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New Orleans will play host again to the Final Four (2022) and then the Super Bowl (2025). Cities that bid on major sporting events not only boost the tourism sector but also provide a substantial economic injection for the city and region. Jay Cicero, President/CEO, Jeff Rossi, SVP of Events, and Phillip Sherman, Chairman, of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation join host Chris Kane for a discussion on how these major sporting events come about, stimulate jobs, reinvigorate the host city’s image, and generate business revenue while still recovering from COVID.

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Christopher Kane:  Welcome to this episode of Boom! A Southeastern Commerce Podcast presented by Adams and Reese. I am your host Chris Kane and we are coming to you today from Copper Vine, a wine bar located in really the entertainment district of downtown New Orleans, which is fitting for our guests today. We have the leadership from the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, with us is Jay Cicero and Jeff Rossi, as well as the Chairman Phillip Sherman. We really guys are excited to have you here. For our listeners who don’t know, collectively at the table we’ve got folks who have done everything from the bidding to the production and putting on four NCAA Final Fours, including the one that’s coming up next year in 2022, which we’ll talk about.

Also four Super Bowls including the 2025 Super Bowl, which we’re going to also talk about. Three NBA All Star games and of course you cannot leave out WrestleMania, which a lot of our friends, particularly our Memphis and Tennessee partners, they’re, like, big diehard WrestleMania fans. So – and they cannot forget the 2020 college football championship, which you guys worked with the Sugar Bowl Committee on, in my sporting life was the last pre-COVID fun experience that I had at a sporting even unfortunately. But Jay, let’s start with you. Jay is the President and CEO of Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, and why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit about what your mission is, what your role is and how you interact in bringing these large sporting events to New Orleans.

Jay Cicero: Thanks for having us on first of all Chris. The Sports Foundation was the brain child of the Young Leadership Council back in 1987. They did a feasibility study of whether or not a sports commission would work in New Orleans. And of course the study came back positive, and in August of ’88 we were formed. So it’s been a little over 32 years now, going on 33 years that we’ve been around. And our mission is to bid upon and manage sporting events on behalf of the state and the city for economic development purposes.

So these events come along with a lot of business and a lot of travelers. But the media that travels along with these events really separates it from other events that come to New Orleans or go around the country. So we’re excited to have been doing this for 32 years, and we’ve been very successful at it. I think the number of events that we’ve hosted show proof of that. And we’re excited about our future and the next several years coming up. And so great organization to be involved with. We’ve got a great structure with a very experienced board of directors and our chairman sitting right here, Phillip Sherman and a great staff of leadership of folks like Jeff Rossi and a few others, that really carry the ball on these events.

Christopher Kane:  So my understanding, it’s around 3.4 – just shy of $3.5 billion of impacts since 1988. That’s a major skin – all the other things I read are a great skin on the wall, but when you really look at a turnout in terms of what the impact is, where does your funding come from? How are you funded?

Jay Cicero: We’re funded currently, we’ve gone through a number of different funding mechanisms over the 32 years. But currently we’re funded out of the slot tax at the fairgrounds. We receive a portion of the state tax that’s collected from the slot operations there and have since it opened in 2008. We also receive a little bit more public funding through the Culture, Recreation and Tourism Department, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office at the State of Louisiana.

And then the rest is private money. So if you think about the structure of the organization, we’re – I like to call us the “mother ship.” We’re in the middle. We have the employees. We have the office. We have the administration. We have all of those background expenses that are involved with any event. And then the events themselves, such as a men’s Final Four or a Super Bowl or a WrestleMania, women’s Final Four and any other major event that there are now carrier, New Orleans has a separate budget on its own. Most of those budgets don’t include personnel, office space or anything like that because we’re already providing that.

So the remainder of our budget for the Sports Foundation is privately funded through memberships and through other types of fundraisers that we do across the year.

