Sports Advisory Council
The Sports Advisory Council for Special Olympics Florida is comprised of leaders from the state’s professional sports organizations who provide guidance on elevating the role of sports in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities in Florida.
Members of the Sports Advisory Council include:
TAMPA BAY RAYS, PRESIDENT
Brian Auld begins his 10th season with the Rays, first as team president, with a renewed focus on the Rays mission: to energize the community through the magic of Rays baseball. During his tenure with the franchise, Auld has overseen various aspects of the team’s business operations, including human resources, information technology, marketing, ticket sales, fan experience and stadium operations departments. Read more
Auld joined the Rays in June 2005 as director of planning and development, where he worked closely with Matt Silverman to define organizational priorities and assist with the transition in ownership. Since then, he has worked to build an employee-friendly organization. His accomplishments include the addition of maternity and paternity benefits for all full-time staff, creation of a staff wellness program and the establishment of a culture of community service through the Employee Community Outreach Team (ECOT). All Rays staff spend up to one paid workday each month volunteering in the community and ECOT assists by finding opportunities.
Additionally, under his leadership, the Rays have been recognized for their innovation in all aspects of the organization. One of the most recent is the creation of the Rays Flex Pack-offered in three-, six-, or nine-game increments-which allows fans to pick the games they want to attend at significant discounts off face value and receive paperless tickets utilizing a Rays Member card.
Prior to joining the Rays, Auld attended Harvard Business School, where he earned his MBA focusing on managing human capital, marketing and finance. Auld’s previous work experience includes serving as lead teacher and director of development for the East Palo Alto Charter School in California.
Auld received a bachelor’s degree in economics and master’s degree in education from Stanford University, where he also captained the lacrosse team. He was born in Berkeley, Calif., and attended high school in Dallas. Brian is proud to claim that he once trekked to the bottom of Mount Everest.
He currently serves on the board of directors of the Rays Baseball Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Partnership.
He and his wife, Molly, reside in St. Petersburg and are proud parents of a daughter Lucy, and son, Jack.
BRIAN A. FORD
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER
Brian A. Ford, Jr. joined the Buccaneers in 2006 and is entering his third season as the chief operating officer, having previously spent four seasons as vice president of business administration and three seasons as the director of business administration. In his current role, Ford oversees all aspects of the organization’s day-to-day business operations and community involvement. He works directly with team ownership to ensure that Buccaneer fans, season pass members and corporate sponsors receive a first in class experience. Read more
Prior to joining the Buccaneers, Ford was part of the team that opened Raymond James Stadium as the district manager with Fine Host Corporation in 1998. He remained in that capacity until 2006, when he began his career with the Buccaneers.
Ford served as an executive committee member for the Super Bowl Host Committee for Super bowl XLIII in 2009 and currently serves on the Board of the Ronald McDonald House, the Florida Sports Foundation and Tampa Bay & Company.
Ford, a native of Miramar, Florida, graduated from Florida State in 1989 with a B.S. in business administration. He is an avid runner and triathlete and competes in numerous events each year, including a marathon each of the past 10 years as well as several 70.3 Half Ironman events over this same time period.
He and his wife, Judy, live in Tampa with their sons Brian III and Brandon. The couple celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary this August. Judy is an active member of the Buccaneer Women’s Organization, which hosts charitable functions and community service projects in Tampa Bay throughout the year. Elder son Brian III attends Florida State University, following in the footsteps of his father and mother. Younger son Brandon is a rising senior in a Hillsborough County school, looking to continue the family path at Florida State.
MIAMI DOLPHINS, PRESIDENT & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Tom Garfinkel is in his third season as president and chief executive officer of the Miami Dolphins and the stadium. He was named to the position on September 9, 2013. During Garfinkel’s tenure with the organization, he has led an executive team that has grown local revenue, lowered expenses and achieved the highest year-over-year home ticket sales growth in the NFL between 2013 and 2014. He also championed an innovative solution to get the stadium renovated into a world-class venue without putting the burden on local taxpayers. Read more
Garfinkel joined the Dolphins after working with the San Diego Padres from 2009-13, where he served as president and chief executive officer. During his tenure with the Padres, Garfinkel led an executive team that grew local revenues and attendance, improved and innovated concessions, implemented new Wi-Fi throughout the ballpark, built a farm system recognized as the best in baseball by ESPN.com in 2012, and negotiated a new landmark local TV contract worth more than $1.2B. In addition, the team was recognized in a Sports Business Journal survey for having the number one ticket sales and service team in baseball in both 2011 and 2012. Garfinkel also created the first Little League jersey program in Major League Baseball, outfitting over 23,000 Little Leaguers in San Diego with authentic Padres jerseys and hats from every era.
