In the front room of an unassuming office at 425 W. South St. in downtown Indianapolis is a bright red digital clock silently counting down to the Super Bowl to be played just a block away in Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb. 5, 2012.
The clock, a merciless instrument, never stops. And neither does the organization headquartered in the offices, the Super Bowl Host Committee.
The committee is tasked by the city with the nerve-wracking job of setting up the infrastructure for the NFL to run the Super Bowl, and committee CEO Allison Melangton has been steadily hiring managers and staff as the event approaches, and plans unfurl for needs ranging from safety to transportation to the legacy project on the east side.
The 49-year-old Melangton jilted conventional practice by turning away the traveling band of organizers who hop from city to city helping prepare for Super Bowls. Every one of the 18 hires to date has been an Indiana native or has lived in the state for at least several years.
“We have such a deep, deep talent pool here when it comes to putting on major sporting events,” said Melangton, who is from Maine and arrived in Indianapolis in 1983 as the city embarked on a sports tourism strategy that led to her involvement in Olympic events, NCAA championship games and Super Bowl bids. “And we have a special way of doing things here with Hoosier hospitality, and I want that to shine through with the 2012 Super Bowl.”
When an organizer has less than 2-1/2 years to prepare for the largest sporting event on Earth, time lines are short and work weeks are long—70 hours now and ratcheting up to 75 come February.
In Melangton’s eyes, few are suited for the work. After she was named to the position in October 2008, she made two lists of attributes the staff would need.
Experiences would span project management, managing numerous volunteers, and negotiating budgets and finances.
Personal skills would be crucial, too. Staff would need to be facilitators, multi-taskers, detail- and deadline-driven, team builders and effective communicators. They’d also need people skills, flexibility and the ability to solve problems on the fly.
She started by hiring an executive assistant, Lisa Talley, for her customer-service skills. Three months later, Melangton hired Circle City Classic Executive Director Tony Mason, 44, someone she felt could plug in anywhere, as senior vice president.
Then Jan Frazier, a principal with management consulting firm Planning Plus LLC, was tagged to help oversee staffing, and ExactHire was contracted to handle the online application system to process what would become hundreds of phone calls, e-mails and resumes. Both firms are headquartered locally.
The committee tried to make the hiring process as straightforward as possible.
Salaries for all positions were advertised, and there were no negotiations because, Frazier said, every committed dime was spoken for.
Applicants also were warned not to expect limelight.
“They weren’t going to be hanging out with
players and going to parties,” Frazier said.
And applicants were told they would have only about a week to get up to speed. So far, so good: No one has been fired.
“The thing you need to make sure you get when you hire for these positions are people who can develop and go with plan A, B or C,” Melangton said. “You have to be able to drop what you’ve spent hours and hours on, and quickly go another direction. It’s important to remember this is the NFL’s event, and you have to be flexible when the situation calls for it.”
As quickly as the organization moves, Melangton prefers one-on-one interaction to e-mail. Most days, she talks with each staff member at least once for the depth and immediate feedback offered by conversation.
Melangton may be a taskmaster, but yelling and berating aren’t her style. Her staff describe her as even-tempered, levelheaded and demanding, but with a gentle touch.
Melangton sought many of those same characteristics in her staffers.
She calls Mason “the kindest person I’ve ever met. He’s incredibly intelligent, and can take any group of people and facilitate a discussion, collaborate and come out with a good plan to go forward.”
While Melangton looked for people who could work together as a team, that doesn’t mean staffers are clones. Mel Raines, the 41-year-old vice president of event operations and government relations, for instance, has helped plan and operate several Republican National Conventions and served as an assistant for political affairs to former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Many, to no surprise, have sports backgrounds, and several, including Melangton, have ties to the Indiana Sports Corp., the not-for-profit that represents Indianapolis in the business of sports.
Finding people to take on a job that would last anywhere from 18 months to three years wasn’t a problem.
Plenty of people are looking for work due to the poor economy or wanted to be part of a high-profile project, Frazier said. Some sought the jobs as resume builders, others to serve the community.
