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Volume 21 No. 6

People and Pop Culture

Danny Boockvar, 46, spent years entertaining New York City tourists as CEO of New York Cruise Lines. A year ago, he shifted to run the new NFL Times Square Experience, which opened last month. A 40,000-square-foot, four-floor spectacle — think Pro Football Hall of Fame meets Disney World — the Experience is designed to engage fans and lure new ones. It boasts a 180-seat, 4-D theater featuring an NFL Films piece where it snows on the audience; interactive skills contests; and a traditional Hall of Fame display for all 32 teams. The Experience is a joint venture between Cirque du Soleil and the NFL. SportsBusiness Journal caught up with Boockvar to ask him about the new attraction.

You get snowed on, blowed on, smelled on and shaken as you experience life as a player.

Boockvar, at center.
What is the difference between entertainment on the waterfront and the NFL Times Square? You know I would say it is still, particularly if it’s Circle Line and the NFL, it is still a high-touch consumer services business; and making joy and memories for people. … Naturally the hero on the waterfront is the skyline, and the history of the city, and the hero at the NFL Experience is the NFL and football, and as you go from fan to player to champion. The narrative is a bit different, but to me honestly it is still just about fun and family and joy and memory making.

Who do you work for? The paycheck comes from an LLC called CDS NFL LLC. In that LLC is a partnership between the NFL and Cirque du Soleil and the investors. On a day-to-day basis I report into Cirque du Soleil; technically, they are the lead investor and manager of the project. But this is the NFL’s IP and the NFL’s brand and we are here to share the NFL with the world and develop that fan engagement, so I spend as much time with our friends at the NFL, [CMO] Dawn Hudson and the marketing team and the experiential marketing team and the consumer products team and the sponsorship team and the event team.

In New York, both the Sports Museum and ESPNZone Times Square did not succeed. Why will you? They weren’t rallied around one common theme. In this case it’s the NFL and that journey from fan to player to champion and celebrating all the NFL and the 32 clubs in one venue. … It is a 4-D theater that is more like a ride … and it’s got physical challenges, so you can actually block and throw, and that’s what I think makes it different. It’s a real blended attraction.

The $39 to $44 average price, with no child discounts, seems high: We did quite a bit of market research, we benchmarked similarly situated attractions in Times Square whether it is Circle Line, Madame Tussauds or some of the other attractions. … We have gotten the consumer feedback and past practices. We think the price is a good one.

What’s your favorite attraction? Nothing beats throwing a real football at a real target for the team that you love. But the 4-D theater pretty much is the coolest thing I have ever done and I watch it four times a day and still see something new every time. I got to say it is a tie.

— Daniel Kaplan

The Atlanta Braves promoted Perry Minasian to vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager, and hired Andrew Tinnish as vice president of amateur and international scouting. Tinnish was assistant general manager for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hired former Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus as a special assistant to the general manager.

The Class A Advanced California League’s Stockton Ports hired Mike Kim as senior director of ticket sales and service, Peter Fiorentino as corporate sales manager and Riley Robar as group sales manager.

The New York Knicks hired Dan Sabreen as vice president of public relations. Sabreen was vice president of communications for CBS Sports.

College of the Holy Cross hired Nick Smith as senior associate athletic director for external operations. Smith was athletic director at Assumption College.

Southern Utah University named Debbie Corum athletic director and Travis Illian director of sports performance.

Lamar University Athletic Director Jason Henderson resigned.

Kevin Miller, University of Louisville executive senior associate athletic director for internal operations, will retire, effective Jan. 12.

The University of New Mexico hired Rob Robinson as senior associate athletic director and chief financial officer. Robinson was senior associate athletic director for finance and administration at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas hired Marcus Bowman as senior associate athletic director and chief financial officer and Michelle Edwards as associate athletic director for business services. Bowman was senior associate athletic director for sport administration at the University of Pittsburgh, and Edwards was associate athletic director for internal operations and senior woman administrator at Saint Leo University.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley hired Nathan Burk as associate athletic director for compliance. Burk was director of compliance at Brigham Young University.

