SMBA Alumni Team Up to Open SoFi Stadium in LA
Recently, two Sports MBA alumni were part of the staff that opened SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, the NFL’s newest stadium and the home to a number of major upcoming events including the 2022 Super Bowl and Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2028 Olympics. The SDSU Fowler News Team checked in with both alumni, Roberto Castro (SMBA ‘11), Director, Team Member Experience at SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park and Tatum Lockett (SMBA ‘19), Specialist, Guest Experience & Scheduling at SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park.
Q&A with Tatum Lockett (SMBA ‘19)
Tatum Lockett, SMBA '19
Q: Favorite Sports MBA course?
That is a tough question! Each course was applicable to my sports industry but would have to say either Sports Marketing with Dr. Dalakas or Business Analytics with Dr. Reinig.
Q: Favorite Sports MBA memory?
I would say I have three favorite memories from the program. The first would probably be volunteering with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. I was able to see the back of house operations for an iconic sporting event. This excited me to work within or alongside an operations department once I was able to begin my career in the sports industry. I can also say visiting the Dominican Republic was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I was able to bond with my cohort, learn how society works in the Dominican Republic, see the operations of various MLB facilities, and experience life outside of the United States. Lastly, interning for USC Football for a season inside the Operations department with Hatcher Parnell and Alissa Giel was an amazing experience where I gained a lot of operational knowledge. I still have been able to keep in touch with my fellow colleagues with whom I worked that season.
Tatum Lockett and her SMBA classmates visiting the Dominican Republic.
Q: Why did you choose SDSU?
SDSU stood out to me as a top contender to continue my higher education because I knew I wanted to be in the sports industry. I was looking for my next educational opportunity to give me hands-on experiences and opportunities both within the course requirements as well as outside the classroom with networking and volunteering. With SDSU being in close proximity to various sports organizations within San Diego, I felt as though I would be able to receive all that I wanted in San Diego within an accelerated fashion.
Q: What’s your family’s connection to the sports world beyond your role at SoFi Stadium?
Other than being in the sports industry myself, both my older brothers are strongly connected to sports. They both were student-athletes growing up and played college football at their respective colleges. My oldest brother, Bret Lockett, played college football at UCLA and now is a personal trainer for clients in football for ages 12 and up. He is a former NFL player, a Strong Safety who also played on Special Teams, beginning with the Cleveland Browns, who worked with various franchises between 2009-2011. My other brother, Colin Lockett, is an SDSU alumnus and now is a Graduate Assistant for his former coach Brady Hoke at SDSU. Colin played in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Washington Football Team from 2014-2016. Prior to his return to San Diego, he was the Cornerbacks coach at St. John Bosco High School for three years. This past year, he assisted with the program’s ongoing success and won the CIF State Championship and High School National Championship.
Q: You were a college athlete, what was that experience like and how did you juggle that schedule with school and work and soccer?
I loved being a college-athlete at University of California, Riverside. Being able to continue the sport I loved most at a competitive collegiate level allowed me to strengthen my mental toughness and physicality. Playing soccer allowed me to be able to perfect my organizational and multitasking skills, as well as strengthen my punctuality and mental health. Throughout my college career I held down a major in Business Administration with a concentration in Management. Concurrently, I had a Ticket Operations internship and a part-time job as an Assistant Special Events Coordinator within the Riverside Athletic Department, as well as a part-time job at Jersey Mike’s Subs. My goal in college was to be able to dabble and learn from various experiences to gain knowledge to further my career. All of these opportunities were demanding and did not allow for much free time, but it equipped me with knowledge that impacted my way of thinking and operating in the business world.
Tatum Lockett, second from right, with her SMBA classmates at the NCAA Tournament.
Q: How did your experience as a college athlete impact your Sports MBA experience? Were there lessons learned during your athletic career that you were able to apply to your graduate school experience?
Being an athlete allowed me to be persistent and determined to learn and comprehend to the best of my ability. My drive has allowed me to dig deep after long days and weeks to create networking and volunteer opportunities. SDSU Sports MBA is an accelerated program, so it was important to use my time wisely and pick and choose which opportunities would be beneficial for my particular career path. My methods and drive as a collegiate athlete within all of my experiences translated over into the Sports MBA program. I persevered throughout the entire process to use my “free hours” to be a graduate assistant at the SDSU Athletics Department and volunteer through opportunities given to us throughout the program. This allowed me to build lifelong relationships with people that has given me valuable knowledge and opportunities in the industry. All in all, athletics created the foundation of my entire life and has formulated my thinking process to be as meticulous in my career as much as possible because the smallest details matter.
Q: You worked in baseball for the Los Angeles Angels prior to your current role with SoFi Stadium. How did that experience prepare you for your career in sports business?
Throughout my time within the Operations department at the Angels I learned the ins-and-outs of how to use ABI Mastermind Scheduling Software. This allowed me to assist my boss in scheduling all part-time departments for events at the stadium. Armed with this knowledge, I had the confidence to apply for the position at SoFi Stadium and advance my abilities to a granular level.
