Sports Facility Manager Career

Stadium, arena, and facility managers, sometimes called general managers, sports facility managers, or stadium operations executives, are responsible for the day-to-day operations involved in running a sports facility. They are involved in sports facility planning, including the buying, selling, or leasing of facilities; facility redesign and construction; and the supervision of sports facilities, including the structures and grounds, as well as the custodial crews.

History of Sports Facility Manager Career

Sports Facility Manager CareerToday’s stadiums or arenas provide much more than a playing field and seats for sports and event spectators. The modern sports facility usually has one or more of the following: practice areas, home and visiting team locker rooms, physical therapy areas, sports equipment storage, press rooms, press boxes, facility maintenance equipment storage, cafeterias, food vendor areas, and offices for those who run the various aspects of the facility and teams who play there, as well as promote and market both facility and team. Those who manage these venues for sports events are responsible for ensuring that everything runs smoothly for the athletes, the fans, the advertisers, the media, and their own staff.

The Job of Sports Facility Managers

Stadium, arena, and facility managers are responsible for the day-to-day operations involved in running a sports facility. In the simplest terms, the manager of a sports facility, like other facility managers, must coordinate the events that occur in the facility with the services and people who make those events possible.

Sports facility managers are involved in sports facility planning, including the buying, selling, or leasing of facilities; facility redesign and construction; and the supervision of sports facilities, including the structures and grounds, as well as the custodial crews. This may mean months, sometimes even years, of research and long-term planning. Crucial resources and issues the manager might investigate include: sports facility design firms; prospective sites for the new facility and analyses of neighborhood support for a facility; and zoning laws or other federal, state, and local regulations concerning the construction of new buildings.

Politics can play a key part in this process; the manager might be involved in these political meetings, as well. Once ground is broken on the new site, a sports facility manager may then divide his or her time between the construction site and the existing site, supervising both facilities until the new one is completed.

The manager of a sports facility, stadium, or arena who is not involved in the construction of a new facility, or the redesign of an existing one, spends most of his or her time in the office or somewhere in the facility itself, supervising the day-to-day management of the facility. The manager usually determines the organizational structure of the facility and establishes the personnel staffing requirements; setting up the manner in which things will be done and by whom. The facility manager is constantly analyzing how many different workers are needed to run the various areas of the facility efficiently, without sacrificing quality. The manager addresses staffing needs as they arise, setting the education, experience, and performance standards for each position. Depending on the size of the facility and the nature of the manager’s assigned responsibilities, this may mean hiring a personnel director to screen prospective employees, or it may mean the manager personally sifts through stacks of resumes whenever a position opens up. Usually, all policies and procedures having to do with the morale, safety, service, appearance, and performance of facility employees (and which are not determined by the organization, itself) are determined by the manager.

The manager of a sports facility is also responsible for assisting with the development and coordination of the facility’s annual operating calendar, including activity schedules, dates and hours of operation, and projections for attendance and revenue. Often, a manager for a sports facility directs and assists with the procurement of activities and events to take place at the facility; this, of course, depends on the size of the facility. A large, multipurpose stadium, for example, will probably have at least one individual devoted to event planning and the acquisition of activities. Even in this case, however, the sports facility manager must be involved in coordinating the event with all the other aspects of the facility.

The sports facility manager handles the negotiations, contracts, and agreements with industry agents, suppliers, and vendors. These days, many jobs that used to be handled in-house by staff employees are now contracted out to private companies that specialize in that aspect of the event. Food service and security, for example, are two areas that are usually privately managed by outside vendors and firms. It is the responsibility of the sports facility manager to hire such contractors and to monitor the quality of their work.

Finally, it is the manager’s duty to make certain that the facility, its workers, and the services it offers are in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations.

Although certain responsibilities are shared, the job description for a sports facility manager will inevitably vary according to the type of sport played and the level of the organization that employs the manager. For example, the duties of a manager for a parks and recreation facility in a medium-sized town will differ considerably from those of the general manager of Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky; the former will do many of the duties that the latter would most likely delegate to others.

