It’s never a dull moment for Amanda Mann, senior vice president and general manager of the Rose Quarter, which includes the 12,000-seat Veterans Memorial Coliseum; 6,500-seat Theater of the Clouds; 40,000-square foot Exhibit Hall; and the 20,000-seat Moda Center, home to the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers.
“I love the variety in my job; there’s always a problem to solve and a solution to find for something,” Mann shares. “At the end of the day, it’s all about creating extraordinary moments and those long-lasting memories for a guest. It could be someone’s first [time] seeing a Sesame Street event or someone coming to a basketball game, and it’s up to us to pull off a seamless experience so they remember that moment.”
Mann never expected to have a career in the venue management world, having initially planned to work the entertainment industry.
“I went to school in Nashville and joined the school’s concert committee and fell into some internships on Music Row,” she recalls. “Originally, I was pursuing a career in music, and I’ve worked at a record label, an agency, for a promoter, and as I was getting older with the idea of starting a family, I wanted something a little more stable.”
That’s when Mann took a position at the Toyota Center in Houston, booking events and then working her way up to other areas of the business. “I knew there was a world greater than booking for me, and my career took off from there,” she says. “I was taking on more and more responsibility, and we didn’t have a general manager; there were two of us sharing the position, and I wanted to continue learning more. I started looking for a GM job somewhere else.”
She and her husband had once vacationed in Oregon and fell in love with the area, so when a position opened up at Rose Quarter in Portland’s Lloyd District, Mann was quick to accept.
“I oversee all front of house and back of house operations, so anything from guest experience, security and parking to ticket operations, and the booking of all events on campus,” Mann shares. “On the back-of-the-house side of things, I oversee engineering, maintenance, sustainability, etc.”
Mann also serves as the liaison for Levy Restaurants—concessionaire to the Rose Quarter—and works with Chris Oxley, who oversees business development. The two of them are currently working on a master plan with Populous for the Moda Center. She’s also coordinating with the City of Portland on an update of a previous master plan for the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. “I’m looking ahead to the future for those buildings,” she muses.
In a typical year, she handles 44 Trail Blazers games a year, 36 dates for the WHL’s Winterhawks, and another 150 to 200 events throughout the year.
Obviously, 2020 was not a typical year. In February, Mann’s role pivoted more to that of head of crisis management, planning for what games sans fans would look like and how to create the safest environment possible for when NBA games and other events returned.
That meant planning for capital improvements, operational adjustments, and coming up with contingency plans for cancellations and changes to NBA guidelines.
“It’s been a mad dash,” she admits. “We are trying to make decisions on what are all big-ticket items—HVAC systems, touchless systems, and things that could stand the test of time and would be needed down the road versus what’s just reactive to COVID only.”
Things like touchless ticket scanners, MERV 14 filters, and UV lights were all brought in to keep its staff and patrons safe and healthy. All restrooms are also contactless (automatic toilets, sinks, and soap dispensers) and the venues utilize 24/7 ISS, which with a simple QR scan can show the cleaning schedule of restrooms and other rooms to allow management to check in to see how things are going.
Another new thing that Mann has added to the venues—decided before the coronavirus outbreak—was a new POS system. “We wanted to make sure we could do mobile ordering, self-service kiosks, touchless payments, and the option for cashless, and we were headed in that direction pre-pandemic,” she explains. “When the pandemic hit, we were still in the interview phase of our process. We thought about what people would want coming out of this, and chose Appetize, which has a unit that could face the cashier or a customer. We felt that gave us flexibility because we didn’t know what the fans would want when they came back.”
X-ray scanners are being added to examine bags, so employees don’t have to physically go through bags entering the venues. “We’re also going for a WELL health building certification,” she shares, which measures factors that impact human health and well-being.
Mann credits her husband with carrying a lot of the load, taking care of their two daughters, especially during the NBA season. Luckily, she has surrounded herself with a trustworthy team, so she doesn’t have to be at every single event.
With 2 assistant GMs, 8 directors, 70 full-time and 1,200 part-time workers, plus another 1,000 contractors under her guidance, Mann has earned the trust and respect of her team. Still, she’s only one of a handful of women working as a top facility manager.
“When I started in the building side of things 15 years ago, I didn’t really know any female GMs, but now there’s at least five in the NBA and a couple more in the NHL, so I think it’s going, though slow-going,” Mann says. “Only one is a person of color, and when people look to the pool of candidates to consider, there is not a lot to choose from even at the director and senior director level, so we have a lot of work to do to grow it and diversify at those higher levels.”