Thursday, May 8, 2014

Class of 2017 PNC Arena Field Trip (April 22)

Hanging out in front of the PNC Arena
Our second field trip of the year was short but exciting, as we headed over the the PNC Arena where Doug Warf, the vice president of marketing for the Carolina Hurricanes, gave us a behind-the-scenes tour and talked about what it's like to work in sports. We also met with folks involved in the CanesVision in-house broadcasting team as well as the food and beverage side of the arena; we're extremely grateful to everyone involved for taking time out of their busy days to share their insights with us.

Looking out on the arena from the CanesVision producer's perch 
Our first look out onto the arena (which was being prepared for a Bruce Springsteen concert) was from the top level, normally inaccessible to general patrons. We saw the view that the CanesVision producer and others see of the entire arena on gamedays as Doug explained several aspects of the arena that makes it unique for hosting a variety of different types of events. Although we saw the big red button that signals the extremely loud goal horn when the Hurricanes score a goal, we weren't allowed to touch it (even though some were very tempted) for fear of causing a heart attack or two.

Inside the CanesVision control room
Inside the CanesVision control room 
We moved inside the CanesVision control room next, where Doug and a couple CanesVision producers explained the fast-paced work that goes on there during events. We saw an amazing HD camera hidden under the scoreboard that can be controlled remotely and zoom in on any seat in the lower bowl of seats, showing impressive detail. We found out how they choose what crowd shots make the scoreboard between plays and learned about some of the responsibilities these producers have to sponsors when running in-game promotions.

Doug Warf explaining the feeds shown on the monitor wall
Heading out of the control room, we ran into former Hurricanes captain and current assistant coach Rod Brind'Amour as he left the CanesVision studio, where interviews and other features are filmed. We peeked into the studio, where we talked with in-game host Amber Jaye and another producer about their interest and background in sports broadcasting and how they landed jobs with the Hurricanes.

The view from press row
Our last stop on the upper level of the arena was on press row, where broadcasters and other media members sit during Hurricanes games. We learned more about how the Hurricanes staff accommodates large contingents for events like the Stanley Cup Finals or the NHL All-Star Game and checked out the huge screens that were recently installed to make it easier for press to view the TV broadcast.

Inside the Lenovo Champions Club
En route to the club level and the Lenovo Champions Club, Doug shared some very interesting (and often surprising) facts about the costs of running an NHL franchise, their sources of revenue, and the ongoing challenges of ticket sales. Tickets can go for over $300 in the Champions Club, but Doug explained why the Hurricanes converted space for a few large suites into the exclusive section as some businesses prefer the all-inclusive approach when taking clients to games.

Discussion at the Arena Club restaurant 
Our final stop was at the Arena Club restaurant, where Katrina Ryan, the arena's director of catering, discussed the many facets of her job. We learned what NHL players and touring musicians like to eat, as Katrina and her staff prepare meals for them as well as for corporate meetings, private events, and pre-concert VIP parties, among other occasions. She shared the high expectations required of employees in catering and client services, both with the Hurricanes and in her previous experience working with the New England Patriots.

Discussion at the Arena Club restaurant

Friday, May 2, 2014

Class of 2017 Downtown Raleigh Field Trip (January 9)

On stage at the Red Hat Amphitheater
Our first field trip of the year ended up being on one of the chillier days of the school year, but after a short wait for the R-Line bus, we were able to spend much of our time indoors (and much warmer) with some great leaders in Downtown Raleigh. Raleigh Convention Center associate director Doug Grissom was a fantastic host for our whole trip downtown and we cannot thank him enough for helping organize this great experience.
Behind-the-scenes tour of the Raleigh Convention Center
First up, we had a discussion with Tori Collins, associate director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, about how the GRSA works with other local entities to attract professional, NCAA, youth, and recreational sports events to the Triangle area. Collins shared what venues and facilities Raleigh can offer as a host and what goes into the bidding process to land an event in Raleigh. Tori also talked about the positive and negative impacts that these events have on Raleigh, including the increased tax revenue from tourists. She even shared a bit about how she ended up in her current role with the GRSA, including her experience working with the Nokia Sugar Bowl.

On stage at the Red Hat Amphitheater

Next, Taylor Traversari, manager of the Red Hat Amphitheater, met with us to ask students which acts they'd like to see perform in downtown Raleigh--after all, high school students are part of his target market. He answered questions about why certain artists are booked at the venue, while others may end up playing Walnut Creek or passing by the Raleigh market entirely. Taylor explained the logistics involved in hosting these concerts and other events, like the recent Life in Color paint party, and then took us outside for a view from the amphitheater stage. On the way, Doug Grissom gave us a tour of the convention center floor and ballroom, as well as the huge commercial kitchen, underground parking and loading area, and other behind-the-scenes spots.
On stage at the Red Hat Amphitheater
After the amphitheater, we swung by the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts to take a peek at Memorial Auditorium and the other venues within the complex. Doug explained a little about the operations involved in each, as well as the vast number of events held there each year.

Taking a seat at Sono's sushi bar
We then met up with Gaurav "G" Patel, the owner and president of Eschelon Experiences. G first took us on a tour through Eschelon's three restaurants along Fayetteville Street and shared terrific insight into the concept and design of each, down to the smallest detail. Students seemed particularly impressed with the bathrooms at Eschelon's newest venture, Zinda.

Passing through The Oxford's kitchen
Finally, after a look at The Oxford's kitchen, we sat down for a delicious lunch at the British pub while G fielded questions about the restaurant business. G shared stories about his background and successes as a young entrepreneur, leaving our students on an inspirational note. If you're interested in finding out more about G, The Walter recently published a great profile that's well worth reading. 

Lunchtime Q&A with G Patel

Lunchtime Q&A with G Patel

Lunchtime Q&A with G Patel