It's time to vote for the 2017 Venues Today Generation Next Awards. We will be honoring this year's outstanding young professionals in the May issue. Vote now to make your voice heard.
The voting deadline is Friday, March 3, 2017.
These individuals have been nominated for their newsworthy achievement or outstanding service.
Subscribers, please login and vote online by clicking here. Non-subscribers can also e-mail their choice to (include your name and affiliation).


2017 Generation Next Nominations

Lucy Albers
Sr. Marketing Manager/SMG
Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Age: 30

For playing a key role in opening the The Denny Sanford PREMIER Center. Opened in 2014, Albers placed advertisements, wrote annual reports for SMG and created the publication of a “First Year” book for the new venue and posters for shows.  Albers was hired in 2011, as a box-office supervisor.  She worked in that role until 2013 when she was promoted to the assistant box-office manager.  She excelled in her roles in the box office and when the opportunity for marketing manager came up, she jumped on it.  In May of 2013, Albers was promoted into that role, where she made many differences in marketing strategies that improved the facility’s exposure. In July of 2016, Albers received yet another promotion to senior marketing manager because of her hard work, diligence and ability to take the lead and get things done when needed.  

Tyler Baldwin
Director of Booking & Events
Orleans Arena / Boyd Gaming, Las Vegas
Age: 29

For bringing several high profile events to the arena and the city including the 2015 World Wrestling Championships; 2014, 2016 & 2017 Continental Cup of Curling; the Stellar Awards; the Soul Train Awards; the Toyota National Dealers Event; the 2018 College Hockey Hall of Fame Game and the 2018 Men’s Curling World Championship.  During this time, Baldwin has been able to increase hotel room usage by over 50 percent year over year and clocked in almost 45,000 room nights generated from his efforts. Baldwin is now number two at the Orleans Arena with direct oversight of booking, marketing and box-office operations. Other accomplishments include renewal of the West Coast Conference Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships; the pre-Olympic World Wrestling Championships and the National College Hockey event.  Also skilled in the area of box-office operations, Baldwin led a system conversion from Paciolan to Ticketmaster while maintaining client integrity and event continuity.

Erin Bilton
Division Marketing Director
Spectra by Comcast Spectacor
Age: 33

For overseeing the marketing efforts of more than 30 Spectra Venue Management and Food Service & Hospitality properties in the Northeast region of the United States. Bilton’s focus is on creating innovative campaigns that drive food and beverage sales in these markets; enhancing the customer experience through contests and promotions and developing her staff to further their career in the sports and entertainment industry. To date, Bilton has successfully mentored 10 individuals into their current positions at Spectra. She also serves as director of marketing at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center and Historic Boardwalk Hall, where she works with a marketing task force with all entertainment venues, attractions, hotels, and restaurants in the city to collaboratively promote Atlantic City in a positive light. Among her achievements are helping raise $20,000 for a local nonprofit that supports foster children through the venue’s annual ‘Deck-the-Hall Festival of Trees’ event.

Kristin Bowen
Marketing Manager
Spectra Venue Management, St. Charles (Mo.) Convention Center
Age: 31

For being integral to the sales team with her creative ability, sales techniques, strategies and great promotional tools. Bowen has assisted in building and maintaining the brand by educating on-brand awareness at an all-staff training seminar; assisting in the creation of a new customer service program; crafting bios for all management staff; revamping the website using 360 virtual tour; enhancing projects such as the concession outlet logo and concept generation/branding, uniform design and professional event photos; participating in Spectra’s national marketing plan and annual conference and sitting on the board of Habitat for Humanity of St. Charles County.

Kelly Brennan 
Senior Analyst
Age: 31

For leading the charge to integrate first-time attendees of the annual International Ticketing Association (INTIX) Conference by developing a mentor program for the “red dots” to have someone guide them through their first conference. This led to better participation from first timers because they were more comfortable and welcomed with open arms. Brennan’s responsibilities at FutureTix include analyzing client information; investigating potential opportunities; researching case studies; stats and staying up-to-date on current and upcoming products; and studying services and best practices within the industry. For the last several years, she has managed the planning and execution of the annual FutureTix Ticketing Symposium and, over the last year, has begun to aid in the development and growth of the latest FutureTix initiative called the ticketingSOURCE Powered by FutureTix. Brennan has served on numerous INTIX committees and is currently the Chair of the Member Connections Committee.

