Falcons owner Arthur Blank was named 2018 Sports Executive of the Year at the 11th annual Sports Business Awards hosted at the New York Marriott Marquis at Times Square on Wednesday night. Blank's revolutionary approach to the food and beverage experience at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, often referred to as "fan-first pricing," was also honored Wednesday, winning Sports Breakthrough of the Year.
Blank's vision to build a one-of-a-kind sports and entertainment venue in downtown Atlanta led to Mercedes-Benz Stadium opening its doors in 2017. The venue received high acclaim for its forward-thinking design and unparalleled fan experience. A capstone of the stadium's fan experience offerings, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium food and beverage experience won in the Sports Breakthrough of the Year category due to its disruptive and game-changing new model for the sports industry.
Home to the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, the stadium and its food and beverage experience was ranked No. 1 in the NFL and MLS voice of the fan surveys at the end of the 2017 season, with the Falcons jumping up 17 spots from a No. 18 ranking during the 2016 season. The surveys include four unique food and beverage categories: quality, price/value, speed of service and variety, with both teams finishing first across the board.
"Arthur's vision, resolve and leadership in shaping and implementing a new food and beverage experience for fans is deserving of great celebration," noted Steve Cannon, CEO of AMB Group, LLC. "We are proud of the experience we are delivering to our fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, as well as the waves that this revolutionary new food and beverage program is causing for the industry overall. Fans everywhere want to change the food and beverage experience at sports venues and they deserve it."
Blank's Atlanta United was also nominated for Sports Team of the Year after bursting on the scene of Major League Soccer in record-breaking style in 2017. The team set a single-game MLS attendance record twice last season, surpassing its own record yet again when 72,035 fans attended the 2018 home opener. The team became only the fourth in league history to qualify for the playoffs in its inaugural season.
Nominated alongside prominent sports influencers, Blank considers the Sports Executive of the Year accolade to be a team win across the Blank Family of Businesses. The impressive portfolio under Blank's ownership and oversight includes: The Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, leading golf retailer PGA TOUR Superstore, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, and Mountain Sky Guest Ranch and West Creek Ranch in Paradise Valley, Mont.
"Last year was an incredible, memorable one for all of our businesses and I'm very humbled and grateful to The SportsBusiness Journal and its staff by this recognition for our businesses, associates and, most importantly, our fans," Blank stated. "The most important partnership we have is the partnership with our fans, supporters, guests and customers. They are the focus of everything we do and I can't thank them enough for their commitment and support of our teams, our stores and our causes – these awards are truly community achievements."
Blank's long-time commitment and leadership in social justice led to his selection on the NFL's newly created owner's Social Justice Committee in early 2018 where his steady voice, influence and track record within the league will be critical in working with players, owners and other key stakeholders to address critical issues for the players and the league. As chairman of the NFL compensation committee, his leadership position in the league was elevated through his role and the dynamics of extending NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's new contract.
Through the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Blank and his family distributed $35.5 million in charitable grants in 2017 to many worthy social and sports-related causes both in Atlanta and across the country. Since founding the Blank Family of Businesses, he has given more than $300 million to causes all over America.