Stadium ushers take tickets, escort spectators to their seats, and provide spectators with information and direction upon request.
Stadium vendors sell a variety of food items and other wares either by walking around and calling out the name of the food or product they are selling, or by operating small booths or kiosks. Sometimes vendors are hired by the food service franchise that is licensed to sell food in a stadium or sports facility.
History of Stadium Usher and Vendor Career
As long as people have been gathering in places such as theaters or sporting events, there has been a need for crowd control. Ushers direct the audience or spectators to their seats, take care of complaints, and keep order among enthusiastic spectators. Whether in a Roman amphitheater or at a modern domed stadium, ushers have been present to help people find their seats. In ancient times, it was customary among Roman dignitaries to have a servant called an ustiarius, from which the word usher is derived, standing at the door to announce the arrival of their guests. Vendors have an ancient tradition as well. The Latin word vendre literally means to sell. A stadium vendor is an independent, licensed operator selling to the stadium crowds.
The Job of Stadium Ushers and Vendors
The work of stadium ushers and vendors varies with the place, the event, and the audience, but their duties while working sports events are similar. The main job of the usher is to seat patrons. Other duties for the usher might include finding empty available seats for patrons, locating lost items, helping children find their parents, paging people, checking and recording thermometer readings, answering questions, giving directions, attempting to control unruly or ill-behaved people, and settling arguments about seat assignments. In the event that spectators grow unreasonably unruly or out-of-control, it is the responsibility of ushers to notify security of the disturbance. Ushers watch exits and show patrons to restrooms, drinking fountains, and telephones. They keep aisles clear of objects that might cause patrons to slip or fall.
Similarly, a vendor sells food and other items at a variety of sports events, although the amounts and items sold might vary depending on the event. For example, a vendor selling beer would probably sell more beers during a hockey or football game than during a figure-skating competition; in many cases, they might not even sell beer at such competitions. The vendor may be either an independent seller, licensed by the local government to sell his or her wares, or a vendor working as a freelance operator under license by the owner of the site. For example, the manager of the sports facility allows freelance operators to sell hot dogs, sodas, ice cream and all the other foods and services enjoyed during a ball game. Or, a vendor might be employed by the franchise licensed to sell T-shirts, caps, and other sports paraphernalia at sports events.
Food vendors are often responsible for preparing the food for sale (and sometimes this just means placing a hot dog inside a bun), as well as handling the sale, making change, and providing any additional items necessary to the consumption of the food, such as napkins, straws, and condiments.
Stadium Usher and Vendor Career Requirements
High school students fill many of the usher and vendor positions in theaters and stadiums, although there is an age requirement for vendors who sell alcoholic beverages. Good standing in high school or a high school degree is usually required. Employers will strongly consider your school attendance record, so regular and prompt attendance is advised.
Vendors and ushers are not required to have college-level education or training. Most training is conducted on the job for a brief time and new employees are used to fill the less responsible jobs and quieter locations. While the trainees are learning, they are shifted to different parts of the stadium as the need arises.
Certification or Licensing
Although ushers and vendors are not required to be certified, those who sell alcohol or certain other items must have a license.
To be a successful stadium ushers and vendors, you need to be affable and friendly. You should have strong oral communication skills in order to interact successfully with the general public. Strong mathematical skills will help you deal with the transfer of money. You should be physically fit because you will be on your feet during much of your shift. Finally, you should be willing to work outdoors in sometimes harsh weather conditions, such as extreme cold or heat, driving rain, sleet, or snow.
Exploring Stadium Usher and Vendor Careers
Labor unions represent many ushers in stage production theaters, ballparks, and sports arenas and usually welcome the opportunity to talk with young people about working as an usher or vendor. Another option is to call the ballpark or stadium directly to find out more about being an usher or vendor. When you learn of special events coming to your town, contact the coordinator and volunteer your services to get a taste for the job.
Although these jobs are not the most glamorous, they will give you a chance to learn about sport facility management and concessions, experience which may come in handy later if you are serious about exploring either career option.
Ushers are employed anywhere that a large group of people gather to watch some type of event or show. Movie theaters, sports stadiums, and colleges/universities are the largest employers of ushers.
Vendors are also employed wherever large groups of people gather to view an event or a show, but with one small difference. During these events, the people must have the time and the ability to spend money on food, drink, and souvenirs. For example, while a cotton candy vendor is right at home at the circus or ballpark, he or she might stick out like a sore thumb at the opera.
Check with theaters, ballparks, convention centers, and colleges in your area and inquire about possible openings. There is a lot of turnover in this business, so openings are usually plentiful but are snatched up quickly.
Positions in stadiums are usually part time and seasonal; jobs as ushers or vendors in a stadium used only for baseball end in the fall; if the stadium is domed, there might be additional opportunities to usher or vend during concerts or conventions. Depending on whether or not the vendor is independent or employed by a food or clothing franchise, the vendor may have opportunities year-round. Also, the contacts one makes in these jobs can lead to better jobs in the future.
Those stadium ushers or vendors with the most experience usually receive the positions with greater responsibilities, such as handling emergency evacuation procedures. Frequently, ushers and vendors work in crews of three or more, with one individual acting as the supervisor for that crew or team.
In addition to advancing within the categories of ushers and vendors, individuals who have interests in other areas of the game—from public relations to marketing— can make contacts with people who work full time in those areas and possibly arrange an internship or parttime job. Many people who now work for major sports franchises in a variety of front-office jobs once spent a summer working as a stadium usher or vendor.
Three-fourths of all stadium ushers and vendors work part time or seasonally. The range of weekly hours is from 20 to 50 hours.
Hourly rates vary from job to job. Most ushers work at their job for such a short time that they seldom earn more than the starting wage. Hourly wages ranged from minimum wage to more than $10.90 an hour in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The median hourly pay was $7.41 in 2005, which translates into $15,400 a year for full-time work. The pay rate has increased somewhat due to the demand for this type of worker in most cities. Experienced ushers in metropolitan areas earn the highest wages. For vendors, the amount earned is usually on a commission basis and the competition can be fierce to get the most desired concessions in the park (hot dogs, ice cream, and so on).
For many ushers and vendors the real reward in working these jobs comes from the chance to be a part of a large-scale event, such as a baseball or football game, where they can be an integral part of the production of the event as well as enjoy the sport.
Stadium ushers and vendors working in domed stadiums or indoor arenas or other indoor sports facilities don’t have to brave the elements, while ushers and vendors who work football games need to dress warmly, as they frequently work in cold, sometimes miserable conditions. Ushers spend most of their working time standing or walking up and down aisles. In stadiums, ushers and vendors may do considerable climbing up and down stairs or tiers to seat patrons. Work can be stressful when patrons complain or when a crowd gets out of hand.
Stadium Usher and Vendor Career Outlook
Stadium revenue rises and falls with the success and failure of the home team; if the team is doing well, crowds swell and fill the stands. Jobs will always exist for ushers and vendors in sports facilities, and these skills are applicable to other venues that use ushers and vendors, such as music halls and theaters.
Turnover in this work is high. Most openings arise as people leave the field for different reasons. Many leave to take better paying jobs. Students working part time usually leave when they graduate from high school or college.