The Show Must Go On

Kennesaw State Night Owl Production.jpg

Student group takes the lead for producing major events KENNESAW, Ga.  (Aug. 24, 2015)…

Georgia (Aug 24, 2015)

Student group takes the lead for producing major events

KENNESAW, Ga.  (Aug. 24, 2015) — It takes an army to put on an event for thousands of people, and for Kennesaw State University’s Sports and Entertainment Park, it’s an army of students.

Night Owl Productions is the student group responsible for the day-to-day operations of Fifth Third Bank Stadium, overseeing everything from marketing and ticket sales for events to facilities, hospitality and more.

“We do everything here but cut the grass,” said sophomore Derrick Palms, the executive lead of Night Owl Productions. “You’re not going to get this kind of experience anywhere else.”

As executive lead, Palms oversees nine additional student leads, who are responsible for operations such as marketing, facilities, hospitality and box office sales; 70 part-time student employees; and a crew call database of more than 450 students. The student crews are paid entirely through revenues generated from events.

“Homecoming (2014) was probably my favorite event so far,” Palms said. “Being able to see our Kennesaw State Owls take the football field for the very first time and being able to flip that football game into a concert in two hours was just incredible. People doubted us, and we were able to take that motivation and transform it into something magical for our patrons.”

Providing students with the opportunity for hands-on, real-world experience is one of the founding ideals behind Night Owl Productions, the brainchild of Marty Elliott, executive director and general manager of the KSU Sports and Entertainment Park.

“When I had an opportunity to manage a university venue, it just made sense to maximize opportunities for students to be involved at every level,” Elliott said. “Most universities outsource this work, but the students are an enthusiastic workforce that
 is going to be better able to represent their university than any one we can hire.”

Night Owl Productions is rooted in Elliott’s own collegiate experience. She worked with the student group that ran the Stephen O’Connell Center at the University of Florida.

“I thought I wanted to be an environmental scientist,” she recalled, “but that small student job turned into something much bigger; I went there to make a few bucks, and I just fell in love with the art and science of event production.”

She recalls running the spotlight for “incredible bands,” including running the “truss spot,” the spotlight directly overhead the stage, for Fleetwood Mac.

“That’s the kind of stuff that whether it’s for concerts or sporting events, our students are getting these hands-on experiences, and they carry those successes with them,” Elliott said. “We treat the students as if they were full-time staff, and what we find is the students rise to the occasion.”

That experience translates across all majors, according to Elliot.

“Whether students are majoring in sports management, the arts, business or communication, a lot of times the skills they’re learning here translate across the board,” she said.

Senior finance major Nederria Mayes, who leads the box office, says there is one important lesson she has learned that she will take with her into any future career.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is if something goes wrong, don’t panic, fix it,” she said.

Students have sold more than 200,000 tickets to date, not including Kennesaw State sporting events.

Palms, the executive lead, is a marketing major who would “love” to go into the event/venue management industry after graduation.

“I’ll absolutely have an edge applying for jobs because of this experience,” he said. “It takes a lot of hard work, and putting other people first, and you have to give up nights and weekends, but we put on an event for 30,000 people (Owl-O- Ween) who were able to have a good time because of us, and that feels good.”

During the past year alone, the students produced
the two-day hot air balloon festival Owl-O-Ween; several concerts, including a Wiz Khalifa concert during Homecoming 2014; and several sporting events, including Rugby National Championships and the Cobb County Classic Series showcasing an NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse match.

The student group’s biggest event to date came in May when the park hosted the Shaky Boots Music Festival, the first multi-day, multi-stage country music event held in Georgia. Elliott sees the event as an opportunity to solidify the stadium’s reputation in the Atlanta market.

“When I think of all the things we do, I am incredibly proud of all the opportunities the venue gives us to present KSU to the community, but by far the most important piece of this puzzle 
is the opportunities for the students,” she said. “It engages students, puts money back in their pockets and gives them experiences that will last the rest of their lives.”


-- Jennifer Hafer

photo credit: Anthony Stalcup


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit