Amy Sprangers is a Seattle native, growing up on Bainbridge Island, attending the University of Washington and then going to work for the event festival Seafair. She did such a good job there, a friend at Budweiser insisted she should work for the Seahawks. She’s been at the NFL team since 2001, rising though the ranks to now overseeing all suites, retail, concessions, sponsorships and local media rights. SportsBusiness Journal caught up with her in what is the team’s first offseason since 2011 in which it was not coming off a playoff appearance.
We pride ourselves on being a consistent championship-caliber team both on the field and off the field. Beyond the success on the football field … we are committed to ensuring our Seahawks organization is a source of pride and leadership throughout the community.
On ticket renewals being strong: This story holds true there, building off of 130 consecutive home game sellouts. We have had a 97 percent-plus renewal rate, still strong season-ticket wait list, Blue Pride [the team’s wait list] is capped at about that 12,000 number and there is just over 68,000 more that have applied that are waiting to get on the Blue Pride list. So our ticketing base is strong; our suite renewals and our corporate partnership renewals have been strong, too.
On the Atlanta Falcons cutting concession prices: So much of their experience on game day is also food and beverage related. So, we really wanted to focus on local. We spent a ton of time researching how we would do that. There’s a great team of people in place that lead that effort now, so we have looked at that approach in terms of really highlighting the tremendous local food, wine and beer and craft choices across the region. We really wanted to bring that into a stadium environment for our fans, which is difficult to do.
Does that mean you have decided not to cut prices? Correct.
On a deal you are proud of: What we have been able to do with Delta on [the] 12status [program] is a first of its kind with Delta for SkyMiles. Fans earn one Delta mile for every yard the Seahawks throw on the field at both home and away games during the regular season. What is super cool about this is more than 30,000 fans participated. Delta awarded more than 92 million miles for the 2017 season, and what they really needed to establish was a strong foothold in our region and a strong tie that Delta is the official airline of the Seahawks. To create this program specifically around our fans, specifically around the 12s, that rewarded on-field performance, was something that they had not done before.
On how a communications major has helped her career: I really enjoy speaking in front of people, and that is not something I always enjoyed. And so, having that major and focusing on that as well as writing, really serves what I do today in terms of negotiating deals and really thinking strategically about where we need to take our business and being able to have that forward-thinking ability. But more importantly, being able to communicate that very succinctly. That is where that degree has really helped me is the polish, the preparation, to be able to know how to speak in front of a group, large or small, especially in sales to be able to walk into a room and confidently deliver your ideas and your pitch with a positive outcome.
— Daniel Kaplan
Brian McKenna has spent the better part of four decades helping to grow the sport of hockey in North America. With stops in the NHL, AHL and ECHL on both the player management and business operations side, as well as coaching at the college, junior and youth levels, McKenna has long had the sport in his blood, dating back to his days growing up on Prince Edward Island, Canada. For the last 16 years, he’s served as the commissioner of the ECHL, the 27-team league that sits just below the NHL and AHL in North America’s professional hockey pyramid. While McKenna was set to deliver the Kelly Cup to the league’s championship team this past weekend, it will be his last — he announced that he would be stepping down from his position after the season. He spoke with staff writer Ian Thomas about his career in hockey and what’s next for him.
Hockey has always been a part of my life. I started playing as a very young kid but then I got into coaching while I was in college. I had the good fortune of being in Ottawa when the Senators returned to the NHL back in 1991, and as a result of my background in hockey and the sales and marketing career, I was hired as a manager of marketing in 1991.
I had the opportunity to be involved in the NHL, the AHL and then at the ECHL, then the job came open with the ECHL as commissioner. It sounded interesting. It sounded like a new challenge. [I] was fortunate enough to get the job and thought it would be a five- or six-year stint, and here we are 16 years later.
The hockey side of [being commissioner] was the easy side, and it’s probably at the end of the day what you spend 25 percent of our time on. The main focus has been, and I guess always will be, the business itself.
During my time here we’ve had more than 450 players who got their start in our league that have gone on to play in the NHL, numerous coaches and front office folks as well and about a third of the NHL officials or linesman who are on the ice now, so we’re very proud of that.
On the business side, interestingly we have roughly the same number of teams now [as] when I took over 16 years ago, but in the interim, there has been a vast consolidation of leagues. We’re now the only league left at the double-A level in the country and it’s a much stronger foundation and structure.
Our teams are much more entrenched in the community now and much more involved in youth hockey and promotion of the game at the grassroots level than we were 15 or 20 years ago, and I think that is a good thing.
We’re very pleased to see the growth of the sport, particularly in the South and nontraditional markets. And there’s a number of markets that were former ECHL markets that now have AHL teams.
In terms of things I will miss — the people, particularly the folks working here in our office. Also, going to see games and interacting with our front office people across the league, interacting with our fans as well. Going to see the games and the product on the ice is really the fun part.
What I won’t miss is supplementary discipline, and all the conflicts associated with the suspension of players or fines that are brought down on an ongoing basis over the course of the season. That’s a little more of the adversarial side of the job, and I certainly won’t miss that and will be happy to give that to someone else.
Our board of governors is still focused on trying to build the league to at least 30 teams and continue to strengthen the ties to the NHL and the AHL.
First thing will be to take a little time off, so no immediate plans to jump into something else. But certainly, [I] want to continue to be involved in the business.
I want to spend more time with family. I have a daughter who is in Seattle who recently took a job there, so I want to go spend some time with her. My wife and I have a son who is still going to a university that is very close to where we are now so I’m looking forward to being able to spend more time with them and figure out what I’m going to do next.
If I had to do it all over again I would spend a little more time and effort in terms of communication, whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly, yearly with all of our stakeholders and try to have a little more time and effort spent on that. For anyone getting into the business now … I would tell them to embrace technology.
There’s still very much a role for minor league sports and minor league hockey in particular. I think we’re still a well-kept secret. There are probably about 12 million fans a year that attend minor league hockey games across the country, and those numbers stack up very well against any league.
It’s fun entertainment. That’s why we encourage our teams to be part of the fabric of the community and be involved in the community and the teams that do embrace it are still seeing growth. I think we’ll continue to see that across the country.
It’s still a great way to get away from the day-to-day work and grind to go see a minor league hockey or baseball game, and I think that’ll be there for many more years to come.