Prior to joining the Padres, Garfinkel was executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Arizona Diamondbacks. During his tenure there, he built a long-term strategic plan for the franchise, led the re-branding of the club and updating of Chase Field, and led a team that produced the highest controllable revenues in the franchise’s history in 2008.
Prior to joining the Diamondbacks, Garfinkel spent five years with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams as executive vice president, overseeing all business operations of the 400-employee company. He negotiated more than $500 million in sponsorship and driver contracts that resulted in a 280 percent increase of annual company revenue during his tenure. While Garfinkel was at Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, the organization won two championships and grew to include three NASCAR Sprint Cup teams, one Nationwide Series team, two IndyCar teams and one Grand-Am team.
Garfinkel’s background also includes time at Texaco, Inc. and at Miller Brewing Company. Garfinkel earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a Master of Business Administration degree from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Garfinkel lives in Pinecrest, Fla. with his wife and three sons.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Steve Griggs is entering his first season as chief executive officer of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Storm and Amalie Arena after being named to the position on July 24, 2015. Prior to being tabbed as CEO he spent one year as team president and four as chief operating officer. Griggs first joined the organization as COO on August 31, 2010. He oversees all of the organization’s operations, including all concerts and events held at Amalie Arena. Read more
During Griggs’ tenure with the Lightning the team has seen significant increases in attendance, jumping nearly 12 percent from 15,497 per game in 2009-10 to 17,269 in 2010-11, his first with the team. Overall average attendance has grown by more than 21 percent, or greater than 3,000 fans per game since he joined the team while revenues have also continually increased. Tampa Bay’s success continued in 2014-15, ranking ninth in average attendance in the NHL with 18,823, outpacing traditional hockey markets such as Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Boston. The team’s continued impressive numbers at the gate can be attributed to increases in brand management, increased value, enhanced customer service as well as overall fan experience. Under Griggs’ guidance, the Bolts also have seen a significant boost in corporate partnerships as well as higher renewal and activation rates. The Lightning have also posted season ticket renewal rates of more than 90 percent and nearly doubled the base since the 2009-10 season, totaling more than 13,000 season ticket memberships, while luxury suites and Amalie Arena’s new loge boxes are sold out entering the 2014-15 season.
Griggs was instrumental in generating the teams’ “ALL IN” and “Be the Thunder” campaigns that have galvanized the fan base and served as a rallying cry to fans both at the games and in the community. “Be the Thunder” enters its fifth consecutive season in 2015-16, further demonstrating its staying power and paying tribute to the Lightning’s passionate fan base, making them part of the team. Griggs continues to play a significant role in the vast improvements being done each year to Amalie Arena. During the summer of 2015, the three-year renovation total reached greater than $85 million which has enhanced the experience of fans, season ticket members, and corporate partners. Projects have included a signature stage with pipe organ, Coors Light Between the Pipes; new seats throughout the arena; reconstructed executive suites; a paradise deck overlooking downtown, the Bud Light Party Deck; a grand entry with an improved, guest-friendly ticket office and merchandise store; a fully renovated club level with loge boxes; a new outdoor deck on the East side of Amalie Arena overlooking Channelside Bay Plaza; as well as a new $5 million center-hung scoreboard, just to name a few. Under Griggs’ guidance, the Lightning have ranked in the Top 10 amongst 123 major sports teams in ESPN’s “Ultimate Standings” three of the previous four years, including sixth in 2014.
Before coming to Tampa Bay, he spent nearly three years serving as executive vice president of sales and marketing for the Orlando Magic. During his time in Orlando, Griggs oversaw the Magic’s corporate partnerships, premium sales and services, season ticket services and operations, brand management, event presentation and ticket sales departments. Griggs also directed strategic sales and marketing efforts for the new Amway Center, which opened in October 2010.
Griggs was extremely influential in growing the Orlando season ticket base to more than 14,000, sporting 75 consecutive sellouts and ranking second overall in the ESPN Ultimate Standings. Griggs also established the Champions of the Community partnership program for the team’s founding partners of the new Amway Center. He led all digital signage platforms that made the Amway Center one of the most technologically advanced buildings in North America. Griggs re-engineered the Magic brand while introducing a new primary logo, new third jersey and establishing the BeMagic and EnterLegend campaigns.