The type of sports stadium, arena, or auditorium in which sports facility managers work also varies, from race tracks to natatoriums to large, multipurpose stadiums that host football games and rock concerts.

Sports Facility Manager Career Requirements

High School

High school courses that will give you a general background for work in sports facility management include business, mathematics, government, and computer science. Speech and writing classes will help you to hone your communication skills. Managing a school club or other organization will give you an introduction to overseeing budgets and the work of others.

Postsecondary Training

These days, a bachelor’s degree is pretty much required to enter the field of sports facility management. Although in the past it wasn’t necessary, the competition for jobs in sports administration and facility management is so keen that a bachelor’s degree is nearly mandatory. In fact, in many instances, a master’s degree in sports administration or sports facility management is increasingly required of managers.

The oldest program in the country in sports administration and facility management is at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Administered by the School of Recreation and Sports Sciences within Ohio University’s College of Health and Human Services, the program requires 55 credit hours (five of which are completed during an internship) and leads to the master of sports administration degree. The curriculum focuses on business administration, journalism, communications, management, marketing, sports administration, and facility management. The required internship lasts anywhere from three months to a year and internship opportunities are provided by more than 400 different organizations worldwide.

Certification or Licensing

At the moment, certification in facility management is not mandatory, but it is becoming a distinguishing credential among the managers of the largest, most profitable venues. A sports stadium or arena brings its owners a lot of revenue, and these owners aren’t willing to trust the management of such lucrative venues to individuals who are not qualified to run them; certification is one way an administration can ensure that certain industry standards in facility management are met. The International Facility Management Association (IFMA), probably the industry leader in certification, offers the designation of certified facility manager. The International Association of Assembly Managers also offers the certification designation of certified facilities executive. For contact information for these associations, see the end of this article.

Other Requirements

Most organizations want their facility managers to have, at a minimum, five years of experience in the field or industry. This may include participation in a sport at the professional level, marketing or promotions work, or related management experience that can be shown as relevant to the responsibilities and duties of a sports facility manager.

Leadership and communication skills are considered essential to be successful in this career. In the course of an average day, you might review designs for a new stadium with top-level executives, release a statement to members of the press about the groundbreaking ceremony for the new stadium, and interview prospective foremen for maintenance work. You will need to be able to state clearly and concisely your ideas, information, and goals, regardless of the audience.

Finally, you should possess excellent strategic, budgetary, and operational planning skills; the day-to-day operations of the sports facility will run on the decisions that you make, so you need to be capable of juggling many different tasks.

Exploring Sports Facility Manager Career

If you aren’t actively involved with a sport as a participant, you can get involved with sports administration and management by volunteering for positions with your own high school teams. Any and all experience helps, beginning with organizing and managing the equipment for a football team, for example, all the way up to working as a team statistician. You can also work with their local booster club to sponsor events that promote athletics within the school district. These activities demonstrate your interest and devotion and may help you in the future by providing you with an edge when searching for an internship.

Part-time or summer jobs as ushers, vendors, ball boys or girls, for example, not only provide firsthand experience for both high school and college students, but can lead to other contacts and opportunities.

College students interested in sports facility management can often locate valuable internships through contacts they have developed from part-time jobs, but the placement centers in undergraduate or graduate programs in business administration and facility management are also good places to consult for information on internships. The professional leagues and associations for specific sports, The National Hockey League, the National Football League, and the National Basketball Association, for example, all offer summer internships. Competition for positions with these organizations is extremely keen, so interested students should send for application materials well in advance, study them, and apply early.

Professional organizations within the field also sponsor opportunities to learn on the job. The International Association of Assembly Managers (IAAM) offers internships to qualified students. Typically, participating facilities that serve as sites for IAAM internships are responsible for the selection of their interns. While some of these facilities aren’t specifically geared toward sporting events, much of the management skills and responsibilities are shared and will provide you with a wonderful opportunity to learn firsthand.