It certainly isn’t for the money. Most host committee positions pay between $35,000 and $85,000, and all positions are salaried, so there’s no overtime.
Frazier said the modest salaries certainly didn’t diminish interest from the “Super Bowl gypsies” who travel from host committee to host committee. Plenty applied.
But the Indianapolis committee is betting on local talent.
“It would have been an easy route to take to say other people who have already worked on a Super Bowl are smarter than we are, but they’re not,” Melangton said. “The philosophy was that we know our community better than anyone else. And with that knowledge, we can do just as good a job, or even better, than anyone else.”
Looking to Hoosiers
Allison Melangton, CEO of the Super Bowl Host Committee, chose Indiana natives or people living in the state in order to draw from a “deep talent pool” and to create local flavor.
Director of event operations
Hometown: Sidney, Ohio
Education: bachelor’s in sports management, University of Dayton
Background: event manager at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil; also worked stadium events and security
Key strength: organization and operations knowledge of Lucas Oil Stadium
Dealing with stress: laughter
Favorite pastime: time with family (7-month-old daughter)
Senior vice president
Education: bachelor’s in journalism and sociology, IU
Background: on assignment from Indiana Sports Corp., where she manages the partnership with the NCAA (most recently served as executive director of the 2010 Men’s Final Four); managed six international and world championship events including 2005 Solheim Cup, 2004 World Swimming Championships, and 2002 World Basketball Championships
Key strengths: multi-tasking, problem-solving, relationship-building, creativity
Dealing with stress: listening to music
Favorite pastime: being in or near water
Legacy staff—community builder
Education: bachelor’s in business, Milligan College
Background: works with the John H. Boner Center in Indianapolis in the host committee’s role with the Super Bowl legacy project on the east side; commercial real estate analyst for Integra Realty Resources in Indianapolis
Key strengths: passion, advocacy, community focus
Dealing with stress: plays street hockey in front of his house
Favorite pastime: camping with family and church friends
Chief financial officer
Education: bachelor’s in accounting, IU
Background: serves as chief financial officer for the Super Bowl Host Committee and Indiana Sports Corp.; also spent seven years at Ernst & Young LLP
Key strengths: resourcefulness, accuracy, diligence
Dealing with stress: regain perspective
Favorite pastime: riding all-terrain vehicles
Director of communications
Education: bachelor’s in interpersonal communication, DePauw University; MBA, IU
Background: managed media relations and communications for Lumina Foundation for Education, and held employee communications positions at Southwest Gas in Nevada and Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis; also worked in the administration of former Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith, and served on local organizing committees including Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Basketball and multiple NCAA Final Fours
Key strengths: communication planning, implementation and personal skills
Dealing with stress: exercise
Favorite pastime: hanging with family (hubby, daughters 14 and 12) and friends
Director of volunteer services
Education: bachelor’s in general studies, IUPUI
Background: on assignment from Indiana Sports Corp.; was marketing project manager for the 2001 World Police & Fire Games and office manager for the 2002 FIBA World Basketball Championship
Key strengths: positive attitude, patience, people skills
Dealing with stress: finds time to read
Favorite pastime: spending time with family
Vice president of marketing
Education: bachelor’s degree in journalism, IU
Background: two decades of sports marketing and sales, including vice president of business development for Sport Graphics and vice president of marketing for Indiana Sports Corp.
Key strengths: creativity, relationship-building
Dealing with stress: music
Favorite pastime: goofing off with family
Tracy Heaton de Martinez
Legacy staff—executive associate
Education: bachelor’s in anthropology, Indiana University
Background: 25 years of not-for-profit experience, fund development, historic preservation, social service and education
Key strengths: weaving people, their interests and passions together
Dealing with stress: playing with her dog
Favorite pastime: reading
Hometown: Auburn, Maine
Education: bachelor’s in commercial sports management, Colorado State University
Background: more than 25 years of national and international experience in sports and events management ranging from USA Gymnastics to Indiana Sports Corp. to seven Olympic Games.