Prior to joining the Magic, Griggs served for eight years as the vice president of sales and service for the Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League and its parent company, Minnesota Sports & Entertainment (MSE). In Minnesota, Griggs’ responsibilities included overseeing all Wild and MSE ticket sales and service, corporate sales and service, suite sales and service, retail operations as well as group and event suite sales. Before joining the Wild, Griggs served as the vice president of corporate sales and service for Sportsco International, LP and SkyDome. The Aurora, Ontario native also worked for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), the NBA’s Toronto Raptors (1994-99) and the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs (1998-99) as the director of ticket sales and service, where he led the sales and relocation efforts from historic Maple Leaf Gardens into Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Griggs, and his wife, Janell, have a daughter and a son.
FLORIDA PANTHERS, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN
Peter Luukko was appointed Executive Chairman of The Florida Panthers Hockey Club and Sunrise Sports & Entertainment on February 6, 2015. Luukko, served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Comcast-Spectacor, L.P. for more than 25 years, overseeing the Philadelphia Flyers, while serving as a member of the National Hockey League Board of Governors. He oversaw Comcast-Spectacor’s facility-management business, which runs more than 125 sports arenas, stadiums and convention centers. Read more
Under Luukko’s leadership, Comcast-Spectacor helped Philadelphia garner national attention and awareness by attracting several high-profile events to the city of Philadelphia, including the 2000 Republican National Convention, the 2000 NCAA Women’s Final Four, the 2001 NCAA Men’s East Regionals, the 2001 and 2002 X-Games, the 2002 NBA All-Star Weekend, the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Gymnastics, the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships, the 2014 NCAA Frozen Four and numerous other sports and entertainment events. As President of the Flyers, he played an instrumental role in his club participating in two Winter Classics (2010 and 2012), while also hosting the 2014 National Hockey League Draft.
A recognized leader in the facility management industry, Luukko was the 2000 recipient of the City of Hope’s Tri-State Labor Award. He also received the 2002 prestigious Harold J. VanderZwaag Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Sports Management Program of the University of Massachusetts for his accomplishments in the field of sports management. He received the 2013 Police Athletic League PAL Award for his contributions to the Philadelphia community.
In 2013, Mr. Luukko and Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider ranked 43rd on Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal’s prestigious list of the Top 50 Most Influential Leaders in Sports Business. The two are also two-time winners of Venues Today’s Hall of Headlines. He also was named one of Billboard Magazine’s Power 100 (2012 and 2013).
Mr. Luukko serves as an active member of the Board of Directors of Pointstreak Sports Technologies Inc., a Toronto company that develops sports-related software, including 50/50 raffle technology increasingly used at sports facilities across North America.
He also serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Philly Sports Holdings, an Exton, Pa.-based holding company that operates Sports Vault and Strategic Sports Marketing. Luukko is a hockey player, hockey coach and hockey parent.
He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts. Luukko and his wife, Casey, have three children Nick, Dana and Max. His son Nick was drafted by the Flyers in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Draft.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS, PRESIDENT
Mark Lamping was named president of the Jacksonville Jaguars on February 13, 2012. A veteran of more than 20 years as an executive in professional sports, Lamping became the Jaguars’ first president since the end of the 1996 season. His career highlights include 13 years as a marketing executive with Anheuser-Busch, 14 seasons as president of Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals and four years as CEO of New Meadowlands Stadium Company where he oversaw the construction and operation of MetLife Stadium. Read more
As president, Lamping oversees all business operations for the Jaguars. Since arriving in Jacksonville he has directed a restructuring of the Jaguars front office, along with multiple initiatives designed to engage with fans, improve the in-stadium experience, increase ticket sales, strengthen relationships with governmental and civic interests, and grow business opportunities locally, regionally and internationally. In 2014, the Jaguars under Lamping’s direction completed a number of major fan friendly enhancements to EverBank Field including the installation of the world’s largest video boards. And this year, Lamping has been at the forefront of the team’s proposal to develop the Shipyards property near the stadium into a vibrant entertainment and leisure district. Again this fall and continuing through the 2016 season, the Jaguars will play one regular season home game each year at London’s Wembley Stadium. Lamping currently serves on the NFL Stadium Security and Fan Behavior Committee.
