We love what we do and who we work with. That’s why we want to highlight the people we serve and get to know them and their venue a little more. For this “Coffee & Conversation,” we spoke to David Moss, Director of Event Services at Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, FL) to learn more about him, his venue, and what it takes to host a College Football National Championship game. On January 9th, Raymond James Stadium hosted 74,512 raucous fans who came to witness the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide go head-to-head for the 2017 National Championship. It was college football’s first rematch between the #1 and #2 spot in National Championship game history—and according to David, it was well worth hosting.
Q. What does a day in the life look like as Director of Event Services at the Raymond James Stadium?
A. Really no two days are alike. That’s one of the things I really enjoy about the position here. I’ve got a lot of different “hats” that I wear, from being in charge of event booking and contracting, to overseeing the staff in the various departments (Parking, Security, Catering, Guest Services). There’s just so many different elements of our game day staff under my supervision that every day is a little different. Certain days I’m busier in the office working on contracts, setting up things on the calendar, and trying to figure out when we can do what events. Other days it’s more boots-on-the-ground, checking on certain parts of the facility. These days we’re in the second year of a three-year renovation project, so there’s a lot more meetings to attend with regard to how the projects are coming along and how they affect space availability.
I also work with Emergency Response planning—our building is actually a refuge for law enforcement and public safety during hurricanes. So if a hurricane hits Tampa and the TPD, Tampa Fire Rescue, and MacDill Air Force Base have to evacuate their offices and set up emergency headquarters inside the stadium, I have to be here and coordinate that. If thousands of people are traveling out of Tampa to escape a hurricane, I will be driving into work. But somebody has to do it and I’m glad that they entrusted me to have that responsibility, should that ever happen. And knock on wood, we won’t have to do it too often.
Q. What is the best part of that position?
A. The flexibility to keep every day a little bit different. There’s never anything monotonous about my position. I’m glad I don’t have a job where I do nothing but sit at a desk. I enjoy the opportunity to walk around the facility and check the different event spaces. I enjoy meeting with our maintenance staff, contractors, or clients to show them around and look at the property, just to take note of what can be improved. A lot of management can be done by walking around versus sitting at a desk or in a meeting, and I like that.
Q. How did you get involved in the industry?
A. I did an internship while I was in college at Purdue in the Marketing Department for the Athletics office. And although Marketing was my major, I didn’t really think that’s what I wanted to do as a career. So when I saw an internship opportunity at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, I thought it was a good chance to learn something new. I applied and was lucky enough to be selected and really loved it. Loved working there. I decided the event world was where I wanted to be. Eventually that internship led to a full-time job offer in the Set-Up Department. I actually started out as a set-up supervisor, which wasn’t my first choice for a position, but it kept me in the industry I enjoyed. So I did that for a few months and then an Event Coordinator position opened up with the Indiana Convention Center, which is attached to the RCA Dome. I did that for about four years before becoming an Event Manager at the Lucas Oil stadium across the street, which replaced the RCA Dome. After a while, I realized if I ever wanted to reach my ideal goal of running my own building, I needed to branch out and do something new. When a position in Tampa opened up, I saw it as a good opportunity because Indi and Tampa are very different from each other, and so are their venues. The clientele and events down here are different, too. So it was a good career move for me to come down and see what life was like in a different world.
Q. Who inspires you?
A. My former boss Mike Fox (who actually within the last week has announced that he is leaving Lucas Oil stadium). Between the former RCA Dome and more recent Lucas Oil Stadium, he was there for 33 years. He’s the one who hired me and first gave me a shot, so I really look up to him. In a way, I consider him my idol in this business. I learned more from him than I ever thought would be possible. I really respect and admire the way he handles employees and clients. Everything, for him, is about the fans and the customers. There’s this quote that he says: “Every event is someone’s SuperBowl.” A marching band competition, for example—some people turn their nose up at that but there are kids who spend countless hours practicing just to make it to the state finals or the national championship. It may be the biggest day of their life up to that point. And then there’s the families who come from out of town and spend a lot of time and money to watch their child perform—it’s as big as anything to them. That’s what Mike instilled in me. Whether you’re doing a wedding reception, tradeshow, the final four, or any other event—put everything you have into it because your job is to create memories for those who are there. So that’s what I try to do and what I try to teach my staff.
Q. What makes Raymond James Stadium unique?
A. I think there’s a lot of things. We’re actually one of the older facilities now, at least in NFL years. We opened in 1998 and there’s a lot of newer, fancier buildings out there but this stadium has such great bones to it. Like I said, we’re doing a renovation now, which was needed in terms of some new technology and refurbished suites. But even with renovations aside, there’s so many things this building can do that a lot of buildings can’t. The seats at the south end of the stadium are retractable, for instance. This is great for concerts as we can put the stage deeper into the south end of the building, which opens up more seating on the floor and on the sides. Another feature is that our sideline seats are closer to the field than a lot of places, so the folks sitting on the sidelines feel like they’re closer to the action. We’re able to reconfigure our club lounges depending on the need of our client—making them as exclusive or open as they’d like. There’s just a lot of different things we can do by reconfiguring seating to take care of any client’s idea of event set-up.
