HOT ROD LINCOLN: Darryl Dunn, front passenger seat, waves to spectators at the 134th Rose Parade on Jan. 2 in Pasadena, California. Dunn, Lorenzo White and Vince Evans were inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. (Getty Images)
CRUISING INTO 2023
Darryl Dunn cruised into the new year in style, riding shotgun in a vintage Lincoln convertible at the Rose Parade as a 2022 inductee of the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.
Dunn, former GM of Rose Bowl Stadium, also celebrates a new job with Nations Group, a consultant in the college space.
After spending 27 years running the historic stadium in Pasadena, California, Dunn retired from his post last summer, but wanted to remain in the business by using his experience renovating the Rose Bowl to help universities upgrade their college football venues, many of which were built a century ago.
Chris Nations, owner of Nations Group and a former college athletics administrator with Maryland, Arizona State and Santa Clara, contacted Dunn after reading a story in VenuesNow about Dunn’s retirement and seeking “Act 2” in his career.
After spending a month traveling in Europe, Dunn started consulting informally with Nations Group before officially starting his new job Nov. 1 as a company vice president.
On the front end, Nations Group helps schools determine financing, programming and incremental revenue opportunities. After projects are approved, they typically fill the role of owner’s representative as the conduit between their client and the architects and builders, similar to CAA Icon and Legends, two competitors.
“These projects are like putting puzzles together and I’ve always said the Rose Bowl was like a Rubik’s Cube,” Dunn said. “You’ve got to have the different sides match. I see a lot of similarities to the Rose Bowl. In some instances, they’re the lifeblood of the institution and a lot of them need freshening up. They’re older.”
Dunn’s first project with Nations Group is consulting with the University of Kansas on a rebuild of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, the Big 12 school’s football facility that opened in 1921. In that respect, it’s much more than a refresh.
Initial plans for the project, estimated to cost $335 million, includes more premium amenities and a conference center, plus a new gateway to the north side of campus, flowing into the Jayhawk Welcome Center. The welcome center, set to open in February, serves as a place for prospective students to gather on campus visits.
Ultimately, school officials want to transform the stadium into a multi-purpose venue, supported by additional development next to the stadium that could potentially include retail, restaurants and a healthcare facility, according to last fall’s proposal requesting architectural services.
In addition to KU, Nations Group is owner’s rep for Reser Stadium upgrades at Oregon State; Air Force Academy, which broke ground Jan. 24 to build a new east club at Falcon Stadium; and for Penn State, planning a long-awaited renovation of Beaver Stadium.
“Chris has done a masterful job and one of the reasons I wanted to join him was because of his reputation,” Dunn said. “People in the university world trust him. He reminds me of the ISP days and Ben Sutton; people laser focused on universities. That’s what they did (with multimedia rights) and did it really well and that’s what Chris does.”
GIANT SHOES TO FILL: Speaking with colleagues of Russ Stanley, the San Francisco Giants’ longtime head of ticketing, for the Ticketing Stars class of 2023 it was interesting to see several team officials have been with the team for three decades.
The list includes Stanley; Jorge Costa, senior vice president and chief venue officer; Jeff Tucker, vice president of ticket and premium revenue; and Staci Slaughter, senior executive advisor after serving as vice president of communications.
Then there’s Mario Alioto. The Giants’ executive vice president of business operations, enters his 50th and final season with the team in 2023. Alioto started in August 1973 as a bat boy for the visiting teams at old Candlestick Park.
For all five officials, their loyalty and dedication to the Giants speaks to the high character and integrity of the organization as a whole, no big surprise to those in the sports biz that know them well.
Alioto now ranks among the most-tenured Giants employees after equipment manager Mike Murphy, 81, retired in January after working for the team since 1958, their first season in the Bay Area. It was Murphy who hired Alioto, after Mario’s father made regular stops at the ballpark clubhouses as a linen truck driver with his son in tow.
As bat boy for the visitors, Alioto wore the uniforms of every other National League team, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants’ archrival. He worked his way up to the front office in the 1980s.
“Having kids get booed at Candlestick Park wearing a Dodgers uniform — that was me,” Alioto said.
“I think back on the players who went through the clubhouse back in those days, such as Johnny Bench and Pete Rose, Willie Stargell, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson. I was lucky,” he said. “That’s the beauty of baseball. We celebrate its history and help fans relive their memories. That’s a big part of the Giants’ brand and I’ve enjoyed it.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Senior Editor Don Muret’s column appears monthly in VenuesNow magazine. It’s been updated to run in Pulse.