A previous version of this article stated that Dr. Marciani was instrumental in the creation of NCS4's COVID-19 task force. Dr. Marciani had left NCS4 prior to the formation of that task force.
It's not often that a veteran of any industry wraps up a career and immediately launches into a major new undertaking, but that's exactly what Dr. Lou Marciani has done after recently retiring from the University of Southern Mississippi, where he served as director of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security from 2006 to 2020.
Knowing a spot on a warm beach would only satisfy him so long, Marciani was spurred by the pandemic to see where he could make a difference beyond his legacy at USM and NCS4.
"I was suddenly right in the middle of everything again," Marciani says, noting that he had one foot out the door of USM when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged.
Key to his most recent venture was a formal relationship Marciani helped establish between NCS4 and INTERPOL's Project STADIA program. Established by INTERPOL in 2012, Project STADIA is a 10-year project that aims to help police better understand and manage international sporting events. Project STADIA selected NCS4 to serve as a research and academic partner to help build programs in sports safety and security for INTERPOL's 194 member nations.
It was this partnership that convinced Marciani it was time to look beyond U.S. borders and help establish a global alliance that could more broadly address the future of the fan experience. Thus, the Innovation Institute for Fan Experience was born this year, with Marciani co-founding it with Christopher Kinnan, who previously served as manager of NCS4.
"It's something I've wanted to do, which is really to move beyond just safety and security and move more into the fan experience," says Marciani. "That's really important, because post-pandemic, security, comfort and cleanliness will be the key determining factors for people returning to these venues."
Tapping the experience of a number of industry experts and thought leaders, the nonprofit IIFX will work to create best practices and address current and emerging risk factors in the sports and entertainment industries.
Marciani says the institute aims to connect industry professionals through a member-based organization that can facilitate communication and coordinate new solutions among industry players around the globe.
"This is really less about lessons learned and more about looking toward the future," he says. "More of our energy will be focused on innovation."
The institute's first order of business will be a virtual conference and expo (Innovative Pathway to the Future of Sports & Entertainment International Virtual Conference and Expo, Nov. 17-18). The event will feature an array of diverse sports and entertainment industry professionals and organizations focusing on the common challenge of adapting and innovating health safety, security, operations and management solutions geared toward the fan experience.
Imagining what Marciani calls a "new paradigm," the conference will offer a lineup of experts who are currently experiencing firsthand the anticipated "new normal" for sports and entertainment venues. Looking ahead, Marciani imagines the fan experience will be quite different "from the time one leaves the garage to returning home."
IIFX is currently seeking members. Individuals can sign up for a fee as executive, future or education leaders, depending on what type of position they hold in their respective industries. Group memberships are also available for entities such as amateur and professional sports leagues, as well as organizations such as law firms, architectural firms and players' associations.
According to the institute's website, IIFX supports its members through:
• Connecting and networking with sports and entertainment safety, security and fan experience professionals and organizations from around the globe
• Facilitating interaction among the international sports and entertainment community practitioners
• Sharing individual and collective experience, lifelong knowledge and wisdom
• Building an influential international group and peer-to-peer networking through conferences, seminars, workshops, town halls and working groups
• Providing a gateway to interact with other members, their countries and their cultures
For his part, Marciani says the beach will have to wait, as that kind of post-retirement lifestyle was never really in his DNA. His primary concern right now is continuing to make a difference while he has the energy to do so.
"When I started working with INTERPOL and started learning about what's going on in the world beyond the United States, I think we all knew there was a gap there," Marciani says. "Whether it's education, training, or collecting and presenting information and data, I just want to be engaged and contribute."
This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Former NCS4 head turns attention to fan experience." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.