Q. How does a stadium such as Raymond James Stadium become selected to host games such as the College Football Playoff National Championship?
A. It’s a long process. The most important thing I can tell you is that it’s truly a city-wide effort. Certainly the stadium plays a key role in it, but no venue gets selected because of the venue alone. If you don’t have commitments from your partners around the community, it can’t happen. I think we’re very blessed in Tampa because we have the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, run by Rob Higgins. They are just incredible when it comes to the amount of time, effort, and creativity they put into events like the College Football Playoff. They brought the Frozen Four here, and many more. The government, the mayor, the city council, the county commissioner, they’ve been all in from the get-go. For an event like the CNC it really takes the whole city. But obviously the game is at the stadium, so the stadium needs to be world-class to be able to host it and have at least 70,000 seats. You have to have sufficient suites, clubs, upscale video boards, parking, media infrastructure, internet, and everything else you’d expect to have for a national championship. Beyond that, the convention center has to be involved for Fanfest, the city has to have a concert area downtown, the airport has to be a quality airport, so it’s a true team effort throughout the whole city. A lot of different partners were involved. On all accounts and through all aspects of the event, Tampa knocked it out of the park and it’s certainly something we will be pursuing again in the future.
Q. With a seating capacity of 75,000—what was it like to host 74,512 excited fans?
A. Yeah, that’s actually our stadium attendance record now. In 2009, U2 set the attendance record which was just over 72,000. We actually had to add temporary seating in both end zones to get us to that capacity for this game. It was a lot of work. The first moves toward preparation started even before I got here as an employee. We had a team of folks from Raymond James and other entities like Public Safety and the Sports Commission go to Dallas for the game in 2015 and then Phoenix for the 2016 game. I was on-site for the visit in Phoenix. Once the 2016 game finished, we started meeting with the College Football Playoff staff right away. They were on site every single month for a week at a time going through planning. We had a “drawing set” each month by which the whole site plan was laid out and we would review those drawings. We would make suggestions and they would ask questions and vice versa. Our job was to help make their vision possible as much as we could. So there was a lot of coordination, a lot of conference calls, a lot of emailing, and a lot of internal meetings to be prepared for other meetings. As every month passed it got more hectic. From middle of November through Game Day I was working about seven days a week for about 12-15 hours a day. But it was so worth it. It was awesome in the end and turned out to be a fantastic event. We made 74,000 people as happy as we could, independent of the final score of the game. Some Alabama fans probably didn’t leave too happy but in regard to the event execution and the stadium, they hopefully left with a positive experience.
Q. Who were you pulling for?
A. Honestly, I was neutral. It’s easy being the mid-west guy not to have ties to either school. I was rooting for a good game, which we certainly got—especially given the magnitude and scale of it. So we succeeded there and it was awesome to be a part of. So no, I truly didn’t care. I would have been fine either way.
Q. What did your role look like on the big day?
A. Game Day started at 4am for me. If you were to arrive then, it was kind of an event within an event because Good Morning America was broadcasting live from the stadium. So they had all the production staff rolling in first thing in the morning. They wanted a cast of “extras” so there were 300 to 400 fans that woke up at the same time as myself just so they could drive to the stadium and be in the background of the TV shot, just like something you’d see in New York City. In those early hours I was driving around the parking facilities and the parameter of the property. I was checking the entry points and security measures. I made sure the décor was up and looked good and the signage was right. Once I was comfortable with everything outside, I moved inside. Check the power, does it work? Check the internet, is it connected? I was walking everywhere, looking at every room, checking in with department heads, and making sure staff were getting checked in okay. We had to bus in staff. We had to park them a couple miles off-site, which is not normal. There were so many moving parts that were unlike any other event. It’s a one-time thing, so you don’t get a dress rehearsal. It was imperative that we talked through all these scenarios so we could get it right.
Q. How does EventBooking affect your work day?
A. It affects it a great deal! When I was hired, we didn’t have a program or software like EventBooking or anything else that we could use for calendar functions or work orders. We did everything via email and Outlook Calendar. It was hard to say we were doing a great job of being organized, so I spent a lot of time researching different programs. I had used various companies in Indianapolis so I was familiar with the capability of some of these programs, but obviously decided that EventBooking would be in our best interest. And so far, everything’s been great. The calendar function certainly exceeds what I had hoped for and it has made us extremely organized. I can put in facility holds when work is being done and block off spaces. It’s been great. We’re actually working with Kayln Denniston on your team right now to put together our own custom work orders. The flexibility that your team has to customize things to each specific venue is extremely helpful. No two venues are alike and what works well for us in Tampa might not work well for Jacksonville or somebody else, so it’s great that you guys can mold things to be the way we’d like.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A. Just that I certainly enjoy the program and the Client Services team, which has been fantastic. And on the sales side, Evelyn was great to work with too. I can say as your main contact from the Tampa Bay Sports Authority at Raymond James Stadium, we’re very pleased up to this point and look forward to continuing our partnership with you.
Thanks for your time, David! It’s a pleasure serving you.