Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation’s Paul Utterback Talks Bringing Major Sporting Events to New Orleans

Ever wonder how cities are awarded big sporting events like the Super Bowl or the NBA All-Star Game or the NCAA Final Four? It’s an extensive process that includes several organizations who help to create bids for the events. Most recently, New Orleans won the bid for, and was host for WrestleMania 34.

Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation lead the New Orleans Local Organizing Committee, consisting of the State of Louisiana, the City of New Orleans, New Orleans & Company, SMG, and New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation.

WrestleMania 34 was part of an 8-day long celebration, with WWE events held at both Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Smoothie King Center. The main event, WrestleMania, was the highest grossing entertainment event to ever take place in the Superdome. It was also attended by over 78,000 people. Last time WrestleMania was held in New Orleans (in 2014), the week-long event produced over $140 Million in economic impact! Last month’s event is predicted to have topped that, producing $150 Million.

Photo via Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation

Recently, we sat down with GNOSF’s Event Sales/Communications Manager Paul Utterback to learn more about how an internship led Paul to the career of his dreams.

 

How long have you lived in New Orleans and what do you love most about the city?

I moved to New Orleans in September of 2012 after graduating from Mississippi State. It was just one week after Hurricane Isaac.

The thing I love most about New Orleans is that it is never boring. Every day and week, there is something going on. Even walks in Audubon or City Park are awesome. The variety and quality of food aren’t bad either.

Paul Utterback (Courtesy photo)

Tell us a little about what the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation does, and your role specifically.

The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation is an economic development organization whose mission is to attract and host sporting events that have a positive impact on Louisiana.

In a sense, there are two phases to the organization and my job. The majority of the events that the Sports Foundation attracts are bid upon and negotiated between our organization, other tourism/hospitality partners and the league or governing body of that sport. During this time, my job is to assist in the organization, design, and production of the bid that will be presented.

If the event is awarded, the Sports Foundation will then act as a host committee for the event and my role shifts towards communications/media relations and volunteers. On the communications side, I distribute information to local and national media, co-brand the host committee and Sports Foundation with the specific event, and handle media logistics. On the volunteer side, I manage the recruitment, placement and logistics of the thousands event volunteers.

 

We think its super important to show kids that if you love sports, playing professionally may not be your only option. You can also work on the business side of sports. What led you to your job at GNOSF? Have you always been a big sports fan?

An internship with the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation led to my current position now. In college, I was lucky enough to be introduced to sport management and knew I wanted to work somewhere in the industry. In order to graduate, I was required to complete a 320-hour internship. I was fortunate enough to land an internship with the GNOSF, who at that time was serving as the Host Committee for the 2013 Super Bowl.

I have always been a huge sports fan. Like a lot of people my age, as a kid I spent hours and hours watching SportsCenter and nightly games. Part of daily routine is to check the sports calendar for the day and see what I will watch tonight. Much of my social life outside of my job still revolves around going to or planning to watch sporting events.

 

What is your favorite sporting event that you’ve been a part of at GNOSF, and why?

They have all been great, but if I had to choose, I would say Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. I think this event sticks out because it was essentially the first event that I ever worked on (crash course in events.) I was just one of around 20 interns at the time and the staff placed a lot, or what I thought at the time was a lot, of responsibility on us.

I took a tremendous amount of pride knowing that I was a tiny part of the most recent Super Bowl to come to our city.

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome & The Smoothie King Center

What advice would you give to someone who may want your job one day?

Be prepared for long hours leading up to and during events. Enjoy the challenge of putting on the event more than watching the event itself. Do your best to always make yourself available. Be prepared to show appreciation to everyone who helps make a major event possible.

 

Talk a little about the importance of tourism on NOLA’s economy and why it benefits locals so much, maybe even more than they realize!

Tourism is essential to New Orleans! It provides a substantial number of jobs and tax dollars to the city and surrounding region. Much of our local economy is directly or indirectly impacted by the number of tourists who visit our city.

 

What do you think our city would look like without tourism?

It is hard to say and scary to think about. Many of the great arts that New Orleans produces are supported by and enjoyed by tourists from all around the world.

 

Where do you see New Orleans going in the next five years?

As far as sporting events go, New Orleans will host many of the highest profile, highest economy-impacting events in the world over the next 5 years including, 2020 College Football National Championship, 2020 Women’s Final Four, 2022 Men’s Final Four and more. Outside of sports, I think New Orleans will continue to grow and improve. Over the last decade, tremendous strides have been made to improve the city and there is no reason to think that will not continue.