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Volume 20 No. 41
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Pass it on: Advice to young people seeking facility management career

What advice would you give a young person looking to start a career in sports venue management?

DAVE BROWN, American Airlines Center: The advice I’ve been giving for years is to be flexible with expectations when looking for opportunities in sports venue management. The competition for jobs is so fierce you can’t be too selective where your entry point might be. Facility executives come from all areas of the operation and nothing will stop you from advancing once you’re in the door and in the game.

SCOTT JENKINS, Mercedes-Benz Stadium: Get your foot in the door anywhere you can — every experience is a good experience. Meet as many people as possible and prove your worth. The more you give, the more you get — it’s not about you. Have fun, work hard, and find unexpected ways to make a difference. Be thankful for any opportunity that comes your way. Be able to articulate your values and work with an organization that aligns with them.

ALLEN JOHNSON, Amway Center/Camping World Stadium: First, I’d suggest getting as much education as possible that includes marketing, analytics, forecasting, accounting, negotiation, business, sales, contract law, psychology among other core classes. I would suggest an internship or entry-level position with a minor league sports team. I usually suggest baseball since there are so many leagues and opportunities. During that job they should try everything from marketing, sales, concessions, operations, ticket sales, etc. that the team will allow. One day you’re staffing the mascot, the next day you are the mascot.

JIM MERCURIO, Levi’s Stadium: My first piece of advice would be to enter the business with “your eyes wide open,” meaning it is extremely important to understand that this is not a 9-to-5 job. It can be difficult on relationships, friendships and family given the demand of the schedule. Weekends, spring, summer, fall, holidays are all primary targets and seasons for when fans and customers want to be entertained. While others are heading to dinner on Friday or Saturday night, you’re likely prepping the field, the arena, the stadium for Saturday or Sunday’s event; or even preparing to open the doors for the multiple private or catered special events that you might be hosting in your venue that evening.

Secondly, it is important to remain vigilant, patient and poised. Nowadays, it seems that careers are made up of 2-3 year stints (if not less) as skill sets develop quicker and employee desires for upward mobility seem to be on the fast track … However, the frustration for employees itching to move up in the world can be daunting at times given the fact that many tend to stay once they’ve landed what seemingly was, or is, their dream job, ultimately limiting the desired upward mobility.

JOHN PAGE, Wells Fargo Center: Get your foot in the door, ask a lot of questions, be engaged with every department in the facility to learn everything and anything you can while becoming an expert in your job and, last but not least, find a mentor that will support your goals and assist with your personal and professional development.

ROY SOMMERHOF, M&T Bank Stadium: Try to gain as much experience as possible working in various disciplines. In my experience, the more well-rounded you are, the more marketable you will be to your employer or to future employers.

BRETT STEFANSSON, Philips Arena: Other than a solid education, young people need to realize the importance of developing their soft skills.

KIM STONE, AmericanAirlines Arena: Networking is critical, but even before that step, you need to start with a passion for this industry. While it is an immensely rewarding career, it is also an extremely demanding one that requires working nights and weekends. If you love this industry, the long hours never feel like a sacrifice. They are energizing and you have a lot of fun.

DAVE TOUHEY, Verizon Center: The best bits of advice I can give to someone is to always try to start with yes, always try to find solutions to a problem or make something work. Being a problem solver and being able to make things work is an invaluable asset. Also never pass up an opportunity to learn or grow in the business. The more well-rounded you are the more opportunities you create for yourself. The last bit would be to make sure you are enjoying what you are doing. It can be long hours and hard work, but if you are enjoying it, neither of those will matter as much.

PAUL TURNER, AT&T Stadium: Join different industry associations as a student or young professional member and get involved. The International Association of Venue Managers and Stadium Managers Association is a good start. You can connect with various professionals and ask for informational interviews, attend industry events, and visit venues to see firsthand how venues and events function. Start making connections and seek to understand the different career opportunities and how your skills connect with them.

LEE ZEIDMAN, Staples Center: First, become a sponge and soak up as much information as you can about sports venue management by offering to spend time with each and every department or business unit within the venue. That may mean sweeping the arena bowl after an event or converting it to the next event or working in sales/marketing/event coordination or the venue’s social media department. The more you know about the venue or industry the more valuable you are when it becomes time to fill positions from within and I’m a firm believer in promoting from within.