Lamping previously served as president and CEO of the New Meadowlands Stadium Company, LLC beginning on April 1, 2008. The New Meadowlands Stadium Company is the joint venture formed between the New York Giants and the New York Jets to develop the new $1.6 billion stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. Lamping was responsible for managing the construction, sales and marketing, and operation of MetLife Stadium, which opened in April 2010 and is the only NFL stadium which is the home of two NFL teams. In addition to the minimum of 20 NFL games that are played each season, MetLife Stadium hosts events ranging from college football to international soccer tournaments to major concerts and more. In addition to numerous awards, in both 2010 and 2011, Billboard magazine named MetLife Stadium as the highest grossing stadium in North America. Lamping also helped lead the successful bid to host the 2014 Super Bowl. The 2014 Super Bowl was the first Super Bowl played in an open air stadium in a cold weather city.
Prior to joining the New Meadowlands Stadium Company, Lamping was the president of the St. Louis Cardinals from September 1, 1994 until March 31, 2008. In addition to the club’s 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2005 Central Division titles and 2004 National League Championship, the Cardinals earned their 10th World Championship in 2006. In 1999 and again in 2003, the Cardinals were honored by United Sports Fans of America as Major League Baseball’s Fan Friendly Team for their superior efforts to make a day at the ballpark more affordable and enjoyable. In addition to managing the club’s business and facility operations, Lamping led the Cardinals’ new ballpark initiative. On April 10, 2006, Opening Day, the Cardinals officially dedicated the new privately financed ballpark, Busch Stadium. The perfect ending to the inaugural season at new Busch Stadium was the Cardinals winning their 10th World Championship.
From 1989 to 1994 Lamping served as Anheuser-Busch’s group director of sports marketing. In that position, he managed all domestic and international sports marketing activities for Anheuser-Busch’s beer brands, including sponsorship agreements with the Olympics, FIFA World Cup and all major professional sports, including Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association. Lamping also oversaw BudSports Productions, Anheuser-Busch’s TV and radio sports Production Company.
Lamping joined Anheuser-Busch in 1981 in the company’s Corporate Planning Executive Development Program. He then served in a variety of positions including district sales manager in Southern Illinois and Central Iowa, senior brand manager for new products and director of sales operations before being named group director of sports marketing in 1989.
Lamping was named in 2013 as a non-executive board member of Fulham Football Club in London while, closer to home, serves on the boards of directors of the American Heart Association, Jacksonville Civic Council, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute, Jacksonville Sports Council, chair of the JAXUSA Business Development Committee and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Jacksonville, Inc. While in St. Louis, Lamping was involved in a variety of charitable organizations, including board of directors, Habitat for Humanity and St. Louis Cardinals Community Fund; chairperson of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Golf Classic in 1997, 1998, and 1999; chairman of the St. Louis Archdiocese Catholic Charities 2000 and 2001 Christmas Appeal and he also served as a chairperson for Pope John Paul’s 1999 visit to St. Louis.
ORLANDO MAGIC, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Alex Martins, who has spent 26 years in professional sports management and re-joined the Magic in June of 2005, was promoted to chief executive officer on December 7, 2011. He previously served as president for more than one year and was the team’s chief operating officer from 2006-10. Martins also serves as CEO of SED Development, LLC, an affiliate of the Magic which is currently planning an entertainment mixed use development across Church Street from the Amway Center. Read more
Martins, who served in various senior-level management capacities with the Magic between 1989-98 and as the organization’s executive vice president of marketing and franchise relations in 2005-06, oversees all operations of the club.
Over the past eight years, Martins led the Magic in a transformation of its business operations, while overseeing a ticket sales, premium sales and corporate partnership effort which saw the most successful business year in the history of the franchise in the 2010-11 season. The transformation process received the recognition of the Sports Business Journal which named the Magic as a finalist for Professional Sports Team of the Year, the only NBA team to be named a finalist.
Similarily, Martins spearheaded the transformation of the current Magic basketball operation including the recruitment of current Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan and Head Coach Jacque Vaughn.
Included in the franchise’s success has been the largest season ticket base in franchise history in 2010-11 (14,200) and the most successful corporate sales effort in franchise history. Amongst these records are the largest increase in attendance in the NBA over the five-year period, the most new sales and season tickets sold in the league in two of the last five years, and the largest group ticket sales effort in team history last season.