Christopher Kane:  And Jeff Rossi who’s with us, he’s a Senior Vice-President of Events. He is the Executive Director of the 2022 Final Four Local Committee. He’s also my fellow Brother Martin class of ’96, which is – we got to get that shout out in there. But Jeff, your role obviously today, which is – we’re a day removed when we’re recording from the 2021 Final Four. And you guys literally just walked over here from a press conference with the governor and with the mayor. And I was joking with you, you’re on the clock. So what does your next year look like, and what are you going to be doing on a day-to-day basis to fulfill the mission of the organization, to bring a very successful 2022 Final Four?

Jeff Rossi: Yeah, so as a local ordinance committee we partner with (inaudible) UNO as host institutions. And essentially we’re going to be the eyes and ears for the NCAA or the boots on the ground in the city for the next year. It’s longer than some people think, but the event was awarded back in 2016. So we had communication and been in touch with the NCAA throughout this timeframe. We had I would say maybe four or five calls a year, and it would slowly progress. This past year we were supposed to spend a lot more time with them and dealing with them. But once the – obviously the NCAA pulled the entire tournament to Indianapolis. The plans had changed.

So I would say the NCAA’s probably need a couple of weeks to recover from the undertaking that they just went through in Indianapolis. But we’ll talk to them literally on a daily basis from here on out and once they get reengaged. So it’s everything from helping them – anything they need from helping select venues, hotels, securing all the things that we promised in the bid. The bid specs are 200 plus pages. So as you can imagine there’s a lot that we have to provide for them. So our goal is to make sure we deliver on all of the things that we promised them and also make sure that the NCAA and their partners have a wonderful experience, as they always do in New Orleans, and get that event back as soon as possible.

Christopher Kane:  One of the things I don’t think a lot of folks really understand or appreciate, this isn’t something that a couple of months ago you guys went and presented and got awarded. This is year and years and years of planning. And Phillip was – we were talking, Phillip Sherman who is a partner at Adams and Reese and is a chairman is with us as we mentioned earlier. And Phillip was telling me some stories about the bid for – originally it was the 2024 Super Bowl. We have this little thing in town called Mardi Gras, and there was a schedule adjustment at the NFL that required some things to change.

But really you were talking about the experience of what goes into that process, and I believe you had an opportunity to be part of the advance team so to speak to help get that awarded to the City of New Orleans. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your experience Phillip?

Phillip Sherman: Sure, so with the Super Bowl it was a little different when we bid on it because it was the first year that multiple cities didn’t bid against each other. And so the NFL negotiated directly with us, and we’ve had a long history with the NFL and had gone through this process a couple of times. So when they sent over the bid document, like Jeff had said, for the – with NCAA, the NFL, it’s hundreds of pages of fine – going through line by line, making sure we can deliver on what they ask for. Anything from police to venues to tickets to signs in the airport.

So it was a long process and a lot of back and forth. And when we finally felt like we settled on a good bid and presented it to the staff at the NFL and they reviewed it, it went up to the owners. And I got to go on the trip with the advance team with Mrs. Benson and Dennis Lauscha and other members of the Saints’ organization and got to go into the room where they made the presentation to the owners. And it was a unanimous vote, and we got it.

So it was a really interesting, neat experience to go and kind of bring the city back a Super Bowl. It was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work and a lot of different groups, the mayor, the staff over at City Hall, the Convention Center. Everybody is part of this bid process, the hotels, really working together to make sure we provide the best bid that we can.

Christopher Kane:  Well, I’ve got a ten-year-old daughter, and so when you said you were in the room, immediately I went to Hamilton in the room where it happens. It’s, like, stuck in replay in my household. But that’s cool. That really I think speaks about what – as I appreciate, what your organization is about, right. You don’t just have a board who’s inactive. It’s a very active board with excellent community resources and has level of expertise in different industry sectors that you guys pull on and use from a volunteer perspective.

Jay Cicero: Absolutely. When you create these opportunities through the bidding upon and managing these events, you create a bond with the event owners, whether that’s the NFL or the NBA for the All Star game or the NCAA and a trust level builds up. Because these events are very cumbersome and when you actually manage the event also. So we’re different than some of the other organizations who may bid on an event and then somebody else actually manages it. We do it soup to nuts, and that process can be very lengthy, very expensive. But it does create a friendship and a trust with these event owners that helps bring them back to the city.

