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Volume 21 No. 2


Don Muret
The Green Bay Packers went outside sports to hire an architect to design the $143 million expansion of Lambeau Field.

That’s the way the NFL team wanted it, said David Manfredi, a founding principal with Elkus Manfredi Architects, a Boston firm specializing in mixed-use projects. Its closest connection to a sports facility was developing a master plan for developer Samuels & Associates near Fenway Park.

Elkus Manfredi’s connections to Hammes Co., Lambeau Field’s project manager, certainly helped its cause. The architect is designing a major renovation of the Edgewater Hotel in Madison, Wis., Hammes’ headquarters are in Madison, and Hammes is in charge of the hotel’s redevelopment. Hammes President Bob Dunn introduced Elkus Manfredi officials to the Packers.

During the initial talks, Manfredi, a Notre Dame graduate, and Packers President Mark Murphy discussed the similarities between Lambeau Field and Notre Dame Stadium. In South Bend, Ind., school officials have resisted the temptation to add suites and advertising signs now common in other college stadiums. In past renovations, the Packers have not gone overboard on flash, unlike Cowboys Stadium’s Miller Lite go-go girls and Sun Life Stadium’s South Beach-style disco.

The exposed green steel in place inside the seating bowl is a good place to start for designing branded areas at the top of the south end zone, Manfredi said. The iconic Domino Sugars neon sign above the company’s factory in Baltimore is one example of what Lambeau’s new signs could look like, he said.

“The team hasn’t gone to where we’ve seen some other teams go,” Manfredi said. “Our job is to broaden the guest experience without being contrary to what Lambeau is all about.”

Sports installations by Philadelphia firm Sparks include work at Villanova’s Davis Center basketball practice facility.
FRESH SPARK: A former point guard who played in one of the greatest college basketball games of all time now helps teams display their own historic moments in sports facilities.

Harold Jensen, the sixth man on the Villanova team that upset Georgetown to win the 1985 NCAA title, is executive vice president of sales and marketing for Sparks Marketing Group, a Philadelphia firm that designs themed spaces at arenas, stadiums and halls of fame.

Over the years, Sparks has worked with Adidas and LG Electronics to design branded, interactive spaces tied to sports events. The past five years, the company has seen business grow developing attractions inside major league and college facilities, Jensen said.

Sparks is part of the design team planning the $977 million transformation of Madison Square Garden, where Jensen played in Big East Conference tournaments during his college days. The company is working closely with the New York Knicks and Rangers marketing staffs to brand the locker room areas, hallways and VIP spaces at event level. Those areas are near the $1 million bunker suites and the Delta Sky360 Club, the new event-level club players will pass going to and from the court and the ice.

The idea is to bring those drab walls in the bowels of the building to life with large murals and graphic treatments tied to famous MSG moments over the past 43 years the arena has been open, such as the “Willis Reed game” in the 1970 NBA Finals and the Rangers’ celebration of their 1994 Stanley Cup title, Jensen said. The moments that will be displayed are still under consideration, he said.

In the college market, Sparks is designing a museum-type attraction for Niagara University’s Gallagher Center in upstate New York. The 4,000-square-foot space in the arena’s front lobby will showcase the careers of Calvin Murphy, a former Purple Eagle who became an NBA star, and Frank Layden, who coached Murphy on the Niagara team that made the school’s first NCAA tournament appearance in 1970. The project is tied to an overall renovation of the 62-year-old arena and should be ready by the start of the season, Jensen said.

At Jensen’s alma mater, Sparks is putting the finishing touches on updating locker room spaces at Davis Center, the school’s three-year-old basketball practice facility. The wall from the locker room to the practice court contains images of all the Villanova players who have made the NBA. Elsewhere inside the three-story building are a mural showcasing the school’s four Final Four appearances and, of course, a display case featuring the Wildcats’ 1985 championship trophy.

Don Muret can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

The Dallas Mavericks were playing in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, and arena boss Brad Mayne was flying back and forth to — Pittsburgh?

Mayne, as president and CEO of American Airlines Center, had the duty of running the Mavericks’ home during only their second Finals appearance, but at the same time, with help from some colleagues, he kept his commitment to teach a class 1,161 miles away for the Venue Management School at Oglebay Resort and Conference Center in Wheeling, W.Va. He squeezed in three round trips to complete his 17th year teaching at Oglebay.

Brad Mayne answers to Mavs owner Mark Cuban and Stars interim chief Tony Tavares.
Those who know him best were not surprised the former journeyman plumber pulled it off.

Considering the magnitude of the NBA Finals, others would have said no to Oglebay and stayed put, said Robyn Williams, executive director of the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, and a close friend.

“Brad is one of the most ethical people I’ve ever known,” Williams said. “You combine that characteristic with a passion for the industry and a desire to give back, and you have such a great leader.”

Mayne is first to volunteer for an industry cause, said his closest friends. They describe a 30-year facility operator with a steady hand in a difficult position working for two bosses, Mavs owner Mark Cuban, and for the moment, Tony Tavares, the Dallas Stars’ interim president.