Brian Chia 
Director of Client Services
EventBooking, Knoxville, Tenn.
Age: 27

For organizing the moving parts that make a concert, conference or sporting event possible using reliable venue management software. Chia leads the Client Success team, which serves over 10,000 individual users. Brian’s ability to quickly customize the best solution for each client is invaluable as he travels to venues in-person to perform more in-depth assistance and training. Chia’s dedication to personalized customer support has taken him all over the world, from London to Beijing. He is solely responsible for the success of EventBooking’s partner in China, having trained all of their staff so that they are then capable of training others. Last year EventBooking began redesigning it’s core venue management software. Chia was appointed product owner of the new initiative. This meant that in addition to his client services responsibilities, he guided a team of software engineers so that each cycle of the development process was tailored to clients' needs and workflow.

John Ciolfi
Marketing Manager/SMG
Dunkin’ Donuts Center & Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence
Age: 30

For his ability to communicate with young patrons and promoters in a way that keeps his Rhode Island venues on the cutting edge in the digital age. Since 2013,  Ciolfi has been with the SMG management team representing the venue locally, regionally and nationally to promoters and industry leaders. Ciolfi is well respected by the NCAA for his work on their regional championships and sits on the Statewide Local Organizing Committee. In addition, he currently works on many high profile Request For Proposal projects for the city and state. Recently, Rhode Island hosted several national journalists and Ciolfi acted as PR ambassador. This past year, he was awarded the “Stars of the Industry Volunteer of the Year” from the Rhode Island Hospitality Association. 

Sarah Cummings
General Manager, Colorado State Fair, Peublo
Age: 33

For transitioning from CEO of the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds & Event Center, Petaluma, Calif., to GM of Colorado State Fair, Pueblo. Cummings has over 10 years of experience including budgeting and personnel administration; brand development; marketing and public relations. While at Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds and Event Center, Cummings managed a five-day fair and 65-acre venue with seven permanent tenants. She currently manages an 11-day state fair with 460,000-plus annual attendees; a 100-acre venue with a 7,800-seat indoor arena and 14,000-capacity outdoor arena; 54 buildings and a $9-million annual budget. Cummings is active in Western Fairs Association’s Convention Showcase; professional development and agricultural development committees; board of directors, California Fairs Alliance, vice chair, International Association of Fairs & Expositions and was a Youth Policy Institute Rising Star in 2014

Ariel Devore 
Digital Media Manager, Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario, Calif.
Age: 24

For overseeing the digital content for six websites and all social sites of the SMG-managed properties. Devore is credited with increasing followers with posts reaching 267,200 people on Facebook alone.  She increased the database by two percent and social followers by 15 percent. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the website sessions totaled 153,400, with 305,054 page views and 91,679 unique visitors.  In this time, Devore created and delivered 39 email campaigns, equaling 1,389,074 emails promoting shows at the arena. Her efforts increased ticket sales with no costs to the shows.

Sean Dolan   
Assistant General Manager / Director of Operations, Mullins Center, Amherst, Mass.
Age: 25

For overseeing major renovations at Mullins Center, Amherst, Mass. Dolan oversaw a $35,000 truss/motor purchase to replace the baton system; a $40,000 elevator renovation; and a $30,000 repair of the arena sound system. He’s currently working on a $3.8 million roof replacement capital plan.

Rebecca Duensing  
East Central Marketing Manager, Professional Bull Riders (PBR)
Age: 24

For taking over the Nashville Majors event for PBR where she planned, executed and marketed a record-setting first event. Duensing took over responsibilities for Charlotte, N.C., Chicago and Columbus, Ohio markets, setting attendance and revenue records at the PBR Charlotte (N.C.) Invitational, after picking up the event only weeks before showtime. She went three for three with the PBR Chicago Invitational in setting attendance and revenue records and developed and maintains a relationship with the PENCIL foundation, which helps local high school students and teachers with real world industry teaching. Duensing was recently recognized by Nashville Mayor Megan Berry as a Platinum Ambassador for the city.

Evan Falat 
Director of Business Development, BOK Center & Cox Business Center, Tulsa, Okla.
Age: 33

For overseeing $6.9 million in annual revenue for BOK Center and Cox Business Center. Falat’s national clients include Bank of Oklahoma, Ford, Cox Communications and many more. Due to BOK Center’s sold-out inventory of all premium seating, Falat created and managed the construction of 10 new luxury suites and an exclusive private lounge. This increased the premium seating revenue at BOK Center by 118%. In addition, SMG Tulsa creates, produces and promotes six annual events for the region. All events have continuously been profitable with Falat carrying the responsibility of meeting and exceeding budgeted goals of 80% of the total revenue for each event.  