Employers

Sports facility managers may work for single team, a multisports arena or stadium, or they may work for a city or state organization, such as a parks and recreation department.

Starting Out

Graduates of programs in sports administration and sports facility management usually find jobs through internships they have had, personal contacts they developed in the field, or from job listings in their graduate programs’ placement departments.

Entry-level jobs may be in facility management, or they may come in a related field. Most organizations like to promote from within, so it isn’t uncommon for someone with a bachelor’s or graduate degree in facility management who is working in, for example, public relations, to be considered first for an opening in the sports facility department. Associate- or assistant-level positions are the most likely entry point for graduates, but those with exceptional education and experience may qualify for managerial positions after graduation, although this is rare. In fact, as the field becomes more popular, it will be increasingly difficult to enter a sports facility management position without a bachelor’s degree and a solid internship experience, at the very least.

Those who find entry-level jobs are helped by mentors. Mentoring is an industry-supported method in which an older, experienced member of a facility management team helps a younger, less-experienced individual to learn the ropes. This process helps the person learn and aids the organization by reducing problems caused by inexperienced beginners.

Advancement

Experience and certification are the best ways for someone to advance in this field. Years of successful on-the-job experience count for a great deal in this industry; the owners and administrations of professional teams and sports venues look for someone who has demonstrated the ability to make things run smoothly. Certification is becoming another way in which success can be gauged; more and more frequently, certification garners salary increases and promotions for those who hold it. Increasingly, firms are asking for certified facility managers when they begin job searches. Since certification goes hand-in-hand with experience, it is assumed that those individuals who are certified are the best in their field.

Outside of experience and certification, a willingness and eagerness to learn and branch into new areas is a less objective manner for gauging which managers will land top jobs. Those who are willing to embrace new technology and are open to new ideas and methods for improving efficiency will very likely advance in their careers.

Advancement might also mean changing specialties or developing one. Sports facility managers who are interested in other areas of management may decide to leave the field and involve themselves with different venues, such as auditoriums, performing arts centers, or convention centers, to name just a few. Still others might advance to manage international venues.

Earnings

Earnings for sports facility managers vary considerably depending on their experience and education, as well as the level of the facility that employs them. Administrative services managers (the category under which the U.S. Department of Labor classifies sports facility managers) earned median annual salaries of $60,290 in 2004. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $31,120, and the highest-paid 10 percent earned $110,270 or more per year. Facility managers who are certified earn higher salaries than those who are not certified. The International Facility Management Association reports that members who held the certified facility manager designation earned an average 13 percent more than their non-certified counterparts.

Work Environment

One of the perks of the profession is the glamorous atmosphere that the job promotes; sports facility managers work to provide a unique environment for amateur and professional athletes, sometimes even celebrities and other performers. Although their work most often is behind-the-scenes, they may have indirect or direct contact with the high-profile personalities who perform in large venues. Sports facility managers usually work in clean, comfortable offices. Since their work often involves other activities, such as construction, they also may spend a great deal of time on construction sites and in trailers, supervising the construction of a new facility.

The management of a sports arena or stadium naturally involves promotional events, both for the building and the teams or events that are staged there. To be successful in their work, facility managers must maintain regular contact with the members of other departments, such as marketing and public relations.

A sports facility manager’s job can be stressful. Construction, renovation, and cleaning and maintenance deadlines must all be met in order to ensure the efficient operation of a sports facility, let alone one in which major sports events occur. Depending on the level of the facility and the nature of events that are staged there, the responsibilities of the manager often require more hours on the job than the typical nine-to-five day allows. Additional work may be necessary, but is often uncompensated.

Sports Facility Manager Career Outlook

In general, the future for facilities managers is much brighter than it is for those in other administrative services. This relatively young field is growing quickly and, especially in the private sector, is not as subject to cost-cutting pressures or as vulnerable to government cutbacks. Demand for jobs in sports administration is great, and the newer field of sports facility management is quickly catching up.

For More Information:

International Association of Venue Managers

International Facility Management Association