Leadership / 06.13.23
Carol Foreman Hits a Career Home Run Working on a Single Annual Event
Carol Foreman holds a somewhat unique position in the ticketing industry. For 13 years, she has worked with season ticket holders for a single event, the NCAA Men’s College World Series, organized annually by the nonprofit College World Series of Omaha, Inc. She has been with the organization for over 30 years, starting in 1990 on the operations side, but her relationship with the College World Series goes back much further.
The College World Series of Omaha, Inc. staff, L-R: Liz Clifford, Operations and Events Manager; Katie Karmazin, Senior Project Coordinator; Amy Hornocker, Executive Director; Carol Foreman, Director of Ticketing; and Joey Gardner, Marketing and Creative Services Manager.
“My sister was a bat girl for the College World Series,” Carol says. “I used to sell T-shirts for it at the team hotels. I also helped drive the rental cars from the dealerships to the hotels for the teams.”
This is a career that was meant to be. Carol was first hired by an instructor, Dan Morrissey, after the conclusion of a class at Creighton University. She started as an intern with his meeting and convention planning company, which was contracted to help as the event started getting too big for a volunteer board of directors to handle. An early mentor to Carol, Morrissey served as director of marketing and events for the College World Series of Omaha.
“They saw the event getting bigger and bigger and knew they needed more help,” Carol says. “I came on not knowing much about the world of event planning. Dan Morrissey hired me and showed me the ropes. That is how I got involved with the Men’s College World Series. I did a lot of things on the operations side as the series got bigger, with VIP hospitality, autograph sessions, fan fests, team dinners and those types of things. So that is what I worked on and where I got my start.”
Carol went on to become the Ticket Manager in 2010, and then last year, she was promoted to her current position as Director of Ticketing.
“When we were building the new stadium [known today as Charles Schwab Field Omaha], we knew it would come with its own ticketing staff [through MECA, the stadium operator], so we did not need the box office staff any longer. But we would still need a ticket manager to manage the ticketing side of it,” Carol says.
Indeed, the ticket manager for College World Series of Omaha, Inc., was in her mid-70s, having spent 40 years in the role. “I started shadowing our ticket manager for two years prior to us moving to the new stadium. I worked with her on everything from managing the season tickets to setting up the events for the year with Ticketmaster … When we moved over [from Rosenblatt Stadium to the new venue] in 2010, we all became full-time staff of College World Series of Omaha.”
Kathryn Morrissey, Dan’s wife, would take on the executive director job and was also a wonderful mentor to Carol. “She is someone who would listen to you and provide the feedback that you needed. She was also one of those people who very much would happily do whatever it took to make the event successful, whether that meant picking up trash on the sidewalk or answering a phone call … Dan and Kathryn started me on my career, helped me along the way and were people who I could look up to.”
The family connection that began as a couple running an event company eventually went even further when Carol married Kathryn’s brother.
“Working here also brought me my family,” Carol says. “I married Kathryn's brother, Steve, almost 23 years ago now, so it was kind of a little family. Dan retired first, and Kathryn just retired last year, so it is very different working here without them … Our new executive director has been here for five years now, and I have known her since my daughter was born. It was a very easy transition, and she is doing a great job.”
Carol thoroughly enjoys working on a single event, but she deeply admires those in the industry whose roles cover multiple events and venues.
“I see those people on stage earning their awards, and in some respects … I do not feel like I am at their level,” Carol says modestly. “I have always worked on the season ticket holder side, so I haven't worked in a box office setting before.”
This was something that Carol wanted to change. So, to learn more about the ticket office, she reached out to Jon Secunda, Director of Ticketing for the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and a mentor for her through the INTIX Mentor Program. Jon offered Carol a job in their ticket office to gain more experience. “I have enjoyed working in a different environment and learning new skills. While I have not been able to work there in a while, I hope to start taking more shifts in the coming months to continue to understand that side of ticketing.”
L-R: Nick Retzlaff of MECA, Seattle Kraken mascot Buoy, Carol and Jon Secunda at Climate Pledge Arena for INTIX 2023.
