Setting the stage for success is something Alexis Berggren has practiced throughout her career in the live events industry. Long before she arrived in Evansville, Berggren was managing high-profile events and venue operations for convention centers, arenas and theatres across the country. Now, as she wraps her fourth year as general manager of Old National Events Plaza, she’s tapping into years of experience to help position the venue’s team for post-pandemic success.
Berggren started her career in the Midwest, spending four years in operations at an organization dedicated to promoting the performing arts in Lincoln, Nebraska. That experience quickly led to the Mid-America Center in Iowa and then the Oregon Convention Center, holding roles in operations and event services management.
Hollywood’s Dolby Theater attracted Berggren’s talents next, positioning her in leading production roles for events like the Oscars, America’s Got Talent, and other key accounts. She then moved to New Orleans, directing event services for the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where ASM Global (formerly SMG) executives recruited her for the general manager position she’s held in Evansville since 2017.
As general manager of Old National Events Plaza, Berggren began by pursuing feedback from key stakeholders and clients and quickly identified opportunities where the convention center could improve services and quality. One immediate goal was to offer more flexibility in terms and packaging by working directly with customers and staff to ensure the venue was meeting their individual needs. Another objective was to work towards diversifying local entertainment, booking a wider variety of performers and events for Evansville’s audiences. In addition, the increasing demand and activity at the venue called for some internal assessment and restructuring within each department, ensuring the team could fully support clientele and achieve the highest service standards. As a result, The Plaza has been successful in attracting worldwide talent to Evansville, complimenting the outstanding home-grown staff with new team members from as far as Arizona and Costa Rica.
In Berggren’s first year, she and her team outlined a five-year plan wherein the venue would work toward revenue neutrality, and by the end of 2018, the facility had performed 30% ahead of expectations. In 2019, the team continued to increase the number of events and attendance within the facility, and going into 2020, they had forecasted tremendous gains towards their goals.
The pandemic posed a new challenge for Berggren and her team as they responded to more immediate community needs. Within a week of the State’s orders to close all municipal buildings, Berggren led The Plaza team as they transitioned from managing in-person events to supporting virtual emergency meetings and, eventually, four of Vanderburgh County’s Superior Courts. In the Fall of 2020, they would assist over 9,000 early voters in passing safely through the facility, providing vital support to the County Clerk’s electoral operation.
To ease the impact of mandatory shut-downs, Berggren partnered with officials to research recovery resources for the venue. Her quick and thorough analysis of market trends and forthcoming economic strain led her to develop several mitigation plans based on differing fiscal outcomes. Berggren worked diligently with her team to develop a comprehensive safety and reopening plan, one of the first circulated in the venue management industry at the beginning of the pandemic. She partnered with City and County leaders to ensure the safety of key civic and court staff, members of the public, as well as venue employees. This planning positioned The Plaza for proactive pandemic management and placed the venue far ahead of the industry curve, retaining a handful of essential staff to support the operation of the building and poise the facility to successfully reopen.
As the team at Old National Events Plaza plans for the upcoming year, they’re met with a more complex industry landscape than that of 18 months ago. Berggren continues to lean into the network of venue professionals she’s cultivated within ASM Global’s management team and as an active member of the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) and Trustee of the IAVM Foundation.
Berggren also serves as one of two County Commissioner appointees to the Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors. She has proven to be a strong source of support in the collective efforts of Evansville’s downtown partners and enjoys networking with peers and community changemakers as a member of the Evansville Rotary Club.
Business is strengthening for the convention center in Q3-Q4 of this year and is building for next year, although perhaps more slowly than anticipated. As events contract for 2022, forecasts are nearing 80% of pre-pandemic event levels. Berggren and her team are ready for what comes next. “In terms of convention centers and theatres within our management company, The Plaza is weathering the pandemic better than most,” notes Assistant General Manager, Nick Wallace. “Many venues are just now reopening and have suffered tremendous losses. I’d attribute our current position to quick collaborative planning by local officials, and our team’s dedication to managing through the challenges.”
The Old National Events Plaza continues to announce new upcoming shows. Fans can look forward to an array of live performances in 2021 and 2022 including Styx, TobyMac, Joe Bonamassa, Soul Asylum, Straight No Chaser, and comedians Leanne Morgan and John Crist. We’re told more announcements are on the way in the coming weeks.
It’s been a dynamic four years at Old National Events Plaza for Alexis Berggren, both personally and professionally. She added two children to her family in 2018 and 2020, making this season in her life a time of dramatic change and growth. Both at home and at work, she knows there’s a lot to do in the future. However, Berggren’s perspective remains clear. “The Old National Events Plaza, and facilities like it, are so unique in that they can drive both significant economic impact and cultural influence within a community. Connecting people to their passions and providing for a higher quality of life is a tremendous responsibility, and we can make the greatest advancements by being effective ambassadors and dependable partners.”