Q: How did you get connected to your current role as a Specialist, Guest Experience Scheduling?
SDSU Sports MBA Director, Scott Minto (SMBA ‘06) had connected with me with Sports MBA alumnus Roberto Castro (SMBA ‘11) about an open position which required a similar skill set to mine. When I was a student in the Sports MBA program, I had met Roberto and worked with him several times during his time with the San Diego Padres. I was able to create a relationship with him and see how operations were run at Petco Park. Roberto’s move to SoFi Stadium, which would open the door to him being my boss, allowed me to be more comfortable and excited about the opportunity. I knew this role would be a great challenge for my career and growth overall as a person.
Q: You were able to work a full season at Angels Stadium before the strange and fan-less season of 2020. What was your favorite memory of an Angels win or a favorite moment you witnessed at the ballpark?
I would say one of my favorite memories was assisting with our post game concert with Ms. Lauryn Hill. I was not always able to assist with the operation process from beginning to end on game days, so being able to do my normal job on the scheduling side and assist our special events team for this concert was exciting for me.
Q: Were there any skill sets, lessons, classes, or Sports MBA guest speakers that helped you with the qualifications of the role?
I wouldn’t say with specific qualifications for this role, but allows me to be more innovative and create different tasks within my role. Sports MBA alumna Rebecca Kingsbury (SMBA ‘11), came in and did an Excel crash course with our cohort and that allowed me to be more familiar with the functions of Excel and utilize it to be more efficient within the program. I continued to learn more about Excel from one of my classmates, which has helped me tremendously in my career. Giving so many in-class presentations throughout the program allowed me to build confidence in public speaking as well as being creative in ways I present information and decks, which came up frequently in my role as we opened up SoFi Stadium. Repetition goes back to perfecting my craft in soccer, so I love that I am able to translate that into my business career.
Q: Describe your current position and day to day responsibilities.
My day-to-day responsibilities vary depending on the day and week, but overall I’m responsible for ensuring that our back of house Team Member Experience operation processes are set up and prepared for event days. Preparation of uniforms, electronic devices such as radios, earpieces, and ticket scanners, briefing sheets, and scheduling Guest Experience Team Members are some daily processes that occupy my day to day schedule. Overall, I assist Roberto on a daily basis in trying to provide extraordinary experiences, one moment at a time.
Q: Describe what it was like to open a brand-new stadium with Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys game on September 13th.
Opening the stadium with Rams vs Cowboys was, personally, bittersweet for me and, I’d say, for a number of people within the organization. Prior to COVID-19, our plans were completely focused on opening with Taylor Swift performances in July. With those being postponed, moving on to football season brought the excitement back for us. I have always wanted to work in the NFL, so I was overjoyed for this experience to finally happen. Being a former athlete, I woke up the morning of that game excited, like it was “Game Day” for me! Although we couldn’t open the stadium to fans, as a staff, we were able to look on the bright side of the situation and actually took the chance to enjoy watching the player introductions and kickoff. Having a moment to enjoy these moments is very rare when you’re working a sporting event, so it was great to be able to witness all of it the day we had our inaugural event.
Q: Leading up to the opening, what work were you focused on?
I was working on multiple projects prior to the opening of SoFi Stadium. One consisted of working on our various “dot maps” for different types of events within the stadium in Performance Venue to ensure secure occupancy. Another large project was creating all of our Guest Experience positions throughout the stadium and importing them into our scheduling software system. Many other projects were going on as well, but these two projects were very important to finish prior to opening up the building.
I would tell anyone seeking a role in the sports and entertainment industry that even if you have minimal experience, you still have many capabilities. Be open to learning things outside your initial plans regarding your career path, because being willing to take on other roles can, later on, assist you in landing the position you’d always wanted. Each person’s path to their current role is different, so try not to compare your specific path to that of others in the industry. Whenever possible, network and communicate with people outside your immediate peers in school, business, or your personal life in order to get advice and tips on current industry challenges and needs. Join different groups and be comfortable with being uncomfortable because that is when your best professional growth and career progression can happen.
Q: Other than working at SoFi, what do you like to do in your free time?
Although the timing of the breaks that we do enjoy vary per week, when I am able to get away I love relaxing and spending time with my family and friends. Brunch will probably forever be something that I love, so going to brunch with my friends is something I try to do whenever possible, especially now, with all of the current restrictions.
Q: Do you have a favorite pet or animal?
My favorite animal to have as pets are dogs. Although I do not currently have one (hoping to get one sometime next year!), I do have two puppy nieces named Makoa and Kenna that I treat like my own who are my best friends. Makoa is three years old and Kenna is one year old. I also love little pink guinea pigs. I’m hoping one day I can have one of my own that rolls around in the mud.
Q & A Roberto Castro (SMBA ‘11)
Roberto Castro, SMBA '11
Q: Favorite Sports MBA course?
