COLUMBIA, SC — Perfectly trimmed grass, freshly painted lines, 80,000 seats and tributes to the Gamecock greats of years past. Sounds like a University of South Carolina football game, right?
Well, it doesn’t have to be.
Imagine that scene, but instead of 80,000 strangers, the stadium is hosting a few hundred family members, close friends, business colleagues or even potential customers.
is not only home to the USC Gamecocks, but also hosts all types of affairs throughout the season and off-season.
In the past year alone, the venue has been the setting for events ranging from an AFLAC Employee Appreciation Day to the Spring Valley High School prom.
Corey Potter, a Columbia photographer, didn’t know of the possibilities the stadium held until a few years ago, when a couple requested to have their engagement photos there.
“Once I posted those pictures on the site, tons of people started asking about it,” he said.
Michael Jennings, operations vice president for Centerplate, the catering company that handles events held by USC, said his own daughter had her wedding reception
in the Zone portion of Williams-Brice, the largest room available for rental.
Jennings said staff is flexible and cooperative.
“They’re willing to work with you,” he said.
For the Jennings wedding, a 40-foot stage was erected on the field for his daughter and her new husband to be presented on, and there was a traditional slide show of the newly hitched couple on the scoreboard.
“It was a very glamorous event,” said Mel Parker, the assistant director of facility management at Williams-Brice who has worked there for 17 years.
Parker, who is in charge of all bookings for private events in the stadium, said it’s a popular place for events.
“It’s typical stuff for the most part,” he said. “We do a lot of business meetings, parties, things like that.”
Between March 2012 and March 2013, the stadium rented space for hundreds of events, mostly to USC for staff meetings, football games, and sometimes sorority and fraternity functions.
Private events, such as birthday and graduation parties, weddings and baby showers were the second most frequent reason for rentals. The stadium was home to 11 wedding-related events last year, from rehearsal dinners to receptions.
Corporate events, including the AFLAC Employee Appreciation Day and a Palmetto Health Foundation fundraiser, were next on the list.
Since July 2012, the stadium has brought in $87,000 from these rentals.
Parker said the Zone is the most popular room for large private events, as it can hold up to 650 people for a sit-down dinner.
“I rent this room alone probably 30 or 40 times a year,” he said as workers shuffled in and out setting up for a party. “I could rent it 75 times a year if I rented it on back-to-back days.”
“Last August, we had 41 events in 30 days, and that was in all of our rooms, but probably half of them were in here,” he said of The Zone.
Todd Koesters, an assistant professor in USC’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, has some experience with such events and their impact on the facility as a whole.
Koesters joined the USC faculty after serving as vice president of marketing and sales for Churchill Downs Entertainment Group.
“The primary purpose of the hospitality rooms in Churchill Downs and in Williams-Brice is to entertain people,” he said. Churchill Downs is home to the Kentucky Derby.
“The stadium is really only used for a few Saturdays out of the year,” Koesters said. Events like this bring in money for the stadium, so “it isn’t just sitting there for months.”
Williams-Brice Stadium is not only home to USC football, but it also is available for private events. Nine rooms available for rental, and their capacities:
Letterman’s Lounge: 120 people
5 Executive Clubs: 40-48 people
P-1 (half room or whole room): 84 people
Champion’s Club: 250 people
The Zone: 650 people