Written by Kelsey Melland
This past Thursday, October 18th, all of the CSL students met early in the morning for a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina. The area has many opportunities to work in the sports industry, and we all had been looking forward to checking out a new city and getting to meet a lot of CSL alums. In just two days, we got to meet people who work for the Charlotte Bobcats, Carolina Panthers, U.S. National Whitewater Center, UNC Charlotte, Charlotte Motor Speedway, and many more.
Our first stop was to the Time Warner Cable Arena, the home of the Charlotte Bobcats and the Charlotte Checkers. Here, we got to hear from Trista Langdon and Alan Wheeling regarding the ins and outs of what it takes to run an entire facility and how to fill the seats. We were given a tour of the various suites as well as a look into the club level seating and hospitality areas available to season ticket holders.
After a break for lunch, we headed to the Bank of America Stadium to meet with the Director of Broadcasting & New Media, Henry Thomas. We were able to learn from him and Dan LaTorraca exactly how they try to market the Panthers through social media. This was very interesting because they had recently been the first to launch their own mobile APP and we were able to see behind the scenes of what it takes to reach their fan base. Fortunately, the President of the Carolina Panthers was also able to stop by our tour and give us a brief overview of what it takes to be in this particular business. His advice is something we all will remember.
To end the first day, we moved to our first adventure sport, the US National Whitewater Center. This is where the US Olympic Trials are held at a very unique facility that only Charlotte can offer. Speaking with the CFO, Jeff Shelton, we saw how the facility came about and what it can offer to the Queen City. The USNWC is a 400 acre area that includes: whitewater rafting, ropes courses, bike and running trails, kayaking, paddle boarding, rock climbing and many more recreational activities. These is nothing like it in the US and being able to not only walk the facility but also get the chance to go whitewater rafting was something I, personally, will never forget. There were three rafts filled with CSL students and faculty and everyone left with an unforgettable hands-on experience.
Our second day in Charlotte started with the Athletic Director from University of North Carolina Charlotte, Judy Rose. She is one of the first women to be in charge of a Division I program. Being able to speak with her on all of her accomplishments was a once in a lifetime opportunity. She really knows her stuff within collegiate athletics and was very helpful in answering all of our questions. Rose has been a part of many Committees with the NCAA as one of the only women. She has also added many facelifts to UNC Charlotte’s athletic facilities and is now getting prepared for their inaugural football season in 2013.
Next up: getting our adrenaline running. Taking a spin with CSL classmates around the Charlotte Motor Speedway was how we spent our Friday afternoon. We all got a tour of the racetrack while driving around the mile track going 70 miles an hour. The Vice-President of National Sales & Development at Speedway Motorsports Inc, Michael Burch, spoke with us about his route to where he is today and how valuable it is to learn the skills early. He has worn many hats in the sports industry and had a lot of great information for any realm of sports we want to get into.
The last part of our trip to Charlotte was a panel of CSL Alums. This was great for making connections with people that were either just out of the CSL program or a few years post-graduation. The forum was all Q & A, which allowed all of us to ask any questions we had for the eight panelists. The panel really spoke to everyone in the class because it included event directors, development officers, ticket office personnel, coaches, professional sport marketers, and sport agency representatives. This opened a lot of people’s eyes on different tracks they can take after finishing the CSL program.
Overall, this was an incredible, unforgettable experience. Only VCU’s Center for Sport Leadership can offer the opportunity to meet with this group of influential Charlotte sports leaders, as well as CSL alums. I am looking forward to more trips like this one throughout the year. Being able to speak with people who have all been in our shoes is one of the biggest things we can take away from this year.