Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Interview with Trey Feazell, EVP of Event Programming at State Farm Arena after hosting LoL Worlds Semifinals

State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia hosted the 2022 League of Legends World Championship Semifinals. Trey Feazell is one of the people who helped put the event together. He spoke with TGH’s Thomas Baker about his introduction to esports, his thoughts on worlds, and the future of the arena.

[For full audio listen here]

Trey’s Role at State Farm Arena

TGH Thomas: “So first I did read up a little bit about you and your involvement with the State Farm arena. But could you just give me a kind of the bullet points of your specific involvement in World’s Semifinals at State Farm Arena this year?”

Trey Feazell: “Sure. So my responsibility for the arena is to program the building. So we work diligently to make sure we have a robust event made. And you know, the concerts and sporting events and we just try to look at and see how do you grow? What’s the new thing? How do you grow your event mix. Because at the end of the day, in a perfect world, there’s 365 days in the year we’d like to have an event.

So we’ve been talking to lots of people about esports, because it’s growing so much. And what’s it? Millions of people are watching it through Twitch and whatever. So there’s definitely a fanbase. And a lot of these championships are taking place when our basketballs aren’t. So we took a look this year. We were able to work with our teams and the dates and it worked out to where we had those dates available.

And so what I did was I was able to work with Riot Games as well as you know, some other folks do to get this event done. And then I worked with our events team and our ops team to make sure it ran as smoothly as possible.”

Trey’s Prior Esports Experience

TGH Thomas: “So just out of curiosity, how familiar were you with esports prior to this event, have you had any exposure?”

Trey Feazell: “Not really, I mean, only other than talking to people and knowing that is something I wanted to learn about because I think it’s an advantage that works in buildings, in a building such as ours. So it was something that we have always been looking at one, you know, wanted to host. And and now after hosting our first one I’m hooked. Like we were talking about a minute ago the enthusiasm of the fans, the knowledge of the game that they have, it was just so much fun listening and how into it they all were.

So didn’t have a whole lot of knowledge. It’s kind of interesting our first event is basically the Super Bowl of esports I’m told. So I know we started off with a bang. But yeah, we are very interested in this being part of our annual event.”

TGH Thomas: “That’s great. I’m glad to hear that it’s always exciting. Whether you’re interested in esports or any other more kind of niche community that is growing. It’s always nice to get that feedback from someone as they get exposed their first time to the community into the competition and, and just kind of get that positive reinforcement of ‘yeah, this this is something that’s enjoyable and exciting and we’re always looking forward to the future with it.’”

A view of the stage at State Farm Arena – image from LoL Esports

How the Event Went from the Arena’s Perspective

TGH Thoma: So now that we’ve had the event over the weekend, today is Wednesday, November 2, so we’ve had a few days to kind of move past it. I don’t know exactly where you and your team are with how quick that turnaround is. But how do you feel like the event went from the different perspectives of your side from the State Farm Arena?”

Trey Feazell: “I thought it went fabulous. It went great. I mean, the good thing about having two days is that we were able to adjust a few things. One of the things that I learned was how early fans come. I think we got them in the doors very well but obviously going learning from day one to day two, obviously we got smarter. I think all in all the event went really well.

TGH Thomas: “Great. Did you run into any unexpected challenges? I imagine there are certain things that are done differently for something like an esports event as compared to a basketball game or a concert. Was there anything that was unexpected or that you felt maybe was a learning experience?”

Trey Feazell: “Nothing expected, but one of the things that’s interesting is you basically have three to four halftime or intermission. For a basketball game you gear up for halftime. People are gonna come out into the concourse, they’re gonna want to get food and beverage, they’re gonna want to get merchandise, and you get them in and out as quick as possible. And for this event, you basically had four of those. Every time there was a game was over, then they would come up and do that. So that was one of the things that’s unique about it.”

TGH Thomas: “Yeah, I guess I never really thought of it that way. On that same point, what was there anything unusual about not knowing how long the event might last? Because in esports there is kind of a variance in how long the event is gonna last on a day.”

Trey Feazell: “Not really, I mean, we knew a window. So we could tell the staff and we could plan accordingly if it goes to only the three games, then it would be here. So that really wasn’t a challenge. The challenge was making sure we’re prepared for the times when lots of the fans came out on the concourse and wanted to get food or merchandise as quickly as possible.

And the fans were incredible. They were enthusiastic about the event and plus they were just there to have a good time and a great crowd. The other thing that’s unique is probably a lot of these people that were here have…[probably not been to Atlanta. So it gave us another opportunity to gain new fans].”

The packed stadium at State Farm Arena – image from LoL Esports

A Lack of Signage and Visuals Around the Arena

TGH Thomas: “Gotcha. Yeah, my only kind of smoke with the event if I had to pick something and be a little nitpicky was when I was walking around the area leading into Saturday, and then throughout the weekend, I noticed there wasn’t really a whole lot of Signage or, for lack of a better term, pageantry around the arena signaling that this event was taking place. Of course the Sky View Atlanta ferris wheel was a really cool touch. I’m not sure if you were involved with that at all. But there’s this big ferris wheel, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, in the middle of downtown and it had this big LED Worlds logo at the center of it.

But beyond that, that was really the only indication that I saw that the event was taking place. I even kind of watched as the little front screen in front of the arena cycled through the different partnerships and upcoming events, but I didn’t really see too many banners or any kind of signage. Was that something that was conscious or was that something that would fall within your purview? Would you agree that maybe there could have been more of that?”

Trey Feazell: “We focused on the experience inside the bowl. I mean, that was our main focus—making sure when people came in that they felt like they knew they were at a World Championship. Outside the bowl, I know that Riot Games worked with the city. I know that we did the first ever tailgate party in the park. Never done that with League of Legends, but we were not involved in that part of it. But yeah, that’s great constructive criticism going forward. You know, maybe that’s exactly what we could do more. So I appreciate you saying that.”

TGH Thomas: “It was just one of those things I noticed. You know, I was kind of talking to some of the fans. As media, we go through a different entrance, so I was kind of trying to think from a fan’s perspective. Which entrance are we using? Where’s the tickets? Where’s the merch? This kind of thing and, and then just kind of the feeling of this event is happening in the area for someone who might not be familiar or expecting something other than a basketball game or concert being there.”

The Future of Esports at State Farm Arena

TGH Thomas: “Wrapping this up. Would you consider State Farm Arena to host esports events in the future and what does that kind of look like as you move forward?”

Trey Feazell: “Absolutely. We’re getting conversations now about different games and so forth. We’ve got the bug now. We did something we’ve always knew that we wanted to do and now that we’ve done it, and we are going to continue to be aggressive on trying to get to the next event. I know that I think League of Legends moves around the world, so I don’t know if they’ll be available to us again, but we will continue to have those conversations, because it was a great event. My staff loved it. It was a lot of fun. You will see more esports events here.”


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