Martins was instrumental in helping to secure the new state-of-the-art Amway Center in Orlando. The Amway Center is part of a public community venues program that also includes a new Performing Arts Center and a renovation of the Citrus Bowl Stadium. The new Amway Center opened in October 2010. The facility was named a finalist for the Sports Business Awards Sports Facility of the Year Award for two consecutive years, and captured the award in 2012. Additionally, the Magic also contributed $20 million toward and constructed five community recreation centers throughout Orange County, Florida, as part of its commitment to build the new Amway Center. The Amway Center was honored in 2013 with the Customer Experience Award during TheStadiumBusiness Awards presentation held in association with TheStadiumBusiness Summit in Manchester, England.
Over the last seven years at the Annual NBA Sales and Marketing Meetings, the Magic organization was awarded the “New Full Season Ticket Award” twice for being No. 1 in the NBA in new full season tickets sold, a “90 Percent Renewal Award” for being just one of five teams to achieve a 90 percent or higher season ticket renewal rate in 2007, a “Sponsorship Account Performance Award” for the extraordinary number of accounts secured by the Corporate Partnerships Department and the “Retailer of the Year Award” for the team’s retail sales performance. Martins is a member of the NBA Team Presidents Advisory Council.
Martins originally joined the Magic as director of publicity/media relations in April 1989. In September of 1996, he was promoted to senior director of communications. He also previously served as the Chairman of the Board of the Magic Action Team Community Fund. The Magic Action Team Fund developed into the Orlando Magic Youth Fund, which has distributed nearly $18 million to local non-profit organizations during the last 23 years, including $1 million this season. Additionally, Martins served on the developmental board of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida. The program has been funded through a $9 million endowment by Rich and Helen DeVos and awards dual Masters degrees in Sport Management and Business Administration.
Martins has also has served as the senior vice president of marketing and branding for the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets, vice president of communications and public affairs with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and vice president of sports ventures with the Tavistock Group. At Tavistock, Martins served as tournament director of The Tavistock Cup, a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
Martins started his career as a student assistant in the Villanova sports information department, assisted in the Philadelphia 76ers public relations department and was also the assistant sports information director at Georgetown University (1988-89).
Martins is Past Chairman of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, and The Central Florida Partnership. He also serves on the board of directors of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Central Florida Commission on Homeless, the executive committee of the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center and the Central Florida board of directors for Seaside National Bank & Trust.
Martins earned his MBA from the University of Central Florida where he is a member of the College of Business Administration’s Hall of Fame. He also serves on the Dean’s Executive Council for the College of Business Administration at UCF and was honored with the opportunity to serve as Commencement Speaker at UCF in August of 2008.
A native of Kearny, New Jersey, Martins earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Villanova, where he graduated from in 1986. He resides in Orlando, Fla., with his wife, Juliet, and daughters, Sophia (9) and Gabrielle (7).
ORLANDO CITY SOCCER CLUB, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT
Phil Rawlins is Founder & President of Orlando City Soccer Club, responsible for all aspects of the Club’s operation, performance and service. A native of Stoke-on-Trent, UK, Rawlins founded and developed OnTarget, a highly successful sales and marketing consultancy which worked with most of the world’s leading technology companies. In addition to his tech experience, Rawlins spent over fifteen years in sports management as an owner and director of his hometown English Premier League team, Stoke City FC. Read more
Rawlins was voted Orlando’s Downtowner of the Year in 2013 for his work in helping develop downtown and he was honored by MBA Orlando as Community Champion. In 2014 he was also voted CEO of the Year by Orlando Business Journal and Entrepreneur of the Year by I-4 Business magazine.
Rawlins was recently inducted into the United Soccer League’s Hall of Fame.
DAVID P. SAMSON
MIAMI MARLINS, PRESIDENT
David Samson enters his 17th season in Major League Baseball and 15th as President of the Miami Marlins. He is one of only nine current Presidents in Major League Baseball who has presided over a World Series champion. He is a member of Major League Baseball’s Competition Committee (Including Pace of Game) and the Diversity Committee. Read more
As Club President, Samson oversees all aspects of the team’s day-to-day business operations, including sales, marketing, operations and personnel matters. He also oversaw the successful completion of Marlins Park in Miami. Construction of the baseball-only, retractable roof, air-conditioned facility exceeded all stated goals from local worker participation to local firm involvement. Under Samson’s leadership Marlins Park was completed on time and under budget while also earning Gold LEED certification, officially making it the greenest ballpark in America and the world’s first-ever retractable roof facility to earn such distinction.
