Penn State Intercom......November
Jordan Center entertainers
educate marketing students
By Gary W. Cramer
attention of most of last Friday night's audience was drawn to the on-the-mat
and ringside histrionics of such personalities as Kane, HHH and Lance
Storm as they taunted and seemed to beat the living tar out of each other
at The Bryce Jordan Center on the University Park campus. However, students
who were in the know about behind-the-scenes events during the wrestlers'
visit to campus with the rest of the World Wrestling Entertainment's RAW
cast and crew could testify to how the center has grown into an extra,
quieter role than provider of top-notch events in recent years -- an educational
This fall semester
marks the fourth time Jordan Center general manager Bob Howard has taught
Recreation and Park Management 497B, an undergraduate course that focuses
on arena management and event promotion issues. Using the center as a
living classroom, Howard and his staff give students an in-depth primer
on the operations of similar arenas elsewhere, as well as convention and
trade centers, stadiums, multi-purpose civic centers, theatres and amphitheaters.
The Jordan Center also runs an active internship program on a year-round
basis that has been very successful at seeing its participants get jobs
in the field.
Howard said that Penn State is one of just a few universities with a course devoted to the industry he knows best. Graduates in the field need to know about crowd management, event planning and implementation, controlling costs, production contract management, merchandise, First Amendment law, search and seizure law, food and beverage matters and much more.
Nearly 50 students
got an overview of one professional's 20 years in the field on the Thursday
morning before the scripted RAW "Tour of Defiance" chaos erupted in the
center's arena, when Ed Cohen, World Wrestling Entertainment's (WWE) senior
vice president of live event marketing and event booking, met with Howard's
22-member class and visitors from the Penn State Marketing Association.
As another educational bonus, on Friday, just before the RAW show, WWE
wrestler Al Snow, host of MTV's "Tough Enough," met with assistant professor
of philosophy David Parry's visiting Penn State Altoona class, which is
devoted to the business and cultural sides of the professional wrestling
"You are the
future of our industry," Cohen, who studied business at Roger Williams
University in Rhode Island, told Thursday's students. As one of WWE's
first few employees in 1982, at a time when arena management was probably
not taught at any university in the country, he quickly learned that growing
the wrestling industry from its often scoffed-at status in those days
meant attention to the three basics of the live entertainment industry:
He also stressed the importance of sound business relationships with local managers like Howard to the eventual transformation of WWE from a regional concern limited to the northeastern United States (then known as the World Wrestling Federation) into a 350-employee company that is the major player in the modern, multimedia wrestling industry. Last week marked the 11th visit by WWE to University Park in front of crowds that can top 12,000.
"I think the
best thing we have, besides giving people something they want, is our
credibility (as events managers)," Cohen said. "What
I've noticed since I started in the business is that, unfortunately, some
people hide behind the technology (that's used now). Accessibility is
the key to everything you do in life. In our world, everything is boom,
boom, boom, boom, boom, and you have to be available. I know when I call
Penn State and begin with that 814 area code, I'm going to get an answer
right away, or within a half hour."
With a live event already going on somewhere in the country nearly every night of the year, Cohen said growth for the company is coming in the form of new efforts to expand into other countries. But where arena events are concerned, he said keeping the domestic audiences enthralled by the WWE's characters and ongoing storylines means keeping an eye on traditional competition, such as fairs, festivals and other sports.
"There's always competition in the markets to evaluate. If Kmart is having a sale on fertilizer, that could be competition for us."
Gary W. Cramer
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.