“It’s tough because he reports to two teams and they are not always going to agree on things all the time,” said Greg McElroy, the Dallas Cowboys’ senior vice president of sales and marketing. McElroy worked for Mayne during the arena’s first four years of operation.

They also describe a man of deep faith, a member of the Mormon church who grew up in Salt Lake City. Someone with a wry sense of humor whose nickname “Moondog” honors his cousin, the late pro wrestler Ron (Lonnie) “Moondog” Mayne.

His leadership skills can be seen nightly at American Airlines Center, which 10 years after its July 28, 2001, opening still shines like a new building because of an aggressive list of capital improvements. Mayne, with direction from the teams, has led those changes. Over the past decade, Center Operating Co., the arena’s management firm, has invested $28.5 million, revamping premium spaces, installing the first 1080-pixel HD video board in a big league arena and developing a Latin-themed restaurant/nightclub open on non-event nights.

As a result, American Airlines Center ranks consistently among North America’s most profitable facilities. For calendar year 2010, the arena reported gross ticket sales of close to $40 million, a number covering all events except for Mavs and Stars games. (The teams do not report their financials, Mayne said.) Excluding the two teams, the venue finished last year with 518,646 tickets sold, good for third behind Madison Square Garden and Staples Center, according to Pollstar magazine.


ON SUCCEEDING: “My dad had told me, ‘Surrounding yourself with people that could take your job away from you will be the most successful thing you’ll ever do.’ So I’ve never been afraid to find the best people and do what I could to get them on my team.”

ON THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE TEAMS: “When we very first started our arena sales process, sponsors were saying, ‘I want to be a sponsor of the Stars,’ and we would tell them they have to take the Mavs as part of our partnership to get the most sought-after inventory. Now it’s the Mavs and the sales pitch is the same. It’s just the players have changed.”

ON KEEP THE ARENA CURRENT: “Over in Europe, you have a lot of facilities built many years ago that are still very successful and have a great brand. There’s no reason for us not to think that we can’t accomplish that same brand and experience here.”

— Don Muret
The last four years have been the best in the arena’s history for third-party events. The trend speaks to the building’s marketing efforts, considering revenue and attendance goes up and down depending on which acts are touring, Mayne said, although it also reflects the growth of Dallas-Fort Worth, now the country’s fourth-largest market behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Along the way, Mayne has played a critical role educating his staff on the finer points of booking those events.

Dave Brown, American Airlines Center’s vice president and general manager, is a prime example of how Mayne has shaped his staff. Brown was the manager at old Reunion Arena in Dallas when Mayne came to town in 1998. The city had signed a deal with the Mavs and Stars to build a new arena, privately managed by a joint venture representing the two teams. For three years while American Airlines Center was under construction, that firm, now Center Operating Co., took over Reunion Arena from the city and ran it as a private enterprise.

“Frankly I thought I knew a lot about the industry, but I learned more working the first year with Brad than I had learned in the first 12 years of being in the business,” Brown said.

Under Mayne’s tutelage, Brown learned how to pursue shows instead of waiting for the phone to ring, something new for Reunion staff accustomed to working for a public entity that did not take financial risk to buy events.

Seven months before American Airlines Center opened, Brown, whom Mayne hired as the new arena’s general manager, pulled the trigger for the Eagles to christen the building. “It was a $2.2 million guarantee, and we made that deal and made it profitable and we haven’t looked back,” Brown said. “Now, we have one of the top arenas in the business. Without Brad’s guidance and mentorship, I don’t know if I could have made that transition.”

Mayne knows about transition. The son of a plumber, Mayne first got a taste of sports business in high school selling tickets for state tournament games in four sports. In college, he worked in marketing and sales for the University of Utah’s athletic department. But after graduating from Utah, Mayne was content to follow his father’s path as a tradesman until that work dried up in the early 1980s and he took a job as an event coordinator at the old Salt Palace, original home of the Utah Jazz.

“Brad went from wearing Wolverine boots to Cole Haan shoes,” joked Tavares. “If you think about it, he’s living the dream.”

After the Salt Palace, Mayne got a job with the old Ogden Entertainment, managing arenas in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Tacoma, Wash., and developing an amphitheater in Chicago before corporate sent him to Southern California as project manager for the Anaheim arena development. That’s where he teamed up with Tavares, an old arena manager himself who had become president of Disney Sports Enterprises, the former owner of the Anaheim Ducks.

Five years after the Arrowhead Pond (now Honda Center) opened in 1993, Mayne, then a regional manager for Ogden, was hired by the Mavs and Stars to develop American Airlines Center.

“It’s a fascinating story,” Tavares said. “I can’t think of another person in the industry with that kind of background who has risen to be CEO of a top building.”

It hasn’t been all roses in Dallas. The Stars have struggled on the ice and at the gate and appear bound for bankruptcy protection before a new owner buys the team, similar to what the Texas Rangers went through in 2010.

“The challenges you have with a two-team dynamic like we have here … there are some big issues that come Brad’s way, but he’s always very calm and calculated in his approach,” Brown said. “Sometimes we joke, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if Brad just got mad every once in a while if we did something wrong.’”