Key strengths: team-building, execution, implementation
Dealing with stress: steps back, reassesses to gain perspective
Favorite pastime: volunteering at church with family
Director of special projects
Education: bachelor’s in construction management, Purdue University
Background: on assignment from Shiel Sexton Co., where he serves as construction project manager; spent nine years managing project teams in higher education and recreation facility construction
Key strengths: organization, detail, team-oriented
Dealing with stress: enjoying the outdoors
Favorite pastime: time with wife, Shannon, and two young children
Vice president of events and volunteer services
Hometown: Ames, Iowa
Education: bachelor’s in elementary education, Clarion University of Pennsylvania; master’s in physical education, Indiana State University
Background: national and international event management experience for 30 years, including multiple roles with the U.S. Olympic committee; was president of the 2001 World Police and Fire Games
Key strengths: positive approach, leadership, teamwork, troubleshooting
Dealing with stress: compares stressful times to really tough situations she’s handled
Favorite pastime: golf
Manager of office administration
Education: bachelor’s in economics and international studies, Kalamazoo College; MBA, Indiana University
Background: 13 years of administrative and managerial experience in legal, consumer retail products, and financial services
Key strengths: customer service, positive outlook, articulates complex information concisely
Dealing with stress: taking deep breaths
Favorite pastime: spending time with family, friends
Manager of environmental programs
Education: bachelor’s in environmental management, IU; master’s in public affairs, IUPUI
Background: on assignment part time from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management
Key strengths: creative thinking, time management
Dealing with stress: roller derby
Favorite pastime: reading
Senior vice president
Hometown: Lima, Ohio
Education: bachelor’s in public administration, master’s in sports organization, Miami University
Background: 20 years of sports and special events management and youth sports program administration including the NCAA, Amateur Athletic Association, and Indiana Black Expo
Key strengths: dealing with variety of people and personalities, diplomacy, facilitating
Dealing with stress: watching comedy shows and sports on TV
Favorite pastime: attending the Super Bowl
Vice president of event operations and government relations
Hometown: South Bend, N.J.
Education: bachelor’s in telecommunications, IU
Background: 15 years in event management, and political, corporate, public and legislative affairs including chief operating officer for the 2008 Republican National Convention and assistant for political affairs to former Vice President Dick Cheney
Key strengths: breadth and depth of knowledge in many areas, breaking down challenges into conquerable parts, making plans
Dealing with stress: running
Favorite pastime: spending time with family and friends
Education: certificate of business management, Professional Careers Institute
Background: 20 years of customer service, administrative experience
Key strengths: personal and customer service
Dealing with stress: doesn’t believe in stress
Favorite pastime: listening to oldies music
Education: bachelor’s in social work and psychology, Ball State University; master’s in social work, IU
Background: former executive director, John H. Boner Community Center; program director, Wayne County Opportunities Industrialization Center for at-risk youth
Key strengths: resourcefulness, vision, passion, inspiration
Dealing with stress: backpacking and cooking
Favorite pastime: watching the Indianapolis Colts while eating wings at BW3
Vice president of guest welcome and super service
Education: bachelor’s in marketing, Indiana University
Background: on assignment from position at ICVA as vice president of convention services; served on management committee for the Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments and the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Four local organizing committees
Key strengths: tackling multiple projects, customer service, training, mentoring
Dealing with stress: vinyassa yoga
Favorite pastime: spending time with her children
Director of emerging business/customer outreach
Education: bachelor’s in political science, philosophy, African-American and African diaspora studies; master’s in public finance and policy analysis, Indiana University; pursuing MBA, Indiana University
Background: minority and women business enterprise project coordinator, Nubian Construction Group, for the Indiana Convention Center expansion
Key strengths: strong advocate for useful projects, problem solving, friendly demeanor
Dealing with stress: makes plans to address critical issues
Favorite pastime: reading philosophy, economics, history