And we also learn where the potholes are in New Orleans language, that next time we bid, we know, well, we don’t necessarily have to give them this. Or, this is what they’re looking for. We can do it better like this or maybe do it less expensive the next time. Or we may learn we’ve got to give a lot more to get this event back. So with every event that we actually bid upon and manage, we learn more and are able to use it further down the line. And board members like Phillip and his father David Sherman and folks like Paul Valteau Jr, our former civil sheriff here who’s on our Executive Committee and many others, have this experience that’s only created by going through this process. And that experience really leads us to be more competitive in years to come.

Christopher Kane:  Well, the other thing that’s pretty evident to me, which you guys have going for you, it’s beyond your own organization but it’s built on your credibility, right. It’s the partners that trust in what your role is and what you do. But you got to have the partners, whether it be the NCAA, the local universities, the New Orleans Saints, the Pelicans, the City of New Orleans, the Police Department. All of that has to come together to make an event really work. And I presume Jeff right now you’re in detailed plans and finalizing clean zone ordinances and whatever else needs to be done to put on the next big event you guys have coming down the pike in the Final Four.

Jeff Rossi: Yeah, no, and you’re right, it’s really all about partnerships. Not only locally here within the community, but also nationally. Last year we were scheduled to host the women’s Final Four, and we had a great working relationship with the NCAA. And we had the rug swept from under us two weeks before it happened. So that was very disappointing. But it was how we sort of handled that, that was not an easy situation nor was it an easy conversation to have.

But I think the way we handled that and our approach with the NCAA has kind of led us – it’s already set the tone for how we’re going to handle the men’s Final Four. It’s the same organization, but it’s two separate companies or two separate divisions I should say with – inside the NCAA. But I think the reputation that we just developed with the women will carry over to the men. And as these guys mentioned, it’s the relationships that we’ve created over the years. Like Jay mentioned, most cities, they’ll bid on an event. They’ll throw a company together, and then it dissolves and goes away. So if you host an event five, six, ten years later, you’re dealing with a completely separate organization. So anybody who may have worked that Super Bowl Final Four prior, they’re not involved in the next one.

So that’s what I think we have a built in advantage where you have a lot of the same, familiar faces that have the existing relationships with those national partners that quite frankly, that really helped us in 2017 when the NBA All Star game got relocated down here. I used to work at the NBA, and the City had done a great job of hosting the All Star game, I think two times in five or six years in 2018 and 2013. So when they needed a home in 2017, they picked up the phone, called us and said, can we figure this out? We got to work, and it was a wonderful – turned out to be a wonderful event for the city and the state. But it was all based off of the relationships we had developed leading up to that point.

Christopher Kane:  Yeah, you can’t beat institutional knowledge and relationships. It proves itself every time. While we were talking earlier we were recording a day after the 2021 men’s final, and it looked different. Unfortunately we can’t go without – a 30 minute conversation without having to talk about COVID because we just experienced a whole year of it. But first of all, I mean, the takeaway that I thought is, there was obviously some hiccups and challenges, logistics that they had to overcome. By and large they seemed to pull it off really well, and it was a very entertaining tournament. Final game could have been a little closer maybe there at the end, but you can’t control that. Before we talk about 2022 and what events may start to look like from your perspective, a little takeaway from you guys on what you thought – on how things went in 2021 with the Final Four and how different it was and how these guys had to – I mean, somebody at some point in time had to plan that they threw away and had to restart and thank God it wasn’t – you don’t have to do that, knock on wood. But Jay?

Jay Cicero: Well, being that we’re in the event business, we really thought about what’s going to happen – what if, what if, what if, as far as Indianapolis was concerned or the Final Four was concerned. Were they going to have to cancel like they did in 2020? Were they going to create a bubble? If they did, what would that look like? So we kind of play around in the office with that play, but play around in the office as far as, if we had to do that here, how would we go about doing that? We kind of relied on a bid that we put in for the NBA bubble last summer. Unfortunately we didn’t win that. It went to Orlando and Disney.