Samson works closely with Owner and CEO, Jeffrey Loria, on all baseball matters and general corporate strategy. Samson also presides over the Marlins Foundation, which focuses its efforts on baseball, arts and educational needs of the South Florida community. The Foundation has distributed over $6.0 million to worthy charities in South Florida since the ballpark gained approval in 2008 and Marlins’ Ayudan, a Corporate Social Responsibility Program, has now surpassed over 38,000 hours of volunteer service.
Samson, was born in Milwaukee, WI, and was raised in New York City. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s in Economics in 1990. He received a Juris Doctor from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City in 1993. He is a member of the New York State Bar. Following law school, Samson became President and Founder of News Travels Fast, the first company to deliver the New York Times to Europe on a same-day basis. In 1996, Samson joined Morgan Stanley, an investment bank in New York City, a position he resigned in 1999 when he joined the Montreal Expos as Executive Vice President.
Among his accomplishments, Samson was named one of Sports Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” for two years running, 2003-04. Other highlights, in addition to the 2003 World Series Championship, included the Florida Marlins being named South Florida’s No. 1 Film and Entertainment Company of the Year and Baseball America’s Organization of the Year.
On October 21, 2006, Samson became the first active team President to complete the Ford Ironman World Championship Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii. In addition to swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and then running a full marathon, all in 15 hours, 36 minutes, Samson personally raised over $250,000 for the Marlins Foundation, the Challenged Athletes Foundation (“CAF”) and other local Hawaiian charities.
Samson concentrates his charitable efforts on helping underprivileged and sick children experience summer camp and improved education and health care. In addition, he is a member of CAF‘s Board of Directors. His vision is to help increase its visibility, thus enabling more physically challenged athletes to compete in triathlons as well as other sports.
In 2016, Samson received The Hope Award, which is the National MS Society’s highest volunteer award at a gala that raised over $600,000.
In 2010, Samson was named to Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law’s Board of Overseers and in 2014 he was named Chairman of the Board. As a member of this board he works to continue Cardozo’s renowned clinical programs, as well as the continued growth of its public interest scholarship programs. He is also on the board and executive council of Yeshiva University. Samson also serves on the Miami Children’s Museum Board of Directors.
On April 27, 2012, Samson ran 52.5 miles from Pompano Beach to Marlins Park to raise funds for 10 “Charities of Choice” to honor the construction workers who made Marlins Park a reality. The run raised over $600,000 through sponsor and individual donations.
In 2014, Samson was one of 18 contestants on the 28th season of Survivor ™. He is the only active team executive to appear on the show, and one of fewer than 425 people in the United States to be selected to participate. Samson also starred as Lorne Michaels in the 2014 production entitled “Not Ready for Primetime.” This full-length feature play detailed the beginnings of “Saturday Night Live.”
In 2015, Samson along with owner Jeffrey Loria, worked with Miami-Dade County, City of Miami and City of Miami Beach officials, as well as civic and business leaders to bid for the 2017 All-Star Game. On February 13, 2015, the 10th Commissioner of Baseball, Robert D. Manfred, awarded the 2017 Midsummer Classic to Miami.
He and his wife, Cindi, a former school director, have been married for 25 years and have two daughters, Hannah and Kyra, and a son, Caleb.
ERIC S. WOOLWORTH
MIAMI HEAT, PRESIDENT, BUSINESS OPERATIONS
Beginning his 21st season with The HEAT Group and 15th at the helm of the organization as President, Business Operations, Eric Woolworth has made an indelible impression on both the Miami HEAT and American Airlines Arena. His leadership has helped transform the organization and redefine its corporate identity into a customer service and sales-driven machine that is among the elite in the sports and entertainment industry. Read more
The team’s innovative fan-friendly and flexible renewal program complements its very successful and often imitated in-Arena S.M.I.L.E. program aimed at exceeding every guest’s expectations. These initiatives have brought a high level of service and value to season ticket holders and guests, as well as a streamlined renewal and playoff payment process while introducing new and exciting benefits for loyal season ticket holders and other lucky fans.
