Dan Newhart (’04), from the Phillies to the Fiesta
When a student applies to Penn State and expresses interest in sports management or sports administration, they are often advised to check out Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management as a possible major. Dan Newhart, RPTM 2004 alumnus, is an excellent example of how a degree in RPTM can open doors in the field of professional sports.
A longtime fan of Penn State sports, Dan followed his father and uncle to Penn State. With an original plan to major in architecture, he found it wasn’t his passion. As a student manager for Penn State’s men’s basketball team, Dan eventually found his way to RPTM and what was then the commercial/community recreation option. He eventually graduated with a degree in RPTM, a minor in business and also, because he had the credits, a minor in architecture. It was however his interest and focus in sports that led him to his current position as Vice President of Ticketing for the Fiesta Bowl.
“The Fiesta Bowl is much more than one game. It is actually two games; the Fiesta Bowl, which is part of the college football play-offs, and the Guaranteed Rate Bowl which is a game between a Big 10 and Big 12 team. As a non-profit, we also do numerous charity events each year. Basically, all of the monies we get after covering our overhead supports charities in the community.”
For Dan, the road to Arizona had some stops along the way. He started out interning with the Phillies during summers while in college. He worked in the ticket office and in stadium operations, first at Veterans Stadium and then in Citizens Bank Park. “I have some great memories from there,” he laughed. “As interns, we did it all. One night all of the interns had to sleep out to protect the pallets of Bobbleheads so that they weren’t stolen. One of my nightmares is the allen wrench that was used to hand open all of the suites in the stadium. That was sometimes my job. It took 2 ½ hours to go around before each game to open the windows.”
Dan eventually used his connections with Penn State Athletics to complete his for-credit internship in the compliance office while still helping to manage the basketball team. After graduating from Penn State, he accepted a post-graduate internship with the Phillies working in ticket sales, group sales, and also managing the other interns.
“I loved my time at the Phillies. My boss was a Penn Stater. The only problem is that everyone loves working with the Phillies. No one ever leaves. Most of the people I worked with back then are still there."
Leveraging his experience with the Phillies, Dan landed a key position with the then brand-new State College Spikes, an expansion of the minor league’s Altoona Curve. Dan took that job before Medlar Field at Lubrano Park was completed. “That was a great opportunity. I was excited to get back to State College. When we first started the Spikes, our offices were in the stadium in Altoona. They didn’t really have room for us so our offices were in the ticket office – in the winter. We eventually got temporary offices in downtown State College over the old Pita Pit restaurant. I remember the smells coming up.”
Bringing minor league baseball to a new community offers opportunities. “It was up to us to educate the community about the Spikes and who we are. In the minor leagues, the staff do everything from promotions to ticket sales to special events.”
Almost two years later, with a goal to return to the majors, Dan applied for a position in ticketing with what is now the Tampa Bay Rays. Working his way up from Group Sales, he became Manager, then Director of Group Sales, and eventually Director of Ticket Sales and Services. “Tampa Bay was a great place to play and live,” he said.
Dan hadn’t intended to apply for another position, but was recruited via LinkedIn by the Fiesta Bowl. He applied and was offered the job. With tickets and a visit to Arizona for the Super Bowl already planned, Dan used that time to consider what living in Arizona would be like. Did he want to leave Tampa Bay after 16 years? He also reflected on the new challenges that working with both a non-profit and fewer events might offer.
“Baseball is insane,” he said. “I joke with my friends in the NFL. I say to them, ‘You have 8 games!’ It’s 81 games per year in baseball.”
Dan is excited about his new role with The Fiesta Bowl. The non-profit, charity-focused mission of the organization offers a way to use sports to make a difference. “We have about 35 professional staff with the Fiesta Bowl. In addition to that, we have 120+ volunteer positions that we call ‘Yellow Jackets’. They are community volunteers – most of whom are CEOs or professionals in the community. Each of them has fundraising goals to support the mission.” In addition, the Fiesta Bowl has Ambassadors who help out with game day and other events.
“The Fiesta Bowl is a very strong brand. I’m excited to be here. We have a new CEO and new GM. Our goal is do more. How do we do more events? Our goal is 365 to do more to give back.” Adjusting to the new climate, Dan is looking forward to being a part of the community with the Fiesta Bowl. Using sports and his experience in sales, events, and customer service, Dan Newhart is using his Penn State degree in RPTM for a career in sports management.