Carol Pollock is celebrated at a VenuWorks dinner in Portland, Ore. From left, Donna Dowless, XOXO Media; Carol Pollock, Hoyt Sherman Place, Des Moines, Iowa; Tammy Koolbeck, VenuWorks; and Linda Deckard, Venues Today. (VT Photo)
Carol Pollock, 70, loved managing venues, meeting people and dressing to the nines. The manager of Hoyt Sherman Place, Des Moines, Iowa, for VenuWorks, passed away after a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer on Friday, May 15 and, true to form, despite her illness the death was unexpected. She worked right up to her last week, and loved doing it.
VenuWorks’ Tammy Koolbeck said she had, in fact, been planning to visit Pollock on Saturday, and when returning to her home in Ames, Iowa, Friday, she immediately searched for her latest copy of Venues Today, which includes a Talking Points interview with Pollock, to show her. Pollock is also a nominee for 2015 Women of Influence, a group of women in the venue business nominated because they are mentors and visionaries.
A celebration of her life is set for Monday, June 22, at 10 a.m. with lunch to follow. The venue is her own Hoyt Sherman Place.
Steve Peters, CEO of VenuWorks, has known Pollock since 1988, when he joined Ogden Entertainment and Pollock was working at MetroCentre (now BMO Harris Center) in Rockford, Ill., for Doug Logan. Ogden soon moved Pollock to Pensacola, Fla., to run the Saenger Theatre.
“Carol had an outstanding, buoyant personality,” Peters said. “She was always outgoing and positive.”
She found a true home at the historic Hoyt Sherman Place, which she managed for eight years. Peters said he met with the board there Tuesday to start the process of recruiting a new director. Meanwhile, Tim Berry will step up as interim director on June 1 and Koolbeck and Carl St. Clair will fill the gap.
Hoyt Sherman Place was first used by the Women’s Club of Des Moines as a clubhouse after Hoyt Sherman, whose famous brothers include John Sherman, writer of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and General William Tecumseh Sherman of Civil War fame, died. Hoyt Sherman was a major player in the banking and insurance industries in Des Moines. The Women’s Club first added an art gallery and then a 1,251-seat theater.
Pollock embraced the venue and the Hoyt Sherman Place Foundation members who now own the not-for-profit, and the art gallery attached. She increased bookings by 75 percent and developed the “For the Love of Art” campaign which included an “Adopt a Painting” program which raised $65,000 to restore 51 pieces of 18th Century Art.
“Carol had an affinity with the Women’s Club of Des Moines. They enabled her. There are millions of dollars worth of art on those walls,” Peters said.
Bookings during the Pollock era were very healthy and included events like Craig Ferguson, who performed there for the third time in Des Moines even though he could have played the much bigger Civic Center, Peters said. She was skilled at taking care of the acts, making them feel at home. Peters recalled that once upon a time in Pensacola, Pollock presented Harry Connick Jr., who had just begun his career, with a plaque that had various wrong names by which he was mistakenly identified [Harry Junior Connick, Harry Connick, Junior Connick, Harry Junior] early on crossed out to finish with the proper three-word moniker. She paid attention to people, staff and stars.
Bob Hunter, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, and Michael Marion, Verizon Arena, Little Rock, Ark., embrace Carol Pollock at IAVM in Portland, Ore. (VT Photo)
At the end of her career, she was managing a fulltime staff of eight and a budget of $1.5 million for VenuWorks. She began her career in radio before becoming marketing director in Rockford. There, she created the “On the Waterfront” music and food festival that drew over 400,000. In 1987, she became executive director of the Saenger Theatre and, five years later, became executive director of all Ogden/SMG’s Pensacola venues: Pensacola Bay Center (then Civic Center), the Saenger and Bayfront Auditorium.
Allison Fegley, events manager at HSP, recalls that Pollock hired her fresh out of college, giving her her first professional job as event and volunteer coordinator. “I have called Hoyt Sherman Place home and Carol my boss for the last 7 years. I was promoted to Booking and Event Manager while under Carol’s leadership. She was my first boss and my first introduction to the industry. She saw my potential and gave me opportunities to develop my leadership skills by attending IAVM’s Venue Management School at Oglebay and helping at larger scale events like Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
“Most importantly, Carol was an excellent example of what a woman in the industry can accomplish if she truly works hard. She always told me that ‘this industry gets in your blood’ and I believe that to be true. Hoyt Sherman Place will not be the same without her, but her legacy of approaching challenges with creativity and perseverance will continue to inspire us all.”
Donna Dowless, XOXO Media, who has known Pollock all her years in the business, summed her up quickly: “She chose good.”
Over the years, Pollock encouraged and helped and paid attention to those around her, Dowless said. “Whenever we were together, we laughed. We shared stories and information about the business.”
They also shared a love for fashion. “She loved to be dressed to the nines,” Dowless said. “She would pick her outfits very carefully for each specific occasion.”
Koolbeck couldn’t help chuckling as she recalled Pollock’s shopping expedition the night a group of women also attending the Peforming Arts Managers Conference in New York were ticketed for a Broadway matinee. Having finished shopping on Canal Street, Pollock caught the subway to Manhattan for the show, which she'd arranged, but ended up on 54th Street in Brooklyn, unable to make curtain. She and her companion caught up with the group at intermission and when exiting the theater everyone in the party had to share in carrying her checked bags back to the hotel.
“Her personality and her love of the business will be remembered. She just connected to everybody, whether they were in arenas, stadiums or theaters. She was open about sharing what she knew,” Koolbeck said.
And she worked as hard as she shopped. “She put Pensacola on the map. For a small place, she booked a lot of stuff,” said Michael Marion, Verizon Arena, Little Rock, Ark., who recalled leaning heavily on Pollock's expertise when he first entered venue management in Tupelo, Miss.
She had an incredible strength, added Sandie Aaron, who is national director of theater planning and content now for VenuWorks. She talked to Pollock weekly during the last few months and “she'd tell me how she amazed the doctors and nurses who said they didn't know what they were going to do with her. That's how strong she's been with the cancer — two and a half years of healing. She was determined to not only fight, but to help others who went through it.”
In her own words from the May 2015 Talking Points in Venues Today, Pollock’s favorite thing about the industry was “the people. I wouldn’t be where I am without a lot of help from people who were a little bit more knowledgeable than I was when I got my first building.”
Pollock was a member of the International Association of Venue Managers and a trailblazer for women in the venue management industry during her three-decade career. Besides the jobs mentioned, she worked with the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball League at AT&T Center and, for a short time at the Alamodome, San Antonio, before whe was recruited by VenuWorks.
It was Pollock’s wish that any memorials be directed to the Hoyt Sherman Place Foundation.
Pollock was born in Belvidere, Ill., to Margaret and Nevin Pollock who preceded her in death. She is survived by her sister, Joanne Pollock (Randy Cagnoni); three brothers, Kenneth Pollock, Rick Pollock (Cheryl) and Don Pollock (Robin); and eight nieces and nephews.
Interviewed for this story: Tammy Koolbeck and Steve Peters, (515) 232-5151; Donna Dowless, (407) 257-2415; Allison Fegley, (515) 244-0507 x212; Michael Marion, (501) 340-5660; Sandie Aaron, (850) 554-5373