But we thought about the venues that we would have here, how many courts we would have available. They had to be broadcast quality venues. What the hotels would look like, what kind of bubble we could create here. What would the practice facilities be? How do you feed everyone? How do you test everyone? And so we had this plan that we presented to the NBA last summer before they chose to go into Orlando that included eight sets of two practice courts in the convention center and one bubble hotel in the Hilton. And you’d create a bubble in between the convention center and the Hilton.

And then the second bubble basically would be the Hyatt Hotel and the Smoothie King Center. We’d use the entire – both the entire hotels, and it would have been, at one point, if you’d have had all 30 teams, including the Pelicans, in the hotel, in the bubble playing the rest of the regular season and the play-off games, we felt like it would be over 100,000 room nights that would be generated here. And last summer we really needed that.

We didn’t win that, but that’s something similar to what Indianapolis had to kind of figure out. Where are we going to play? How are we going to house people? How are we going to transport them? How are we going to keep everything sanitized? And I think overall they did a really good job with it. And Indianapolis is one of those cities that, it’s kind of like New Orleans in its size. It doesn’t have the entertainment options. It doesn’t have the Bourbon Street or the French Quarter really. But it does have similar size. It has a fantastic facility downtown. It has a convention center attached to that facility. And it’s the home of the NCAA. Their corporate headquarters are there.

So you knew they were going to figure it out. You just didn’t know exactly what they were going to do. But the only thing that we did was try and figure out, okay, if we were going to do it here, what would that look like?

Jeff Rossi: Yeah, so they have monthly planning meetings, so we would sit in on the recaps. And to your point, when Indianapolis submitted that you agree to do A through Z, well, you might as well have ripped that thing up and thrown it away. You were essentially starting from scratch. You agree to put on three games and those – not house all sixty-eight teams. So to your point, the NCAA loves their manuals.

And so at some point they had to kind of get away from that and figure it out. Give them and the host city of Indianapolis credit. They did. I think they had one game I think that was cancelled. That was it. Which I think is an amazing accomplishment because they weren’t in a bubble per se. They were – not a full blown bubble, but they had private hotels where teams were staying. It was one of the – you might not think this, but one of the biggest problems and one of the solutions they needed was laundry.

So you have 68 teams that need their laundry done on a daily basis and then get to – like, they didn’t have enough facilities in the city. So they actually partnered with Lowes and they sent up all these portable washing machines. So it’s things like that, you wouldn’t think that laundry is the number one problem for the NCAA in hosting a Final Four. But it was just things like that that pop up, that there’s no manual on how to wash 68 team’s uniforms and get them turned around in less than 24 hours and keep everybody happy. So you agreed to one thing; you had to almost throw that out the window and just kind of figure it out in a very, very condensed timeframe. And props to them, the NCAA and Indianapolis for doing a good job.

Christopher Kane:  Well, what you just described is the flexibility that we’ve all had to endure and require to rethink literally everything that we do, whatever profession or line of work or industry over the last year. We were talking earlier about the last real sporting event that I had fun at was the (inaudible) National Championship game, which seems like ten years ago. But I was flying to TPC Sawgrass, our firm’s involved with the Players Golf Tournament, which the PGA is located there. And ironically I literally flew out from New Orleans thinking I was going to watch the Players last year. And when we landed we learned that they kicked fans out, and before we finished dinner they cancelled the tournament.

Now that tournament obviously came back and we’ve got the Masters coming up this week, weekend, as far as golf here and that’s exciting, Zurich here in New Orleans. They’re going to allow 10,000 fans per days. I think 2500 in suites and I think 7500 walking, something like that. We’ve learned a bunch of new words, “bubble” and “social distancing, six feet,” all these other things. And I know we’re excited or trying to get excited about turning the corner. In your industry and talking to leaders from not just sporting events, I’m sure you guys talk on a regular basis to folks that are running major events, what are you hearing? What’s the temperature? Not going to hold you to it? Obviously things change and we don’t know if there’s going to be a fourth spike or surge or if everybody’s going to get vaccinated or not. But as we sit here, I’d love to get some insight from you on kind of what’s the buzz among industry leaders.

