Connor Leisz ’16, a senior Sport Management major, worked as part of the Tip-Off Tailgate team as an event manager for Turner Sports during the 2016 Final Four in Houston.
Leisz came across the opportunity through professor Tom Stallings. Leisz was assigned to work with the Tip-Off Tailgate team as there were also other Turner events going on including March Madness Music Fest and Fan Fest. Tip-Off Tailgate was the ultimate pre-game destination for fans attending the Final Four games at NRG Stadium. Located just outside of NRG Stadium, Tip-Off Tailgate was open for fans to enjoy sponsor activations, interactive zones, live music from Pat Green and Barenaked Ladies, and food and beverages to prepare for the games.
Leisz was one of eight event managers that prepared for over 50,000 guests of foot traffic throughout the weekend. In fact, the championship game set an NRG Stadium attendance record of 75,500. Leisz worked as the volunteer coordinator and deliveries coordinator on site and used skills learned at Rice to push Turner to use more digital technology in event planning and organization.
“My initial job on site was setting up the production trailer,” Leisz said. “I created an online form check-in/check-out system connected to a spreadsheet for the 50 radios that went through the production office so we could keep tabs on all of the radios. It saved us a lot of time and potentially money because radios can be lost or stolen and are extremely costly.”
Leisz also managed the volunteer waiver stations, which Turner tried a new online system to better maintain all of their guest’s waivers at the events. Instead of collecting thousands of paper waivers, Turner tried a new version using iPad’s to store everything electronically.
“As volunteer coordinator I worked with hundreds of volunteers and the Local Organizing Committee to ensure the event ran smoothly on the volunteer end,” Leisz said. “One of the biggest jobs for volunteers was running the waiver stations. I fully supported the use of iPads for the event, and we never had to use a single paper waiver. The volunteers worked well with the iPads, and overall we had very few issues. It is cool working for a company that is not afraid to implement new techniques for the potential betterment of the event as a whole.”
Leisz will continue working with Turner Sports in the summer during the College World Series for baseball and softball. Leisz is currently moving sponsor and contractor information to an online system for these events similar to what was done for the radios.