She says, “Ticketing folks who have all that experience and are doing multiple events every year, those are the people I admire because I do one event every year. I am focused on that for my entire year, and they are jumping from event to event. I find that amazing, and kudos to those who do that year in and year out because I am fortunate enough to focus my energies on one event and hopefully do that to the best of my abilities.”
Carol certainly does her job extremely well if the latest subscription sales for the Men’s College World Series are any indication.
“Our renewals went incredibly well with our season ticket holders this year,” she says. “We had so few tickets released, and with the number of current season ticket holders who were asking to add seats to their accounts, it basically was a wash,” Carol says, adding that approximately 300 new season ticket accounts were added last year for the first time since COVID-19. “And so, we did not have anything really to sell [this year as season seats] without dipping into what we set aside for day-of-game sales, so we just decided we are not going to go out this year and then we will see what happens next year. It is a great problem to have, I will tell you that.”
While Carol works on a single annual event, it takes more than one person to make it a success. “I like leaders who are willing to listen,” she says. “Someone who will take ideas and be willing to work with you on those ideas. Also, someone who provides constructive feedback. I am on my third executive director or president of the company, and thankfully, all of them have been that way.”
She also is grateful for the support of the NCAA ticketing and marketing staff and MECA ticketing staff. “Our three entities work together to make this event a success. Nick Retzlaff and Jalissa Felici with MECA handle the ticket office and advance sales, as well as club and suites, and Jared Kramer and Greg Bowder with the NCAA manage the event setup, team ticketing and so, so much more. It really is a team effort to bring this all together.”
When it comes to friends, Carol says she surrounds herself with those who have a sense of humor.
“I love people who have a great sense of humor. I am more of an introvert, so people who are a little more outgoing. They are the kind of people I am drawn to because they keep the conversations going, and they are fun people to be around,” Carol says. “I also like someone who is kind, able to laugh and laugh at themselves.”
She adds, “In my friends, I value the ability to pick up after long absences … I value their ability to laugh together. My daughter's [high school] graduation party was in the evening [on a recent weekend], and after everybody left, it was just my close circle of friends who hung out. We sat for hours just talking, laughing and reminiscing. One has moved away, and I don’t happen to see the other very often, even though she lives here in town … I have a very tight circle of friends. I have had these friends for, gosh, 30, 40 years , and they are always there. Even if we don't talk for a while, I always know I can pick up the phone and they will be there for me.”
Carol with her daughter, Elizabeth, and husband, Steve, at Elizabeth’s graduation from Marian High School in Omaha. Elizabeth was the valedictorian for the class of 2023.
Carol is a devoted wife and mother. She and her husband have one child, and she is clearly the love of their life.
“My family brings me the most joy,” she says. “They are the people I want to hang out with. They are the ones I want to spend time with … My daughter will be going to school nearby [in the fall] when she is not studying abroad … I have elderly parents and being able to visit them and my father-in-law as well [is something we all enjoy]. We are really family-oriented, [especially] after last year when we had to move my parents out of their home and into assisted living. It was a challenge for my entire family. The best thing to come out of that was that my brother, sister and I became even closer through that whole experience. Having everyone come together for my daughter's graduation was just amazing to me [too], and to have my two closest friends and their families come to the graduation as well [was wonderful]. They are friends, but they are family to me. That is my core group there. They are the people who bring me most of my joy.”
For many years, Carol’s family has lived in the same home, a ranch-style bungalow just outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa, roughly a 30-minute drive to Omaha.
“My home is my sanctuary,” she says. “I like to hang out at home with my family … We live on an acreage, so there are always things to do outside, keeping up the yard and flowerbeds and things like that.”
Carol says, “I used to love reading Patricia Cornwell books, but because my husband travelled a lot, it was just me and my young daughter out here alone. Her books are all murder mysteries. I can’t read those out here. It is a little too creepy … But I actually love where we live. I absolutely love it. We live out in the country. It is quiet. We have a great view, so we can watch the storms roll in.”