Jay Cicero: I think it’s two separate messages. I think it’s one, how do we get through what we had planned for this year that was cancelled or last year that was cancelled and we want to do this year and still remaining in heavy COVID atmosphere and restrictions? And then almost the opposite of that is the optimism for 2022 and beyond. And so obviously we’ve been talking to the NCAA a lot more than any other group the last several months. They really feel like this Final Four is going to be the breakout Final Four for them, having to cancel last year and being incredibly scaled down this year.

So that means the sponsors are going to be spending more because they’ve held back for two years. That means that the activations are probably going to be higher sponsor activations and the NCAA activations. It means that people that haven’t gone to the Final Four for the past two years are going to be doing to go to the event. Not only because they love the event, but it’s in New Orleans.

And so we’re really perfectly set up for next year for this event. If we’d have had it this year, I’m sure we’d have figured out how to do a bubble. But it wouldn’t have been the economic return or the publicity or any of the normal return on investment that we look for when we go after an event. Next year really sets up beautifully for us. And the NCAA is very excited about it. And so that’s why they asked us not to go to Indianapolis because there’s nothing to learn. It’s back to where they were before COVID, but with a whole new sense of purpose. So I think it’s going to be bigger and better than ever.

Jeff Rossi: Yeah, you’re talking about – we’re obviously taking our cues from the various sports that are taking place. MLB just started. Last night Texas, they had 35,000 people in the stands. I’m not sure socially distanced or masks were adhered to. But having said that, I know a lot of Major League Baseball teams have said, by the end of summer, with the increased amount of vaccinations and the more we’re learning, they’re hoping to maybe not be at full capacity, but pretty darn close.

And then the NFL is obviously going to be a big key in with that and college football, the stadiums looked like this fall. Like you said, it’s too early to project on what we think that’s going to be. But all the signs are pointing in the right directions to where gradually, gradually increasing and hopefully all goes well, we’ll have a significant presence here in the Dome during Saints’ football season at some point this year.

Christopher Kane:  I hope so and the Dome obviously is in the process of being renovated itself. And I know the major renovations will be completed in advance of the 2025 Super Bowl. But from what I understand they were able to get a little bit ahead of the curve without having as many events and a little more construction time as a result of COVID. And I believe for the Final Four there’s going to be some new amenities and things for us to see in the Dome.

Jeff Rossi: Yeah, they are actually – obviously I wouldn’t say COVID helped them. But it allowed them, to get to your point, more construction done than what they originally planned. And look, from our perspective and from the NCAA’s perspective, every time they hear construction and there are events coming there, their ears perk up and they want to know everything that that entails and how that affects their event. But the LSCD and ASM Global, the team that manages the Superdome, they’ve done a great job. Yeah, I think fans are going to really like what they see. One of the biggest things we’ll have in place for the Final Four, a couple of things. Updating some of the older visiting NFL locker rooms, kind of bringing them on par. I know that’s been important for our event also the Super Bowl.

But also sort of the end zone field suite level clubs, similar to what you see in Dallas AT&T Stadium. They’re going to have those, and those are going to be a hit. I think I want to say the vast majority are, if not all, are already sold. So I think those are going to be the biggest difference that you’ll see, and people are going to really enjoy that.

Christopher Kane:  You know, from a – not necessarily a sports event perspective, although maybe somewhat related, just anecdotally, I’m starting to really hear, and it probably started in November, December, but then we had that winter surge that I think made people go back in. But a lot of our clients are asking, the phone’s ringing off the hook now. Hey, we want to go see the Players we had a couple of weeks ago in the Zurich. That’s – just to hear that is a little bit exciting. And to know that they want to go out to dinner and be social, from a person who’s very social and has not done very well with this whole quarantine thing. I think that is telltale of some momentum towards, as you were saying, towards 2022 and what that hopefully looks like. And particularly, although we’re talking to the whole Southeast market, particularly for our markets that are tourist related, like New Orleans. From a music scene standpoint somewhat like a Nashville and our friends in Florida.