The University of Texas at San Antonio hired Lisa Campos as vice president for intercollegiate athletics and athletic director. Campos was vice president for intercollegiate athletics at Northern Arizona University.

The University of Texas at Arlington hired Eric Trimborn as assistant athletic director for marketing and Julie Flickner as director of graphic design.

The University of Texas at El Paso named Jim Senter athletic director. Senter was athletic director at The Citadel.

Utah State University promoted Jessica Dickinson to director of development for Aggies Unlimited, the fundraising unit for Utah State Athletics.

West Virginia University hired Brandon Cunningham as an associate athletic director for major gifts and capital projects for the Mountaineer Athletic Club. Cunningham was associate director for the Wolfpack Club at North Carolina State University.

FlyQuest Esports named Nick Phan general manager. Phan was general manager for esports organization Immortals.

The Golden State Warriors’ GSW esports hired Hunter Leigh as head of esports. Leigh was head of esports operations for Yahoo Esports.

Pocono Raceway promoted Kevin Henry to managing director of facility operations, Ryan Yanoshak to managing director of marketing communications, Ricky Durst to senior director of marketing and fan engagement, Kevin Heaney to director of content, Kevin Teel to manager of content and JJ LaRose to manager of content and promotions. Craig Amhaus was hired as executive managing director of partnership sales and service and Kayla Houser as a ticketing specialist.

The International Association of Golf Administrators named Bill Walker executive director. Walker was executive director for the Utah Golf Association.

The Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament named Jim Hyler chairman of the Masters Tournament competition committees and rules committee.

The Los Angeles Kings hired Paris Granger and Alex Hefter as fan service associates.

The Aspire Group promoted Anaclaudia Cervantes to manager of sales and service at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Azia Evans to sales consultant at its national sales center, and hired Christopher Apenbrink as manager of ticket operations at the University of Idaho, Brandon Crist as manager of sales and service at the University of Delaware, Paolo De Guzman as a sales consultant at the University of Portland, Craig Ball as a sales consultant at the University of South Florida and Alisa Magowan as a service and retention consultant at the University of Connecticut.

Creative Artists Agency hired Steve Hasker as chief executive officer for CAA Global. Hasker was global president and chief operating officer for Nielsen Holdings.

The G3 Agency hired Justin Ostiguy as director of marketing partnerships. Ostiguy was manager of tournament operations for the PGA Tour.

Fox Sports promoted Jodi Valbuena to vice president of programming and live operations.

Harding Racing hired Brian Barnhart as president. Barnhart was vice president of competition and head of race control for IndyCar.

Multiteam Companies
The Madison Square Garden Co. promoted Sal Federico to vice president of MSG Sports Properties.

Minnesota United FC promoted Justin Borrell to general manager for Allianz Field.

Sporting Goods and Apparel
Alexander Global Promotions hired Chris Fryar as senior director of sales and Brent Klovdahl as sales director for sports marketing.

FanCompass hired Jeff Doyle as executive vice president for global asset sales. Doyle was managing partner for Cadence Solutions Partners.

Kilowatt Events hired Brett Blumberg as head of its new division, Kilowatt One.

Monster hired Dave Murphey as senior director of sports and entertainment event marketing. Murphey was senior director of corporate partnerships for the Miami Marlins.

Anthem Wrestling Exhibitions, a subsidiary of Anthem Sports & Entertainment Corp. and parent company of Impact Wrestling, hired Don Callis and Scott D’Amore as executive vice presidents.

Stats LLC hired Troy Anderson as chief of product and technology officer.

Awards and Boards
Blinktbi named Danny Morrison, professor of practice in the department of sport and entertainment management at the University of South Carolina, to its advisory board.

People news
To have your personnel announcements included in the People section, please send information and photos to Brandon McClung at 120 W. Morehead St., Suite 310, Charlotte, NC 28202, or email them to Electronic photos must be a jpg or tiff file for Macintosh, 2.25 inches wide at 300 dpi. Color only, please. News items may also be sent via fax to (704) 973-1401. If you have questions, call (704) 973-1425.

