Quite a Production
Night Owl keeps football game days running
KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct 17, 2018) — It’s easy to see the hard work that the Kennesaw State football team puts in during a game. However, spectators might not realize the efforts of the more than 100 other KSU students that make the game operations at Fifth Third Bank Stadium possible.
Night Owl Productions is the student group responsible for the day-to-day operations of events on Kennesaw State’s two campuses, including sporting events and the annual Owl-O-Ween hot-air balloon festival. On football game days, that means about one-third of Night Owl’s roughly 300 student employees are working in some capacity, such as running the box office, scanning tickets at the gates, ushering, manning the suites and operating the graphics for the video board.
“They do anything and everything, from top to bottom,” said Zach Kerns, executive director and general manager of the KSU Sports + Entertainment Park. “If we did not have the students, we would not run.”
While Night Owl is a natural fit for students with majors such as sport management, communication or marketing, Kerns points out that students from a wide range of degree programs are involved in the organization. For example, he said, a nursing major can gain experience in helping the public, managing time effectively and solving problems, or an engineering student might take an interest in the mechanics of setting up and taking down goal posts.
“Everyone can get that sense of how to work with people, how to be a part of a team, how to function within an organization – and all of that translates to having meaningful experiences that you can talk about in a job interview,” Kerns said. “You get to say, ‘This time that we were in a two-hour lightning delay, I had to deal with patrons and help keep them in shelter and keep them engaged – and let me tell you how this fits into this career or what I learned and what my responsibility was there.’”
Opportunities for all
James Reed, 49, already had an established career prior to joining Night Owl Productions. He spent 20 years in the restaurant business before deciding to shift gears and pursue a degree at Kennesaw State.
Wanting to work while he took classes, Reed came across Night Owl and felt it tied perfectly to his experience in the hospitality and service industry. For three straight football seasons, he has been an attendant for the same suite at Fifth Third Bank Stadium, making sure the guests have whatever they need to enjoy the game.
“Being involved with Night Owl is a lot of fun because it shows folks that students can do a lot of things,” said Reed, a history major who will graduate in December. “It also shows that when everyone works together and understands what their job is, things work out – as long as you have a love for KSU and what we’re doing here. That’s what it’s all about.”
Fellow senior K.J. Hudson had a humble beginning with Night Owl, with clean-up duty for the 2016 Owl-O-Ween as his first assignment. He now serves in a leadership role in the organization as the guest experience lead, overseeing all ushers and suite attendants at football games.
In fact, working with Night Owl led Hudson to change his major, from history education to integrative studies with an emphasis in venue management. He aspires to work at a major stadium or arena.
“I did not think about this when I was a freshman in college. I would go into a stadium, see everything set up and not give it a thought,” Hudson said. “Seeing the other side of it is an eye-opener. Networking is very fun to me, and this new job opened up many doors and could bring a lot of success in my future.”
‘It just makes sense’
As with Hudson, venue management wasn’t on Erin Wylie’s radar when she came to Kennesaw State with aspirations of becoming a teacher. However, Wylie worked with Night Owl for all four years of college, and this past May she was KSU’s first graduate with an integrative studies degree in venue management.
Wylie has remained with Night Owl, as its staffing and administration coordinator. She also recently helped another university create a student-operated events group similar to Night Owl, and she hopes to work with more schools to duplicate the organization’s model of success.
“It’s our goal to get as many people through our doors to experience this and be a part of it because we have so many things going on at one time,” Wylie said. “I could go work in any number of places, but not have the same impact with people that I do with the students here. The students are why I want to be here.”
Kerns agreed. He said that Night Owl’s student-run model is ideal, especially since the student crews are paid through revenues generated from campus events.
“It just makes sense to use this cohort of highly capable and productive students to perform these functions for the university rather than use those dollars with an outside contractor to do these things,” Kerns said. “Put it back into the pockets of our students and, at the same time, give them a truly meaningful experience that they can take with them.”
– Paul Floeckher
Photos by Lauren Kress
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 kennesaw.edu.