It’s hard on the infrastructure of our industry of why people come to New Orleans for major events. Our bars and restaurants particularly, our hoteliers who are incredible partners with you guys. So I’m hopeful that we are moving towards a new day and starting to see things normalize. Well Phillip, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your – you’re the chairman and looking at the horizon during your chairmanship, what’s coming the pike next for Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation?

Phillip Sherman: Sure. So we put on the New Orleans Bowl, which is every December. And I think that’s our next major event coming up and it’ll be perfect timing. Hopefully we’ll have fans again and be able to do the full event, which we weren’t able to do last year, although we did have the game. And then really just gearing up for the men’s Final Four is the main event coming up. I’m looking at Jay and Jeff to remind me if there’s anything else.

Jay Cicero: No, that’s enough. {Laughter} And that’s big. In between now and then obviously you have the ongoing operations of the Sports Foundation on a monthly basis, which Phillip is in charge of as our chairman. And then there’s the – we’ve created a separate 501C3 New Orleans 2022 Local Organizing Committee, I believe is the name of it that Phillip formed for us.

And that organization has a separate board of directors. It’ll have some crossover members. It has a lot of input and staffing from Tulane and UNO also as the partners for the event. And then we have subcommittees that are involved for every aspect of the Final Four. So we’ll be putting together the chairpeople, the chairpersons of those committees and then the membership of those separate committees and engaging our staff to really activate those groups to accomplish what needs to be accomplished to fulfill the obligations in the bid. Hopefully better than any other city can.

And then put on a New Orleans flare that we know no other city can do. So there’s a lot to do in between now and next spring, a year from now. It starts with raising the funds, and it’s an $8 million budget overall for the men’s Final Four here. There’s a significant portion of that, $5.5 million that we are working with the State of Louisiana to provide through a mechanism called the Major Event Incentive Fund. And then we have to raise $2.5 million privately on top of that.

So we’re about halfway there on the private funding, and the Legislative session starts next week. And we go through a grueling two months of…

Christopher Kane:  Fun process. I unfortunately know it too well.

Jay Cicero: Working with all the state Legislature to hopefully get that much needed funding for the event.

Christopher Kane:  That’s great, and I know we mentioned some of your partners earlier. I know you also partner with Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser who’s been obviously a champion for anything that brings tourism in. And you mentioned the state too. We didn’t talk about them earlier. But again, my perspective for organizations in other markets, this is an organization to replicate. I mean, you guys really have done it. You got the credibility with the deck of partners that you need. And you only need to look at the success of the events that you’ve been a – not just a part of, you’ve been a leader in. So I applaud you for that.

Before we conclude, I have to ask you this Jay because I was reading up on your bio, and I did not know that you were with the Shreveport Captains Active Age baseball team. And it made me think of The Bastards of Baseball, if you’ve seen this Netflix show. If you haven’t, you need to see it.

Jay Cicero: I have not seen it.

Christopher Kane:  It is excellent, and it’s about independent ball and about how in the ‘70s a lot of things went down. And you also were the general manager for the Zephyrs for a period of time too. So how did you get into minor league baseball, and I’d love to hear about that experience.

Jay Cicero: Well, I was – let’s see, I was born and raised in Shreveport. My father was an infamous high school baseball coach. So I grew up in the game. And my godfather was a scout in the NFL who happened to be a coach of my father a long time ago, a football coach. And so I always wanted – when I was a senior at Louisiana Tech, we took a road trip over to a Texas Rangers game. And it was spring, school was about out. I was about to graduate. And we’re sitting there in left field in 1984, with our shifts off, drinking a beer. It was, like, I know what I want to do {laughs}. I want to go work in baseball.

And it took me about two years to get there, but they were building a new stadium in Shreveport for the AA team of the San Francisco Giants. And the team had been there for a long, long time. And I went over and saw the owner and met with the owner. And I asked him his advice in getting into major league baseball, and a week later he hired me as a director of group sales for the Shreveport Captains AA team. And I was there for five seasons and had an absolute ball. In fact I was texting with the owner and our old video producer from the Captains today about some other things.

But those five years you can never trade because you’re doing everything possible. I mean, you’re 23 years old. You’re AA ball, you’re about the same age, maybe even a little older than some of the players. You’re working every day and loving it. And I was in baseball. So back then it was a lot different than it is now. It’s a lot more of a business now than it was then. But it was a great time and a great owner. A family man who taught me a lot of things about conducting business and that you could do what’s right. You don’t have to barrel over people. You don’t have to charge them an unfair price. You don’t have to – you can do the right thing and still make money. That was a valuable lesson that I’ve taken throughout my career.

Moved here in 1990. Started with the Sports Foundation, the day we were awarded the Olympic track and field trials in December of 1990. In 1993 I left to become the first general manager of the Zephyrs in ’93 and ’94 and came back in 1995 to the Sports Foundation when the team was sold. So – and took over as the CEO in 1997. So it’s been a great ride. I love it. But starting off in minor league baseball, I couldn’t think of a better way to start a career.

Christopher Kane:  Well, I mean, from my standpoint you’re obviously the face of this organization. And one of the fun parts about doing the podcast is I get to learn something about folks. I played Division 2 baseball in college at Christian Brothers University, which is across the street from the Memphis Chick for AA. And I missed out by one year because in ’95 when – or in ’94, ’95 when Jordan was playing, we were waterboys, glorified waterboys. We basically would sit in the bull pen area and they would tell us what they wanted at McDonald’s.

But there’s a story where when Jordan came through he tipped one of my buddies who played ball with a couple of hundred bucks to go to McDonald’s and told him to give a couple of hundred bucks to the ladies behind the counter. So minor league baseball to me has always been fascinating. And I could tell a lot of stories about you, but I don’t think you want them on recorded air Jeff. We go way back.

Jeff Rossi: I was going to say I’m glad Jay filed the business side because he really missed on the starting second basement baseman for the state champion Brother Martin team.

Christopher Kane:  Nice one. {Laughs}

Jeff Rossi: So he could have had you.

Christopher Kane:  That’s right. That’s right. Well, you mentioned earlier, you had a stint with the NBA on the NBA side. What did you do for that?

Jeff Rossi: So I was very fortunate after graduating at UNO, I decided to pursue a graduate degree. I got an MBA at Seton Hall University. Was supposed to be a two year plan for my wife and I moving up there. Funny story. One of our classmates at Brother Martin coincidentally got me an internship at the NBA and would start as a six month internship. Turned into an eight year incredible experience for me. So what I did, I worked in what was called the Events and Attractions Department. And that focused on all of the non-regular season games.

So we did international games, pre-season, regular season games in Europe, in Asia, even in South America. The NBA All Star game was one of our focuses, the draft. All those sort of non-regular season events that we managed. So I kind of focused on – I first started the arena operations portion of it. So when we would go to London in the O2 Arena, we had to make sure it was up to spec, to make sure the NBA game takes place there. Because some of these – the venues in Europe and even to some extent Asia just aren’t what they are here. So trying to fit an NBA production into sometimes a glorified high school or Division II gym has its challenges. 

So it was an awesome opportunity for me to see the world and travel. But then wound up moving home, actually coincidentally right before the 2013 Super Bowl. I moved home and right after we moved home the men – the 2022 men’s Final Four was announced. And the Super Bowl was announced six months later I believe. They needed to add some people on at the Sports Foundation. So I was fortunate that the timing worked out. But yeah, that was an experience that was – I mean, one of the best decisions I ever made was to move away and experience that. But then moving home has just made it all that more rewarding.

Christopher Kane:  Well, we’re glad to have you. The city’s lucky to have you. I know the organization feels the same way. Guys, I know it’s 365 days away, but you got a lot of work to do. And appreciate the time you’ve given us and Phillip and I. And Phillip, thanks for your service obviously for our community as well and all that you’re going. Again, thank you all very much, and until the next episode, thank you for listening to Boom!