SHSU Houston Aeros Night Shoots For ‘Hat Trick’
March 26, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: John Peres
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In hockey, a hat trick is when a player scores three goals in one game. It is an impressive accomplishment that is to be commended.
Sam Houston State will soon attempt a hat trick of its own, hosting the third annual “SHSU Night with the Houston Aeros” event on April 13 at Houston’s Toyota Center.
The game between the Houston Aeros and the San Antonio Rampage gives Bearkats of all ages a fun night out while at the same time providing valuable experience for graduate students looking to work with a professional sports organization.
In a world where everyone is always trying to get an edge over the competition, the Aeros event gives SHSU sport management graduate students an opportunity to get a glimpse of their chosen field before they go pro, according to Ryan Zapalac, associate professor of sport management.
Attendance at the event has increased every year. In 2011, its inaugural year, 506 people attended. The following year, the crowd grew to 813. This time around, the goal is to have 1,200 attendees.
The event is a collaborative effort between Brent Estes’s “Sport Finance and Sales” course, Zapalac’s “Event and Facility Management” class, and the Houston Aeros.
The success of “SHSU Night with the Houston Aeros” can be attributed to the relentless work of students in Sam Houston State’s sport management graduate program, Zapalac said.
The duties for the project are split between the two classes; Estes’s class strategizes how to market the game in order to fill seats, while Zapalac’s class plans and designs phases of the event, as well as oversees the day-to-day operations of meeting with the Aeros and stadium staff on logistical matters.
The main goal of SHSU’s graduate sport management emphasis in kinesiology is to effectively prepare students for the many executive positions within athletic and sport organizations at the community, educational, and/or professional levels. Sport management courses focus on the business aspects of sports information, interscholastic intercollegiate and professional sports, facility management, sport ethics, sports marketing, sports law, and sports finance.
Hitting the Ice with Sport Management...
“We do projects like this to give students that applied experience that they need to be competitive,” Zapalac said. “As a byproduct, it has built them a network of contacts. When they go out for interviews, people see Aeros Night on their resume and they immediately say that they have heard about that particular event.”
Sport management grad student Thomas “Rusty” Caldwell added that within the challenging process, there is a lot of cross collaborating.
“Communication is very important for success of a game day event,” Caldwell said. “For example, if we help sell a block of tickets to a certain group and that group wants some sort of sponsorship arrangement at the game, who do we contact for permission? What sort of agreement are we able to give them? Are we able to honor that request?
“We have to work alongside the Aeros executives and ask for their permission for a lot of things to make sure we don’t promise something that we cannot fulfill,” he said. “If a group does obtain certain sponsorship privileges, what sort of items will they need on game day for a possible set up? Where will they enter the building? How many people will be with them? Will they be in their own VIP suite or somewhere else? There are a lot of different hospitality topics that have been eye opening for me, and I know SHSU Night at the Aeros will expand on that even more.”
Sport management graduate student Shelly Williams said that her favorite part of the project is getting to work in groups to complete their assigned tasks.
“We have all been separated into four different committees and are all focused on what duties we are expected to complete,” she said. “Getting to work with other graduate students to accomplish future goals for the project is fun. We all hold each other accountable for what we need to do. All the groups are working great together, and I know the final product is going to be successful.”
Zapalac said that the experience had proven beneficial for several SHSU students.
“We have had four people hired by the Aeros directly as a result from their work on Aeros Night,” he said. “One student was hired as an intern with the Houston Astros baseball organization because they saw that he had worked on this project.”
Sport management major Ian Ryniak said he believes SHSU’s program is one of the best all-around programs in the area for those looking for a career in the sports industry. By partnering with major sports franchises, it helps students not only build contacts for the future but it also provides them with great "hands-on" experience within the industry as well.
“If anyone is interested in a career in the sports industry I strongly recommend this program, as it has been a stepping stone towards my future,” he said.
The opportunity to work with people who share a love of sports provides people with gratifying careers.
The sport industry will continue to expand as it has over the last few decades, according to Zapalac.
The industry provides opportunities in marketing and promotions, sports information, academic student services, and development within intercollegiate sports, as well as with event management and community relations. Other employment possibilities exist in sporting goods, stadium management, sports agencies and interscholastic athletic administration.
“For any students that have a passion for sports or for those students that are interested in any form of business management, this is a great program that really helps to prepare you for any type of job in the sports industry,” said sport management major Sean Rainbird.
SHSU’s “Night with the Houston Aeros” has become a model for both other schools and other sports teams, which have adapted programs with local colleges due to their relatively quick success with this program. SHSU’s event has also been featured in the American Hockey League’s newsletter, according to Zapalac.
“This is an event that we will continue to try to improve and we cannot thank the university community, local partners, alumni, and the Houston Aeros enough for their generous support of ‘SHSU Night with the Houston Aeros’ and our students,” he said.
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