Vacations and dog treats, bling and ‘slime supplies’: Here’s what sports execs are asking for and giving this year.

Cole Gahagan
Chief commercial officer

Giving: With a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old, it’s all about gifts that keep the children outdoors. So this year, that’s bikes, scooters and a ton of sports equipment.
Getting: Anything and everything tech, particularly if it involves smart-home products. Amazon Echos have become fixtures in our house, so I’m always looking for more ways to put them to use!

Frank Vuono
16W Marketing

This holiday season it’s about sharing the pure happiness and joys of life with my family, especially my two grandkids, Talia and Levi. While I am sure the kids will get their full share of Disney and puppy toys, dolls, etc., this may be the year they each get their own set of golf clubs. Why not start them young?
For me, I suggested to my wife, Dorothy, the idea of a new high-tech turntable so that I can listen to my vinyl collection (vinyl is back!). I have a full 1956 Seeburg VL-200 Jukebox and a collection of over 1,000 45s. It would be fun to dust off some of those records and spin them again. There is a certain unique sound from vinyl that cannot be replicated.

John Osborn

Giving: My kids are into making and selling “slime,” so I will be giving them more slime supplies. They sell their own slime online, believe it or not. My wife will get something in the bling category.
Getting: I’d like to get a Husqvarna chain saw to use at our Vermont cabin. I just like to cut stuff down when I’m there.

John Tatum
Founder and president
Genesco Sports Enterprises

We’re leaving Christmas Day and taking my family to Colorado for vacation. So I’d like that last week of the year to have no calls, texts or emails — but I bet that won’t happen.

Djenaba Parker
General counsel
New York Red Bulls

I’m most excited for the gift I’m giving to my dog, a springer spaniel-Lab mix named Yardley. I found a Tempur-Pedic Memory Foam Dog Bed that will hopefully make him happy and comfortable at night. I’m also going to include lots of organic dog treats that will make perfect stocking stuffers.
For me, it’s two more Sonos wireless speakers so that I can listen to my Apple Music collection in my living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. The Amy Winehouse catalog is currently in heaviest rotation.

Alison Weber

Chief creative officer
Curiology / Levy

As my kids are older, I favor experiences over things because it means we get to be together — something I cherish with all our nutty schedules.
We splurged on a pre-Christmas experience and got amazing seats to “Hamilton.” The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we always head to the city and finish the day with dinner and a movie.
I insisted on getting to pick the movie this year, and ended our meal by sending them a picture of the Hamilton tickets to reveal my choice. The look on their faces was awesome.
I’ve already got a few boxes filled with quirky things that I pick up during the year to fill their stockings. From inspirational books to hilarious socks, each person opens every gift in their stocking and gets to hear the story behind it. It’s our tradition, and we’ll continue it forever.
For me? I’d love another chance to see “Hamilton.” I don’t have all the words memorized quite yet!

Kevin Westgarth

Vice president of business development and international affairs

The past year has provided a lot to be thankful for. Adding a second healthy baby boy to our family makes me hesitant to ask for more. But, since you asked, I’d love to see the addition of a few D-I college hockey programs as part of the NHL’s commitment to expand opportunities for both elite men and women. I’d also love to see more young boys and girls experience hockey with new ice rinks. And I hope to find passionate hockey people to help us make that happen. That, or an iPhone X.
Having two boys under 2 and a wife who wrangles them, I certainly plan to give some gifts that are well-deserved. I’d give my wife a monthlong spa package if I thought we’d survive, but I’ll find a compromise somewhere. My older son, Finn, is 20 months old and is a huge Beatles fan — of his own accord, I swear — so I’m looking for a tiny Hofner bass to feed his Paul McCartney passion. I also want to bring the whole family to the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citi Field to experience the beauty and fun of outdoor hockey. I’m hopeful I can find some good tickets.