I was able to learn something in every course and I enjoyed that they all used sports to help us learn new concepts. I don’t know if I could pick a favorite.
Q: Favorite Sports MBA memory?
I usually remember people more than specific events because it’s those people that make the memories. I really enjoyed getting to know my cohort and I am happy to call many of them friends 10 years later. I remember many tired days and how we kept one another motivated by working together as a team.
Q: You’re a double-Aztec. Why did you choose SDSU for graduate school after receiving your bachelor’s degree on the Mesa?
After years as being known as a “party school,” SDSU was able to shed that reputation during the 2000’s and into the 2010’s. Specifically, the Business programs within the school gained a lot of attention for their quality, so I was interested in getting an MBA from SDSU. I also wanted to stay in San Diego and SDSU afforded me the opportunity to do so.
Q: You worked with the San Diego Padres for nearly 20 years before heading up to work at SoFi Stadium. How did you get connected to your current role as Director, Team Member Experience?
I was fortunate enough to have worked with Kameron Durham (VP, Guest Experience) when he was in San Diego with the Padres. He reached out to me to see if I was interested in following him to Los Angeles.
Q: What drew you to the new opportunity at SoFi Stadium?
Mainly, the scope and magnitude of the project was too big to pass up. The stadium, in addition to hosting Rams and Chargers games this season, will be home to numerous concerts, plus the LA Bowl in 2020, Super Bowl LVI in 2022, the College Football National Championship in 2023, and the Opening/Closing Ceremonies of the Olympics in 2028. The chance to open one of the the biggest stadium projects in history was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Q: What memories can you share from your time with the Padres when the team played at Jack Murphy Stadium/Qualcomm Stadium?
I grew up going to “The Murph” as a kid, so it was a dream come true any time I was able to step onto the field there as an employee years later. My favorite memory was when the Padres made the World Series in 1998. Although the Padres came up a bit short, that run was magical and something I will never forget.
Q: You’re the only alum of the Sports MBA program who worked full-time while attending the full-time Sports MBA program, going to school all day and working 81 Padres home games at night. How was that possible?!
I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, friends, co-workers, classmates, and my bosses at the Padres. I basically lived on very little sleep and no time off. But people have accomplished more difficult tasks than that in the past and I took it one day at a time.
Q: As a Little League dad, what are some of your favorite memories watching your son play ball?
Watching my son, Drew, play baseball, football, soccer, and everything else he participates in brings me great joy. It’s so fun to watch him succeed, but also so nerve-racking. I am 100% sure that I am more nervous than he is when he’s up at the plate. My favorite memory has been when he had a great game and the other team was calling him “M-V-P.”
Q: You’ve hired hundreds of early-career professionals, many of whom have gone on to great careers in sports business. What do you look for when hiring someone for their first (or one of their first) roles in a sports business job?
Everyone who wants to work in sports thinks about the glamour and the fun aspects. I look for people who know that it’s really the ‘behind the scenes’ and preparation that make for a successful professional. I want to know that the person I hire is willing to complete any task and treats everyone with respect. For example, I feel like picking up trash throughout your building is everyone’s job, not just the job of the janitorial staff. During the interview, I sometimes think, “Can I picture this person stopping to pick up a piece of trash?”
Q: Not to give away any trade secrets, but what are some good interview questions to ask an applicant?
I can’t share too many secrets, but in an interview, I try to get to know the person outside of work. What interests/hobbies do they have? How do they enjoy their spare time? In essence, I want to know that I can work alongside this person as sometimes I spend more time at work than I do at home.
Q: Please describe your current position and responsibilities.
I am mainly responsible for our part-time Team Members and ensuring that they enjoy working as part of our SoFi Stadium family. From the way they present themselves (uniforms) to their experience (break rooms), we want them to be treated as well as we intend to treat our guests (when we are allowed to have fans!).
Q: COVID-19 obviously impacted the work of opening the stadium. Can you share a couple of the greatest challenges you experienced and what skills you drew on to mitigate them?
Working from home has been the biggest challenge as we haven’t had a lot of those bonding moments that you go through when opening a stadium. As a team, we have great chemistry and are building that rapport that you need to continue to be successful, but we haven’t spent enough time together. Luckily, everyone has been able to adjust and we communicate as much as possible through technology.
Q: This is not the first new stadium opening you have experienced. Aside from COVID, what has been the biggest difference/surprise with SoFi?
The size of the stadium is quite impressive. Petco Park is a beautiful ballpark, but it’s not as huge as SoFi Stadium. Both stadiums have hidden places and lots of paths and travel challenges, but SoFi Stadium is much larger, and the project is not completely finished (the campus still has many years to go).
About the SDSU Sports MBA Program:
The SDSU Sports MBA program is an intensive, accelerated MBA degree focused on the dynamic business of international sports. The program provides its graduates with a thorough understanding of the skills crucial for professionals to succeed while building a broad network of relationships in the sports-rich landscape of Southern California. Visit business.sdsu.edu/sportsmba to learn more, request information or apply to the Sports MBA program.