Under Woolworth’s leadership, The HEAT Group has championed and implemented ELEVATE, a league-wide initiative designed to improve the customer experience by striving for excellence at every level of the business. During the 2014-15 season, The HEAT Group achieved the third-highest overall satisfaction rating among all NBA teams.
Woolworth has been instrumental in recognizing and harnessing the power of database marketing. In the past 15 years, the HEAT has compiled one of the richest direct marketing databases in the NBA and has become proficient in utilizing these powerful channels to deliver sales offers and news and continues to lead the NBA in terms of revenue derived from database marketing.
Most recently, Woolworth has redirected the franchise’s focus to mobile-centric technology by launching a cutting-edge Miami HEAT Mobile App. The App’s primary features—Mobile Wallet and Mobile Ticketing—create a seamless, paperless platform, which customizes and further enhances the fan’s in-arena experience.
Under Woolworth’s guidance, The HEAT Group’s Business Operations Division continues to garner accolades in a variety of disciplines. Success stories for the 2014-15 season include the Season Ticket Services Department once again recording the highest Season Ticket renewal rate in franchise history and one of the highest renewal rates in the NBA; the HEAT Retail Department earning their fifth NBA Retailer of the Year award as well as recording the highest per cap rates in retail sales in the NBA; and the unveiling of the 15th Miami HEAT Learn and Play Center. Additionally, with a Facebook fan base of over 16 million, a twitter following of 3.13 million and 1.8 million Instagram followers, the HEAT Social Media Department is a consistent leader in social media engagement and growth.
In January 2015, AmericanAirlines Arena was awarded LEED Gold Recertification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)—the first sports and entertainment facility in the world to achieve the prestigious honor. LEED is USGBC’s leading rating system for designing, constructing and operating the greenest, most energy-efficient, and highest performing buildings. Additionally, through a multi-year partnership with NRG Energy, AmericanAirlines Arena will unveil a tailor-made renewable energy solar pavilion on the east side of the facility in the Fall of 2015.
Woolworth has been at the forefront of several major capital improvement projects to the AmericanAirlines Arena, including the 3,400 square foot digital media façade, MiamiMediaMesh, one of the largest digital LED displays in the Southeast region of the United States; the multi-million dollar High Definition upgrade of all digital infrastructure at AmericanAirlines Arena; the fully customizable “experience” fans now enjoy as they enter the Arena through the newly renovated Bacardi Grand Entrance, which includes state-of-the-art digital signage and graphic enhancement tailored to the specific audience of any single event; and the 2012 opening of Hyde AmericanAirlines Arena, a posh and intimate venue offering guests an über-VIP restaurant and nightclub experience.
Woolworth’s efforts have also firmly planted AmericanAirlines Arena on the map of elite venues, hosting such world-class acts as Madonna, Marc Anthony, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, U2, Luis Miguel, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Phish, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, One Direction, Justin Timberlake, Coldplay and many others that play before sold-out crowds. The Arena also secured the 2004 and 2005 MTV Video Music Awards, the first two times in the award show’s history it was hosted outside of New York City or Los Angeles. Popular family shows that make annual stops at the Arena include classic favorites Disney On Ice, the Harlem Globetrotters and the RB&BB Circus.
The AmericanAirlines Arena is also a celebrated leader in the facilities industry due to Woolworth’s leadership. The Arena maintained its ticket ranking as the #1 arena in Florida and finished in the top 11 arenas in the United States, while placing 18th in the world according to Billboard’s “2014 Worldwide Top 200.”
Woolworth’s primary responsibility consists of directing and overseeing all non-basketball aspects of the organization from Marketing and Community Affairs to Sales and Service, Human Resources, Merchandising, Finance, Event and Arena Operations, and more. His efforts have created a professional cutting edge atmosphere for both the employees and the customers.
Woolworth steadily climbed the ranks of The HEAT Group after first joining the HEAT as General Counsel in 1995 and a successful legal career in Washington, D.C. His business acumen and key role in the development of the AmericanAirlines Arena led to his promotion to President, Business Operations in January of 2001. He had served as interim President from August of 2000 to January of 2001.
Woolworth is a cum laude graduate of both Georgetown University and Georgetown University Law Center. He lives with his wife, Jocelyn, their son, Jackson, and their daughter, Cassidy, in Coral Gables. They generously spend their time and resources to assist the community, donating time to several charitable organizations including serving on the Boards of Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Children’s Craniofacial Association at Miami Children’s Hospital.