Coffee & Conversation with Shawnda Krohn of University of Phoenix Stadium

In the midst of all the buzzer-beaters, cinderella stories, and all-around madness, the stage has been set for Gonzaga and North Carolina to go head-to-head tonight for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. But that stage didn’t set itself. We had the honor of speaking with Shawnda Krohn, Sales Director at University of Phoenix Stadium, to learn more about her, her venue, and what it takes to host a monumental event such as this.

Final Four Venue
Shawnda Krohn

Q. First of all, what does a day-in-the-life normally look like as the Sales Director at University of Phoenix Stadium?

A. A day in the life as the Sales Director of University of Phoenix Stadium is very, very busy. I have to remain extremely organized. My phones will start ringing at 7:30am because I have clients on the East Coast, so things will start pretty fast in the morning. Sometimes the work day is 12 hours. There’s a lot of meetings, client site-visits, and follow-up meetings for the event plans. And once I sell a space, my contact with the client doesn’t end there. After I take care of the sale, contracts, insurance, and payments, it’s assigned to an event manager to execute. But I stay in touch with every single client all the way through. That’s very important to me because the actual event might be a full year away. If there’s an event booked one year out and I don’t stay in touch with that client, at the end of the event if I thank them for their business and try to get another booking with them, that’s not going to work. They’ll be thinking, “Where were you this entire year?” So I remain very involved the whole way through, no matter how far out an event is booked.

Q. What is the best part of that position?

A. To narrow it down to one “best thing” is hard—but I love the challenge of my career. It’s very challenging, and I love a challenge. I try to never settle for status-quo. I’m always trying to out-do my last event and out-do the creativity of how we pulled off the last booking. That’s probably one of my favorite parts because it is so challenging in the fact that no two days are alike. Every day there is something new going on at the stadium. It’s never the same and never boring.

“Thank God for this booking system, because it really has made a difference…it keeps me organized and that’s my number one priority.”

Q. What will your role entail on the game days—Saturday and Monday?

A. It’s all hands on deck. All directors are in suits and we’re all ready to be available with whatever is needed. I’ll be another set of eyes and ears, an extra body to be available to direct folks, provide customer service, answer questions, welcome people, etc. When you have an event like the Final Four, folks come from across the United States and have never been to this building before. So you’ve got up to 70,000 people that truly do not know where they’re going. When you have concerts and football games, those folks are regulars. They know the seats. They’re season ticket holders, they know where they’re going, and it’s just different. But when you’ve got all these people coming from all over the US that have never been here before, it’s more of a challenge.

Q. How does EventBooking affect your work day?

A. Oh, it’s been wonderful. It keeps me organized and that’s my number one priority. There’s no way someone in this division can juggle all of these things on a daily basis without organization. This system and the way Kayln Denniston has helped customize the calendars and the reporting feature has made my life so much better. It has simplified pulling reports, running reports, and printing out the calendar with all its customized confidentiality—things we didn’t have before with our previous booking system. Thank God for this booking system, because it really has made a difference. I can run reports on things that I wouldn’t be able to before. At first, it’s like any new system—you’ve got to learn it. And as a new client I think I’m still learning, but at least it is keeping me very organized: keeping track of inquiries, bookings, cancellations, etc.

Q. Did you make a bracket?

A. No, but pretty much all of my colleagues have. But if I had to say who I think is going to win, I’m going to say North Carolina. I think North Carolina will take it.

Q. How does a stadium such as University of Phoenix Stadium become selected to host games such as the Final Four? What are the joys and challenges of that?