Seeing rainbows after the storm from Carol’s deck at home.
And the storms certainly do roll in, sometimes with devastating consequences.
“In 2014, I think it was on June 3, we had a storm roll through with baseball-sized hail and 100-mile-an-hour winds. [It] broke out all of the windows on the west and north sides of our house,” Carol says. “The devastation was unreal. This is a week and a half before the Men’s College World Series starts, we've got boarded-up windows and are basically living in half of our house. My daughter's bedroom was damaged. Our spare bedroom was damaged. So, she had to bunk with us for months until we got that taken care of. That was another fun weather event just right before the series.”
A view from Carol’s deck in the summer. Her family has always loved having corn growing around the house because it creates a natural privacy fence.
When she says “another,” Carol is referring to a major flood three years earlier which forced them to evacuate their house and move into town for a short time. Ironically, while having to deal with that, the Men’s College World Series was in the middle of transitioning from one stadium to another. Given the circumstances, she now lists that as her greatest achievement.
“That was probably the biggest job I have ever done, and it was right at the start of my ticketing career,” she says. “We were moving from the stadium where the event had been held since 1950 to a brand-new stadium that was built [specifically] for the Men's College World Series. We were reseating all of our season ticket holders into a stadium that was configured much differently than the old stadium and trying to keep people as close as possible to what used to be their seating location. It was very challenging, but we got through it. We were also changing ticketing systems, so it was all of those things all at once. We were doing all of that when we were going through major flooding here … Having to deal with all of that on the personal side as well, having all of that happen at once, getting through it and being able to move forward was probably the most challenging time and my greatest achievement.”
An ominous storm as viewed from Carol’s house.
That new stadium now counts as one of her favorite venues.
“Of course, I love Charles Schwab Field Omaha,” Carol says. “I loved [Johnny] Rosenblatt [Stadium] beforehand, but it needed a lot of work. When we moved to this new stadium, it was like, oh, this is nice. It has what we need because it was built for the Men’s College World Series, so we were able to tailor-make it into what we needed it to be. It feels like home there because I spend a good couple of weeks there during the [actual] event … If I'm going sentimental, I would have to say Memorial Stadium, [home of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers], down in Lincoln [is also a favorite]. I spent a lot of time there, too. I went to school there … The history, the tradition, means more to me than a physical building. It's more what's in the building that makes it special than the building itself for me.”
One of Carol’s favorite venues for sports: Memorial Stadium at the University of Nebraska.
One might expect Carol to rave about baseball when asked about her favourite live event, given that her job is entirely focused on that sport. But surprisingly, she puts college football and even competitive swimming higher on her list. Still, she says she loves everything about her job.
“I have been so incredibly fortunate to work with wonderful, hardworking, fun people,” she says. “That has been the best part of it for me. Also, getting to work with fans from across the country has been a great experience. For a lot of people, coming here is a bucket list item. They have wanted to come for years and now they're making it happen. They are excited and that makes you excited as well. You want it to be a great experience for them. Once you get in the stadium, [I love] seeing all those fans in their seats and having a great time. Then you get that feedback after the event saying, ‘We had a wonderful time, how do I get season tickets?’”
Carol and her husband, Steve, attending a Nebraska game at Oregon and exploring Cannon Beach.
Carol’s involvement with INTIX began after she became ticket manager for the Men’s College World Series.
“That is about the same time Josh Logan started working with the NCAA. In our meetings over the next year or two, he asked if I knew anything about INTIX. I said, ‘No, I don't.’ He said, ‘Well, I really think you should join. I think it would be beneficial if you were a part of this organization. I've been a part of it for a while. I think you'd get a lot out of it.’ Josh instigated things and got it approved for me to join, then attend the conferences.”
INTIX is also how Carol met and got to know other ticketing professionals in her local area. She has since branched out to join committees and spoke at the 2023 conference about her experiences with the INTIX Mentor Program. She also appreciates the opportunity to participate in the weekly Wednesday Wisdom calls.
