Professional News

“see ambition.”: Making One of the World’s Most Important Stadiums Work


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      Jen LeMaster wanted to go to college. But as a young girl growing up in Ashland, she learned early that it wouldn’t be easy financially. Her family couldn’t simply write a check for tuition and books.

     So, LeMaster started looking at community colleges and other options that might not cost as much – that is, until she received a scholarship that allowed her to attend the University of Kentucky.

     Now, more than 10 years later, standing in a premium luxury box at the Georgia Dome, which she helps manage in Atlanta, LeMaster credits her time at UK with giving her the educational and career opportunities that have allowed her to pursue her passions.

     “When I got the first scholarship money, my parents started to envision for me something that I wasn’t even envisioning for myself,” LeMaster said recently as she stood in a luxury box she helps manage at the Georgia Dome during the Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament. “I mean I had good grades, but I didn’t have the highest GPA … (but) there were other opportunities out there because I was involved in extracurricular events and a lot of sports activities and other things like that.”

     With her scholarship help in hand, LeMaster moved onto campus, living in a residence hall where she met a number of athletes from the 22 varsity sports offered at UK. She developed an interest in sports marketing, something that grew as she majored in political science and communications. With close mentoring from a couple of her Communications professors, LeMaster leveraged her academic and extracurricular interests into a job with UK’s athletics department.

     For 10 years, she climbed the ranks within the department, working in a number of positions that gave her a varied background in college sports marketing before taking a position with the Georgia Dome. Now, she manages all the Dome’s luxury and premium seating as well as the facility’s external relations efforts, including marketing and public relations. It’s a big job, in a big place with long hours and lots of details.

     The Georgia Dome is the largest cable-supported domed stadium in the world and is widely considered one of the top five facilities in the world, based on the number of people attending events each year. On a game day with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL, some 70,000 fans walk through the door, including former Presidents like Jimmy Carter, someone LeMaster got to spend time with alone on one game day. Helping manage 164 suites, two restaurants and two bars is time-consuming, but also exciting.

     LeMaster says her time at the University of Kentucky – both academically and through a start in her career in UK Athletics – helped prepare her for bigger things.

     “Working at UK in the athletics department really gave me the opportunity to fine-tune my skill set, to learn, to grow in my relationship building,” she says. “I think, if anything, that’s kind of what I got, kind of post-graduate, understanding how important relationships were and how small the world really is.” In addition, her educational experience has been invaluable in building a career, she says, because “UK offers the best of everything,” from community activities and involvement like Habitat for Humanity, to come of the country’s best collegiate sports, to an academic environment that is top-quality with professors who get involved and care.

     “No matter what your interest is or if it’s all of  those things, you kind of get it all,” she says. “And I think for young people, it’s really important to understand that there is diversity, and it does offer a lot of opportunity.”