co-op is the largest consumer co-operative in the United Kingdom and as Donnelly shared, “Co-op is a business which is 160 years old and it was founded to look after workers’ rights and to cooperate and provide a better outcome for the workers 160 years ago. The more that we spoke to Co-op, the more we realized that they shared our values and that has driven huge value for us. So, we had already committed to investing in sustainability, making sure that the building was going to be net zero from Day One operationally, managing waste, and eliminating plastic in the building.”

The Co-op Live arena has been designed and built purely for music and all of the seats have been brought closer and the roof has been pulled down.

On non-event days the arena will open up for community use. OVG also plans to invest in the biodiversity within the area.
 

Sum-up

Mark Donnelly concluded with his wise words, “Every project has to make financial sense and we have to make them work but at the same time we have heard about the impact that these buildings can have on the environment and the community has to be at the heart of the venues. In 20 years from now, the Co-op Live will also be known for its social responsibility.”

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