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Learning the business firsthand

Published on November 28, 2023

Learning the business firsthand

Students tour sports facilities and meet alumni who manage them

class at Rentschler field
The Business 340 class on a recent trip to Rentschler Field

A class trip to the XL Center or to the Yard Goats Dunkin’ Donuts ballpark in Hartford might sound like entertainment destinations, but for business administration students at Eastern Connecticut State University, it’s a chance to observe firsthand the work that could be their future career.

The Business 340 class in facility design in sport management taught by Charles Chatterton, associate professor of business administration, includes a half dozen field trips a semester to highlight for students what a job in facilities administration entails.

Professor Charlie Chatterton

“It’s a class I love teaching,” said Chatterton. “You get to see behind the scenes — things fans don’t see.”

Students learn what goes into managing and operating a facility, from ADA accessibility concerns to risk management. “It gives them the big picture,” he said.

For years Chatterton has taken students to venues as nearby as Gampel Pavilion in Storrs to as far away as Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Many of the students he taught now work at the facilities and guide today’s students on the tours. Meeting alumni who work in the industry says to students, “Someday this could be you,” Chatterton said.

“It exposed me to the magnitude of niche jobs in the sports and entertainment field. It excited me to learn that there was opportunity out there after I graduated,” said Katie Berube ’03, now director of global partnerships for the Augusta Entertainment Complex in Augusta, GA.

Katie Berube '03

Her own career shows how varied the jobs are in this field. Berube’s current duties range from intellectual property rights to media, branding, hospitality, events and promotions. She started her career in the Disney College Program, then interned for Minor League Baseball. She worked in box office sales and as a hotel sales coordinator at Mohegan Sun. She was an account executive with the Connecticut Sun WNBA team before moving south to the Augusta Complex.  There she is responsible for selling marketing partnerships and for developing long-term business and community partnerships for the city. 

“This industry is like many careers, it is constantly evolving,” she said.

“Before taking that facility class, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Going on tours of all the facilities around the state really opened my eyes to the operations world in sport,” said Anthony Rosati ’09. He started his career at the XL Center, then moved to the University of Connecticut and is now associate athletic director for facilities, operations and events at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The facilities class “was the reason I made my career choice,” said Brian Clark ’06, now director of operations for the Raleigh Convention and Performing Arts Complex, where he oversees four venues, from the convention center to a 20,000-person-capacity music park.

Casey McGarvey ’12, who was a sports and leisure management major at Eastern, said the site visits in Chatterton’s class “really showed the ins and outs of facility management — what goes into it.” After graduation he worked in minor league baseball in Norwich before working in athletic operations at the Coast Guard Academy and the University of Hartford. He’s now assistant director of athletics for operations and facilities at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.

Andrew Meagher '22

“Athletics can be incredibly rewarding,” he said, “but it needs to be something you’re passionate about.” Like other alumni in sports facility management, he cautioned that the job can require long hours, including weekends and nights.

“You’ll work more than 40 hours a week in sports,” said Andrew Meagher ’22, the promotions coordinator for the Hartford Yard Goats. His job covers everything from branding to community appearances to social meeting and overseeing mascots. Chatterton’s class was “monumental — my favorite course at Eastern,” he said, because he met people in the field. It helped him start as an intern with the Yard Goats, and because of the course, he had more knowledge about facilities from the start, he said.

“It amplified my career goals,” he said.

Networking is critical in facilities management, several alumni said. “The biggest thing in this industry — everyone is connected,” said Pearson Davis ’14, assistant general manager at the XL Center. Venue operators reach out to each other for help, and that includes help with hiring, he said.

Emily Roback ’10, said that Chatterton’s former students still call on each other for advice. She advised current students to build networks in the field. Learning to do that, through Chatterton’s class, was “very empowering,” she said.

Emily Roback '10

Roback, senior program director at Yale Conferences and Events, interned at the Connecticut Convention Center and Rentschler Field before using her network to get a job at Yale.

“Reach out to people — go shadow them for a day and volunteer at their events,” she said. “Forge connections that you can call back on.”

“Networking doesn’t mean fake relationships. Get to know people and make genuine connections,” said Rosati. “It doesn’t even feel like networking, but it is.”

“If you put in the hard work, there is a ton of room to grow in the industry,” he added.

Internships are vital, too, said Clark, who started his own career with an internship at Rentschler Field in 2006 during his senior year. An internship expands a student’s experience and contacts, and “it will also help you to identify if it’s not what you thought it would be and give you time to pivot and change course,” he said.

Anthony Rosati '09

“Once you get into the industry and start gaining some experience, it can often be very easy to grow in this industry,” Clark added.

Major league teams are expanding, more tiers are forming in the minor league, and there are more family events and shows at facilities, said Davis.

The industry is changing and will require more people to work in it. That includes many avenues, said Meagher, such as food and beverages and entertainment as well as working with teams.  

Casey McGarvey
Casey McGarvey '12

“I have been working in the industry for over 20 years and have seen there are more and more opportunities to create entertainment for the world, not less,” said Berube. “There will always be a need to bring people together.”

The entertainment facilities business was hard hit by COVID, said Clark, but has bounced back. “We are in the business of making moments for people,” he said. “They come to our buildings to cheer, laugh, sing and have incredible experiences that they can’t get anywhere else.”

Written by Lucinda Weiss