Running a stadium ain’t easy, friends. Running a facility like Toyota Stadium is a monumental task. There are soccer matches, football games, concerts, fun runs and parties to manage. There are considerations to be made that you didn’t even know existed ranging from ingress and egress to mirror height in women’s restrooms.
It’s a job. And it’s one that Nick Shafer dominates. In our latest installment of My FC Dallas Life, you will get the chance to meet the man who books concerts, makes sure our work spaces are tidy and ensures you have a great time at Toyota Stadium.
He might have missed his calling as a comedian because he also makes us laugh. I keep trying to get him to pop on a show with me. One day…..
His story has a lesson that’s good for anyone: be open to the professional opportunities that come your way.
Nick, daughter Rylee (10), Miranda Lambert, son Nolan (8) and wife Kristen
What’s your title and how long have you worked for FC Dallas?
VP of Stadium Operations, FC Dallas & Toyota Stadium
This is my 12th year with organization, started January 9th 2006
How did your career path lead you to your current position with FC Dallas?
Started my career in August of 2001 at an entry level Sales Coordinator with the Los Angeles Kings. In this position I helped with database management for marketing department, sales contests, started 5K race in downtown Los Angeles and on game nights I would assist the Staples Center box office with issues from Kings sales rep. I was in this position for 2 seasons and then I became an account executive with the Kings selling tickets.
Although I did not mind selling tickets and did ok, it just wasn’t my thing and it was during this year that another AEG property (Los Angeles Galaxy) was looking for help in their Ticket Operations. My boss, who was the best, thought it would be a great opportunity to learn another side of the sports industry as I already knew what the sales rep were trying to do.
I was with the Galaxy for the 2003-2005 season as their Director of Ticket Operations. It was during that second half of the 2005 season when the VP of Ticket Sales for the Galaxy was hired by FC Dallas as the General Manager and began to recruit me to come out to Texas. So about a month and a half after the 2005 MLS Cup I decided to accept the Director of Business Operations position with FC Dallas. As the Director of Business Operations I managed the Ticket Operations department and all things related to concerts and high school football.
In 2011 I was promoted to VP of Stadium Operations and oversee concessions, merchandise, operations, concerts, college football, HS football, and any other stadium programming.
What’s a typical day like for you on the job?
A typical day for me is all about planning ahead and making sure information related to all events inside the stadium is being communicated to all necessary departments. From a press conference set up to a two-day long large concert, you need to put in the time to plan for the event and everything that might go wrong at the event, as well.
I think I am fortunate to oversee multiple departments which makes every day a little bit different since one day may be about new concession items we want to roll out and the next day may be about how should we set up chairs for a concert to maximize capacity.
Hanging with the Fin Men at a Jimmy Buffet concert
What’s gameday like for you? What about non-gameday?
Game days for FC Dallas is a lot of oversight. Making sure we have everything in place and making adjustments if needed. Game day for concerts or college football is a lot more involved as you are working with a promoter for a concert or the NCAA, for example, like our NCAA FCS Championship, so you have a couple extra layers of issues or planning to handle which are typically covered by FC Dallas staff for FC Dallas games.
Based on events schedule, non-gamedays are for planning future events, catching up from previous events or resting up so you can stay fresh for entire year.
Can you share some interesting stories about strange requests you might have received?
This is tough one as we have done so many shows over the 12 years I have been here, plus with the NCAA FCS Championship game we have hosted the last eight years. Our very first year of NCAA FCS title game between Eastern Washington and Delaware in 2010, I worked with White House Secret Service for then-Vice President Joe Biden as he was a Delaware alum.
For concerts you get a lot of the acts wanting to play soccer or football on complex fields. We had a full-fledged football game between Sam Hunt’s crew and Chase Rice’s crew at Off The Rails. In fact, after the show was over they went back out and played again till way early in the morning.
One year, Kenny Chesney asked if we knew any real life horse jockeys that could hang out backstage as Kentucky Derby fell on same date.
One of my favorite stories comes from 2012. We did three shows that year and every show had an FC Dallas game the very next day. One of those shows was Edgefest. They used the FC Dallas Locker room for meet and greets.
We had the show on Saturday and hosted the Galaxy on Sunday. So before the weekend I told team administrator to make sure everything was put away. Well, on concert night I am talking to the main guy in Weezer who is an avid soccer fan. He asks to take some pictures. No problem, until about 45 minutes later our team administrator is blowing me up saying Weezer just posted picture of our lineup for the next day that was on a white board in the background and none other than Landon Donovan follows him who posted a message about it.
What’s the biggest misconception about your position?
Think the biggest misconception is that operations is only event set up, security, ticket takers, etc. For me it is not only these things, but also merchandise, concessions and stadium programming as well.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really enjoy the concerts and large events. You put so much into them planning and when you have a successful event, you really can walk away with a lot of pride knowing everyone did their best to capitalize on the opportunity presented to them at our organization.
What do you enjoy the least about it?
Well there is not really an offseason for my departments. Especially now with the Frisco Bowl right before Christmas and NCAA right after Christmas. Your mind is always thinking about stuff to do over the break, but what you learn is to take some time during the year when you have breaks in between events to re-energize.
What do you enjoy most about working for FC Dallas?
I really enjoy the “family” atmosphere. It is family-run business and everyone at the organization treats each other as family.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I am either fishing, in the workshop building something out of wood, or helping coach my son’s little league baseball team or my daughter’s softball team, but most likely fishing.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to work in your industry?
Find an opportunity and then exceed expectations on that opportunity. Once you exceed expectations you get more opportunities and you just rinse and repeat till you get to your goal.
Also when you first start out in sports, take a part of your day and spend it getting to know other departments within the organization or facility you are at and not just your own department. By getting to know other individuals and learning of issues they may run into, opportunities may arise that you can help solve.