Imran Gill 
Manager, Marketing and Communications, Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, Shaw Conference Centre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Age: 32

For mentoring many while marketing a venue that boasts 600+ events annually and half a million visitors, which in turn generated nearly $50 million in direct spending throughout Alberta. As a young leader, Gill has excelled in developing and graduating other young leaders in expanding their capabilities within the organization and throughout the industry. He is a strong citizen of the venue management community serving on several boards to provide guidance on building the industry, especially as it relates to reaching younger demographics.

Mark Hall 
Box Office Manager, John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.
Age: 32

For ensuring customer service operations during both concerts and University of Virginia, Charlottesville,  basketball games and for outstanding care of concert ticketing needs. Hall personally built and maintained 15 major live entertainment events with complex ticketing requirements in 2016, including events that utilized features such as paperless tickets and delivery delay. For each of these events, show day was seamless, which is a direct result of the team effort towards advance planning and accurate build of the event. Hall makes the fan experience priority number one by disseminating highly accurate information to guest service representatives and going above and beyond to address any customer service concerns. He also regularly serves as manager on duty during events.

Tim Kemp  
Vice President of Programming, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Sports & Entertainment
Age: 30

For playing an integral role in the continued growth of Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y., through programming premier concerts and entertainment. This past summer, Barclays Center hosted World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) SummerSlam, Monday Night RAW, and NXT TakeOver, marking the second time WWE has sold out Barclays Center for three consecutive nights and the only two times WWE has achieved the feat in its history. Kemp was also instrumental in Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment’s partnership with Sports Illustrated (SI), which brought SI’s Summer of Swim fan festival and concert to Coney Island, as well as SI’s Sportsperson of the Year to Barclays Center. In October, Barclays Center hosted ESL One New York, the first e-sports event at the venue and the largest e-sports event on the East Coast. ESL One New York saw a record attendance of 8,500 fans on each of the main event days. Kemp secured the tournament for four more years, naming Barclays Center home to ESL One’s North American flagship event.

Josh Kesler  
Sales and Marketing Manager, Eastern Kentucky Expo Center, Pikeville
Age: 28

For adding over $100,000 in new sales revenue in 2016; hosting his own arena TV show and town events for arena exposure; writing newspaper articles about the arena for the regional paper; posting social media LIVE posts that have over 10,000 views in a one-day promotion and growing social media numbers to reach over 100,000 people each week on Facebook. Kesler was also named tourism PR chair in 2016.

Joseph Leavens  
Operations Manager/SMG, Hampton Roads (Va.) Convention Center
Age: 31
For being instrumental in achieving safety and maintenance standards set forth by SMG Operations, which helped customer focus and raised the custodial care at the Hampton Roads Convention Center. Leavans helped to organize tabletop exercises held this past year with Hampton Roads Officials and law enforcement. Leavens has accepted a new position with SMG as operations manager at the new Albany (N.Y.) Capital Center.

Jake Levy
Director of Media Relations and Broadcaster, Quad Cities River Bandits, Davenport, Iowa
Age: 26

For broadcasting 140 Midwest League baseball games on AM radio and all 70 home games on MiLB.TV. Levy is the voice of Pleasant Valley HS football and basketball and production assistant for Augustana College & Western Illinois University.

Mitch List
Assistant General Manager, Knoxville (Tenn.) Civic Auditorium and Coliseum
Age: 28

For working with promoters to book and help promote more than 80 bookings in 2016 including national touring acts Alabama; Jim Gaffigan; Gabriel Iglesias; Kenny Rogers; Thomas Rhett and Sara Evans. List increased the venue’s Facebook audience by 150 percent and launched a new website, promoter guide and e-newsletter. He also implemented a comprehensive training for event staff on an enhanced patron experience.

Todd Miller
Owner and General Manager, Springfield (Ill.) Sliders
Age: 28

For transforming the team and, more importantly, the entire city. Miller has vast experience working in the live entertainment industry from working at the Township Auditorium, Columbia, S.C., and worked with Feld Entertainment before owning and operating the Springfield Sliders team and facility.