A.  Because it’s a collaboration between a lot of folks to bid on events like the Final Four, it’s difficult to go into the process of it—because it is absolutely not all of my doing. But I can tell you it’s beyond an honor to have it here. This is the furthest south it has been held in 25 years, so that’s commendable and a great ‘win’ for our region. That itself is exciting and a joy. As a sales professional, the challenge of this event has been the fact that it’s a 6-week hold on the calendar. 6 weeks of a booked show floor and 6 weeks of having our biggest space / asset not-for-sale. 5,000 of our permanent seats are removed from the stands and bleacher-style seating has been rebuilt to take their place. A football stadium is transformed into a basketball stadium with a 30,000-pound, center-hung, video scoreboard. It’s been wild. It takes about 6 weeks to transform everything and put down the court. And when the event is over, we’ll still have the space on a contracted hold for two weeks afterwards to reassemble our seats and put the building back together. So 6 weeks of not selling anything—that’s one challenge for me as a sales person. I also normally have daily appointments for client site-visits, but those are put on hold too as the building is on a sort of “lock down” until opened to the public. But oh my gosh, it’s been so worth it and so rewarding. This event will be one for our books and will be very special for all of us.

Q. What makes University of Phoenix Stadium unique?

A. We are very unique. We are the only NFL stadium that has both a retractable field and a retractable roof. Our field is in a 19 million-pound retractable tray. It blows my mind! Now, I will say that it’s like watching paint dry to watch it come in and out…because it takes 70 minutes. It only moves 11.5 inches per minute—but given its weight, that’s amazing. It’s on a 13-rail track and it moves on 42 rows of wheels, which equals 546 steel-wheel assemblies. The mechanics of it are a little over my head but it’s pretty crazy. I think that’s what sets us apart from other stadiums when it comes to event sales. Once that field is outside, it gives us 160,000 square feet of unobstructed space—an open canvas to do galas, concerts, consumer shows, you name it. And we’ve done some fabulous concerts made possible by that space: U2, Rolling Stones, Kenny Chesney, One Direction, Guns n’ Roses…and Metallica will be here in August. We do other fabulous events too, like international soccer matches. We’re a busy stadium. We average maybe 5 open weekends a year, but that’s it. And most of those weekends are around holidays.

Q. Does a favorite show or event come to mind from your time there?

A. Unfortunately, I missed the Rolling Stones and U2. I can only imagine that those two would have been my favorite. But One Direction was fabulous because I was able to fly my 10-year-old niece in from Cincinnati and take her. She was the talk of her school since she went to a One Direction concert. But the concerts aren’t necessarily my favorite. My all-time favorite is the obvious: Super Bowl XLIX (49). That was a 19-hour work day in a full suit and heels—but it was amazing. You hate to admit that you get star-struck, but when you see unbelievably high-profile celebrities one right after the other all day long, you can’t help but feel star-struck. We’ve done two Super Bowls thus far and we’re doing the NCAA Final Four this weekend, so it’s hopping big time right now!

Q. How did you get involved in the industry?

A. I’ve been in the event sales industry for 20 years. I started in the hospitality industry while going to school. In college, I worked part-time for a four-star hotel in Cincinnati. Upon graduation, they had an opening for an Event Sales Manager. They had never hired anyone without experience before, so I was the first. I basically had to sell my skill-set and say, “I know this building, I can do this!” because I had just worked for them part-time for 3 years at the front desk. And they gave me that great opportunity. So I started off doing event sales for a hotel in Ohio, and it progressed from there!

Q. Who inspires you?

A. I used to be an event director for a national museum in Cincinnati and our CEO at the time was John Pepper, retired CEO of Procter & Gamble. To have your immediate boss be the former CEO of one of the world’s largest and most successful companies such as Procter & Gamble was an honor and privilege. He truly inspired me and taught me core principles of business. Who gets that opportunity? There are thousands and thousands of people that work for Procter & Gamble who, when you say this man’s name, bow down and say, “Oh my god, I’ve never been able to meet him myself.” He taught me about leadership and the key attributes of a leader. That’s something I was inspired to embrace. He said to me, “Always follow your dreams and stand up for what you believe with wisdom, courage, and persistence.” That stuck with me. Some key leadership lessons he taught me emphasized the value of engaging, energizing, and equipping your team before you execute anything. Who gets an opportunity to learn from one of the most successful CEO’s in the world? It was such an honor and a pleasure.

Thanks for choosing EventBooking as your software partner, Shawnda! It’s truly an honor to serve venues of your caliber. Best of luck tonight!