The Colgate Scene
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|A job in the front office|
|by James Leach|
Seattle's Seahawks were 5-6 in late November with five games remaining on the
regular season schedule. "Mathematically, we're not eliminated from the
playoffs, but we're definitely a longshot," said Emily Forster '90, who dreams
of a brighter future for the NFL's northwesternmost franchise.
Forster coordinates ticket operations and promotions for the Seahawks, a job with many sides in an organization that was once small by professional football standards, but has grown in the past two years. Everyone has regular, full-time responsibilities during the week, and different assignments on game day.
During the week she ensures that ticket sales run smoothly - even if that means answering the phones herself on the busy days. She is also a liaison between the team's marketing office and client sponsors - local or national companies who may be involved in pre-game tailgate festivities or game-day sponsorships.
"A lot of my job is spent scheduling," said Forster, who oversees a staff of 40, made up mostly of high school and college students. Before the gates open on game day, Forster's charges fan out in the parking areas surrounding the stadium, delivering The Tailgate Times, which carries news of the Seahawks, interspersed with sponsors' ads. When the action shifts to the playing field, Forster is on the sidelines, orchestrating her crew as they distribute promotions and fan premiums at the gates, and manage staging on the field. "You've got to deliver what you sell."
The Seahawks, under new ownership, have recaptured the community's imagination, and companies are eager to be involved. For Forster's young staff, peddling the promotions is a great opportunity to earn money while they share in the excitement on the field. Forster sees to it that they don't get so caught up in the action that they forget why they are being paid.
Though she is on the sidelines throughout the Seahawks' home games, Forster doesn't see that much of the game action. "People think it must be a great view, and it is exciting, but you don't always see everything down at the other end. When the team is home I'm running around and doing so many things I don't get into the flow of the game. I'm looking at the Diamondvision myself. To tell the truth, I see more of the games when the team is away and I can watch on TV."
Her life in sports
She also developed as an athlete, particularly in lacrosse and squash, both of which she went on to play as a Red Raider. When she graduated with a BA in political science from Colgate, it was to life as a coach. Her first job was as an assistant lacrosse coach at Roanoke College, "but as much as I loved playing sports, that's what I had done all my life. I began to think it was too much of the easy way out."
She decided to come back to New York City and look for a career. "I wanted to work for a team, but team jobs are tough to come by, unless you have connections. Every professional team must receive 10 to 20 resumes a day. I was looking for anything, but I wasn't having any luck."
Then she landed a job at Madison Square Garden. "It was working for the facility, but the Garden owns the Knicks and Rangers, so it was like working for a team." The job was the start she wanted, complete with the connections.
From Madison Square Garden, Forster moved on to Credit Suisse First Boston, working in the special events/marketing department as the sports expert for the investment banking conglomerate. She traveled the countryside hosting Fortune 500 executives at golf tournaments, World Cup soccer matches and ski outings. "It was," says Forster, "a pretty nice life with a lot of perks," but she had "the itch to move west."
So, in 1995, she packed up and moved to Seattle, jobless by choice this time, but with the feeling that, at age 26, if she didn't make the move then, there might never be a better time. Her earlier contacts helped her land a freelance job coordinating events for Sunoco during the Atlanta Olympics, "a terrific experience" that also allowed her time in Seattle.
The Seahawks were in limbo at that time, lobbying for a new stadium and threatening to move to southern California if Seattle couldn't deliver. Paul Allen had just purchased an option to buy the team, and a friend of a friend's father referred Forster to the Allen organization. She landed the job, the people of the State of Washington ultimately voted a new stadium for the Seahawks, Allen exercised his option, and the rest, as they say, is history. Or prologue.
The people of Seattle are banking on the imagination and energy of Paul Allen to make things prosper around the Seahawks, both on the field and off, said Forster. An exhibition center has already been constructed next to the site where the new stadium will be erected. The Seahawks will spend one more season in the Kingdome, then play their 2000 and 2001 campaigns at Husky Stadium while their new, open-air facility is under construction on the site of the old dome-covered field.
"There will be so many more opportunities with the new stadium," said Forster, who is thinking in terms not only of the Seahawks and the City of Seattle, but of her own professional future as well. "We have a lot of work ahead of us in 1999," she said. "There will be new things happening." Work in operations and facilities is what she relishes, knowing that, "If I deliver on the jobs they give me, they'll just keep on feeding me more."
As she looks to the future, Emily Forster is carving out a career in sports management, perhaps even stadium management. And she has found her place with a town and a team that are full of promise.
In spring 1999, after the Seahawks had finished the season 8-8, Emily Forster moved a little further up the corporate ladder. She now manages the Seahawks' marketing database, in addition to many of the responsibilities she was shouldering when she was interviewed for this story. "If it hadn't been for an official's notoriously bad call, we might have been 9-7 and made the playoffs," she said.
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