Lisa Niess
Marketing and Communications Manager/SMG, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
Age: 28

For leading the grand opening activities for U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, including a ribbon cutting and two-day public open house which saw 190,000 attendees. Niess orchestrated a full week of media events garnering local, regional and national coverage. In addition to SMG-promoted events, Niess supported marketing an inaugural international soccer match and back-to-back, sold-out concerts by Luke Bryan and Metallica, topping major event attendance of 160,000 in the first month of operation. Niess has built the venue’s advertising and creative strategy, including sales, branding and communications assets. She commissioned a 64-page U.S. Bank Stadium special issue of Minnesota Meetings and Events Magazine this fall to educate meeting and event planners on booking options. Under Niess, Facebook grew 135 percent; Twitter, 130 percent and Instagram, 1,440 percent.

Michael Owens
Director of Live Entertainment, Canucks Sports & Entertainment, Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Age: 32

For just finishing another record-breaking year of ticket sales and multiple sold-out performances from some of the year’s top-touring artists including Adele, Drake and The Tragically Hip. Owens played an integral role in negotiating and winning bids for the 2018-19 World Junior Hockey Championships. Owens is successful in fostering relationships with agents and promoters and works to find unique and creative ways to welcome artists and crews to the venue. He created the “artist wall” that boasts massive pieces of graphic art customized to welcome each artist to the arena.  

Andrea Carroll Papirny 
Events Manager, Rogers Place, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Age: 35

For pulling together and leading a brand new staff, from building operations to conversions and hockey operations, while seamlessly working with different promoters to provide the best possible experiences for clients, fans and peers alike. Papirny and her team executed one of the most aggressive opening schedules a new venue has experienced, including a total of 37 events in just the first 30 days after opening the doors to Rogers Place, Edmonton’s new downtown arena. She coordinated a 60,000-person public open house; the juggling of five world-class concerts including back-to-back Keith Urban and Dolly Parton shows; two nights of Drake performances and the conversion of six hockey games intermixed during that span. Papirny also helped execute a floating stage with Kanye West, the venue’s first 360 concert with Carrie Underwood and the Edmonton Oilers inaugural season opener.

Jay Polkinghorn 
General Manager, Alameda County Fairgrounds, Pleasanton, Calif.
Age: 31

For his ability to create relationships with current and potential clients and increase business for the company. Polkinghorn was promoted to GM at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, Pleasanton, Calif., for Spectra Food Services & Hospitality after he joined Spectra by Comcast Spectacor as banquet manager at Sioux Falls (S.D.) Convention Center. After 11 months in the position, Polkinghorn, then 22 years old, was promoted to GM. Polkinghorn created a relationship with the local professional baseball team and grew the business for the company by adding the Sioux Falls Baseball Stadium to his responsibilities. Polkinghorn also successfully led the team for the renewal of the convention center, as well as the addition of the Sioux Falls Arena, Orpheum Theater and the soon-to-be-built Event Center.

Stephen Poremba 
Director of Marketing, Mohegan Sun Arena, Wilkes Barre, Pa.
Age: 34

For assisting with securing the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association’s District 2 High School Basketball Championships for three years at the venue and bringing in nearly $25,000 in sponsorship revenue for the event in its first year. The event exceeded expectations by nearly doubling the anticipated attendance for the weekend and brought high accolades for the venue and the SMG management staff from the PIAA District 2 Committee, State Committee, local dignitaries and media partners. Poremba also assisted with the marketing and publicity campaigns for over 50 concert and family show event performances in 2016, including a 'Welcome To Wilkes Barre” campaign to welcome legend Barry Manilow back to Northeast Pa., on his “One Last Time” tour. Poremba secured numerous community marketing assets to help launch a social media blitz for Wilkes-Barre’s “Fanilows” to wish Manilow well on his last stop in the area. The venue created an oversized ‘thank you’ card signed by his fans, which Manilow then published on social media and garnered over 47,000 views and over 3,500 post reactions on Facebook within 48 hours of the post.

Michael Robinson 
Event Coordinator, Curtis Culwell Center, Garland, Texas
Age: 27

For managing concerts, graduations, cheer events and many other types of events. Robinson was part of the 2016 IAVM Foundation 30 under 30 program at the same time he was working to receive his certified venue professional status. He is very goal-oriented, a team player and has great people skills.

Andrew Saunders 
Booking Manager, Venue Coalition
Age: 29

For being responsible for providing content from concerts to sporting events to over 50 venue members. Venues place a lot of trust with Saunders to find content and negotiate deals on their behalf. In his short time working in this industry he has become a leader and has built multiple relationships within the industry.

