If you ask Steve Hogan about his biggest accomplishments in his 24 years at Florida Citrus Sports, he’ll talk about helping to bring the NFL Pro Bowl over from Honolulu, Hawaii, raising the profile of college-football bowl games the organization hosts and the ongoing investment in the community surrounding Camping World Stadium through LIFT Orlando and this year’s Camping World Kickoff where the Florida Gators will play the Miami Hurricanes in Orlando to open the 2019 college football season.
But he is quick to point out that the credit belongs to a lot of people. The staff at FCS, the membership of the organization and community leaders all help shape the game plan of this not-for-profit.
You’re going to celebrate 25 years at Florida Citrus Sports next year. Did you start there right after college?
I started at Polk Community College, now Polk State College. My claim to fame is probably the fact that I am a distinguished alumni of Polk State alongside George Kalogridis from Disney. He is certainly deserving.
I went to UCF after, graduated, and I actually went to work in sales first in the Tampa area for Cellular One. Those were the type of phones you would see in that old movie “Wall Street,” right? Huge phones with a bag for the battery attached.
Then I went into the newspaper business, and I worked at the Lakeland Ledger in advertising sales. That was a part of the New York Times’ regionally owned papers in Florida.
I didn’t love any of those jobs, but they were great experiences for me both in
corporate and in sales. And I got an opportunity to come over to Florida Citrus Sports in 1995.
You moved back to Orlando at that point. Were you already married?
No, I actually was not married. I didn’t get married until I was 45, so late bloomer – never been married before. My wife Angie and I met when she was on a vacation with a bunch of girlfriends and their kids at Disney. I happened to be there for business, and we ran at each other and kept in touch for a number of years. Ultimately, I talked her into moving down.
We enjoy a stepson, Davis, who’s at Clemson who we’re very proud of his junior year. And then we have a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old, a boy and a girl.
I pray I can stay healthy enough to be at least on a walker when she’s going to prom in high school.
Florida Citrus Sports hosts a number of big events at Camping World Stadium and in the community, but not everyone understands what the organization does. What’s your elevator speech when telling someone about the organization?
You could view us in a lot of ways as a business. We operate much like a major tenant of a stadium or arena. Just like the Magic do at the Amway Center, we have a schedule of events that we want to promote. We just happen to do it through a diversity of college football games and international soccer matches and NFL opportunities.
We are a not-for-profit, event-management company. We are there to put heads in beds in this town and bring events that positively impact the community. And, ultimately, we
use those resources to benefit the socioeconomic parts of our region around the stadium in the form of LIFT Orlando.
Like any other sports organization, you can join it as a member season-ticket holder. That comes with the comfort of not only having business-to-business relationships and enjoying major sports and entertainment but knowing that those resources are going to transform some of our most impoverished neighborhoods within Central Florida.
That’s our value proposition to the community.
You and your team have to work with a lot of different interests and organizations to get new events and grow the ones you already host. What’s your approach to the negotiation process?
You have to have a vision for where you’re going, where you want to end up, what a win looks like, and then you have to take a look at the obstacles to that success. If you can map that out, it sets a course in terms of the conversations you’re having to get there.
When you’re in the world of college football postseason, there are a ton of stakeholders. It’s like six-way chess to get these deals done. You have to pay conferences to get a certain level of pick priority in selection – which gets better teams, which gets more fan travel, which gets better TV ratings.
To offer that money, you need the resources to stand behind that. And that comes from TV. You may need to promise TV executives an event that you maybe don’t yet have. You have to get title sponsors, and they want to know what they’re buying. In the meantime, there are about 28 other cities around America that want some of the same things.
Anybody can write a check. But if your heart’s in it for the right reason, and you truly care about the outcome for your partner in this, I think people see that. And that’s demonstrated over a long period of time. Usually, those are the things that allow you to overcome obstacles and overcome competition. That’s been our philosophy to the approach.