“I think those are the best things ever,” she says. “I am so glad they started and really glad that they are continuing. I mostly just listen in. I don't engage in talking unless Maureen calls on me, but I have learned so much through those calls. Even if it is not sports-related, there is still something that I can glean from whoever is providing information.”
That willingness to share really appeals to Carol.
“INTIX gives me a group of people who understand what I do and what I am going through. It gives me the opportunity to engage with people who have the same responsibilities, challenges and successes. Sometimes it is hard. People think, ‘Oh, [your job] must be so much fun.’ And it is. But it is also a lot of work ... I don't think people who purchase a ticket and attend events understand what goes on behind the scenes and what it takes to get to that point, so it is nice to be able to talk to those people who do get that and do understand that … They have solutions that maybe you haven't thought of yet and they are willing to share their knowledge.”
Carol says one other very important thing that INTIX has given her is a way to network. Indeed, when asked what advice she would give herself if she could go back in time, it was to take more chances and get to know more people.
“That comes with being more introverted, but just getting to know people and building your network, really working at that. I think I'm starting to pick that up now, even though I'm kind of in the waning years of my career. That’s what INTIX has done is help me get to know more people. Perhaps taking a few risks. I stayed close to home for college, and in some respects, it would have been nice to have gone a little further away and had some other experiences. But in other respects, it's led me to where I am today. I feel very lucky to be where I am constantly still trying to make those things happen and trying to take that advice now.”
Getting over her fears and becoming less introverted is important to Carol. Perhaps it’s no wonder her all-time favorite album is by Tears for Fears.
“My husband's family has a home in Lake of the Ozarks,” she says. “We go down there every year and hang out, and we always have a playlist for the car on the way down. One of my all-time favorite albums is ‘Songs from the Big Chair’ by Tears for Fears. I like every song on the album and … because of those trips and the timeframe that that album came out, it evokes so many great memories for me.”
Carol says, “We love going down to the lake. You can do what you want. You can read, swim, boat, eat and sleep … It is pure relaxation. I get to totally decompress. After 20-some years of going down there, you know exactly where you want to eat and what you want to do; it's kind of a no-brainer. And that's what makes it so relaxing.”
Boating at sunset at Lake of the Ozarks. Other than early mornings, Carol says it is the best time to be on the water.
But Carol admits she would like to travel even further afield.
“My husband and I love to travel; we just haven't gotten very far yet. We are hopeful that once our daughter is on her own, we will have the opportunity to do more of it. I would love to go back to where my husband and I took our honeymoon, Moorea and Bora Bora. We always said we would love to get back there and experience it again. It was such a great trip. It was magical and perfect. I have also always wanted to go to Europe. I never have. So, I'm jealous that my daughter will be in Italy this fall, where she is spending her first college semester. We are going to try and get over to see her. She will be in the Dominican Republic next fall, so we are hoping to get there as well. I guess the other place that our family [loves] is Disney World. As long as you go in knowing that you are going to be waiting in line and it is going to be hot, it's all good.”
Carol says the last 30 years with the Men’s College World Series have all been good too, closing out our interview with some thoughts about all that her experience has meant to her.
“I started as an intern in 1990,” she says. “I could not have imagined how much this event would grow. When I first started, we were at the old Rosenblatt Stadium, and at the time, there were still houses that people lived in on the same side of the street as the stadium. Our first hospitality tent was almost in someone's backyard. Seeing it evolve from that to the corporate hospitality we have here now through the NCAA's partner on location, it's very different. It has been wonderful to see the transformation of the event.”
Carol says, “It has been a great 30+ years. Being able to touch a lot of different parts of the event [has been amazing]. Like most people will tell you, ticketing wasn't anything that was on my radar. As we were looking to transition to this new stadium, and we still call it new even though it's now 12 years old … knowing that our ticket manager wasn't moving on [with us], I've jumped in and done whatever needed to happen, and [thought] maybe this is something I can take on. I had helped out, so it was something that I had some interest in, then when it came time, I jumped in with both feet.”
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Tags: Leadership , GTKY