Aaron Shaber
Director of Finance/SMG, John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.
Age: 30

For outstanding leadership of SMG’s finance and concert merchandise sales operations at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Shaber picked up the baton as finance manager in August 2015 when the previous director departed and has since earned a promotion to director as a result of his department’s efficiency and effectiveness toward highly accurate reporting and accounting. While finance often receives less attention than more visible operations, Shaber’s focus on ensuring that all business operations, including ticketing, merchandise, and parking reconciliations are in proper order is an invaluable resource for the arena. Shaber settles all major events on behalf of SMG and regularly serves as manager on duty for concerts and basketball games.

Jordan Silberman
Vice President of Operations, Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Age: 29

For daily oversight of operations and conversions for the building. There was a span of 95 events across 70 days, which involved 46 changeovers, including two different setups during the same day. While managing the logistics for the 95 varying events, Silberman also took on the role of being the local tournament director for the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament, which took place at the arena last March. As tournament director, Silberman was responsible for the oversight and management of the event across operations, ticketing and marketing. Another major project he was involved in was overseeing the completion of a $6-million renovation on the event level. The renovations entailed the build-out of a 10,000-sq.-ft., brand-new VIP club hospitality space and relocating, reconfiguring and redesigning of several rooms on the event level. Prior to being in operations, Silberman also developed a new processing system for accessible seating orders at Verizon Center when he served as the director of accessible seating.

Zach Sloman  
Booking and Sales Manager, John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.
Age: 25

For creating and implementing a daily social media campaign to celebrate John Paul Jones (JPJ) Arena’s 10-year anniversary and increasing overall bookings. During this time, Sloman’s achievements were documented via unique posts about event anniversaries, construction milestones, community involvement and Virginia basketball. Sloman has taken the overall marketing and guest communication efforts of the arena to a new level of detail via tracking fan engagement metrics via social media and communicating directly with individual fans. For Twenty One Pilots specifically, Sloman kept anxious fans informed and engaged for weeks leading up to the show. Sloman has also increased booking revenues by recruiting several regional promoters and trade organizations to confirm events that otherwise would not have visited Charlottesville.

Michael Sulkes
Assistant General Manager, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
Age: 30

For planning and managing of the day-to-day operations at the Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia. In addition to overseeing the venue’s booking process, Sulkes is instrumental in pursuing new business opportunities for the facility. During his tenure at Wells Fargo Center, Sulkes has taken the lead on many marquee events the venue has hosted, including the recent 2016 Democratic National Convention, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Frozen Four, multiple NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournaments, the National Hockey League draft and major global touring concerts including last spring’s historic Pearl Jam concerts, Paul McCartney’s 2015 “Out There” tour and the Rolling Stones’ 50th Anniversary tour. Sulkes was also instrumental in the venues 20th anniversary campaign and led the charge to create a free, community open house birthday party.

Nick Waclawski 
Event Operations Manager, John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.
Age: 30

For stepping up and taking on a difficult leadership role during a staff restructure and ensuring seamless continuity of operations. Waclawski transitioned from a highly efficient role in overseeing operational changeovers and part-time staffing management to leading multiple full-time team members in the newly combined operations/event services department. Under Waclawski’s guidance, operations and event management continue to be smooth and communication between staff is outstanding, thanks in large part to his attention to the finer details of the industry. Waclawski also regularly serves as manager on duty for events to ensure outstanding overall customer service.

Rudi Wilhoite 
Concert Promoter, Outback Concerts of Tennessee, Inc.
Age: 23

For being the brand manager for the Fourth Annual Wild West Comedy Festival, which is one of the largest comedy festivals in the world, held in Nashville. The festival has featured artists such as Chelsea Handler, Kevin Hart, Seth Meyers, Jeff Foxworthy, Adam Sandler and more. Preparing for the festival is a company-wide effort, and Wilhoite has taken the lead on ensuring the shows are running smoothly from start to finish. She is also a member of the T.J. Martell Foundation’s Young Professionals Committee. This committee supports the foundation’s mission to raise money for leukemia, cancer, and AIDS research by connecting young professionals in the music industry and creating events across Nashville. The Nashville Downtown Derby Bed Race is run by this committee and attracts hundreds of music industry professionals while raising tens of thousands of dollars for the foundation. Day to day, Wilhoite is also in charge of promoting over 30 different live performances at any given time.

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