Third-year student Raja Salahuddin takes time out to pose for a picture with fellow volunteer Shauna Leigh during the Pro Bowl in Sun Life Stadium.
Nearly 6,000 South Floridians signed up to be volunteers for the National Football League’s Super Bowl and Pro Bowl games played at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens in late January and early February. Of those, 38 had ties to Barry.
Many students and faculty who are part of the sport management degree program in the School of Human Performance and Leisure Sciences used the three-week long festivities to cultivate ties with sports industry professionals.
“Overall the experience was very busy,” said junior Raja Salahuddin. “I felt like there were few rest moments. If I had the chance to do it again, I would do it, but I would register early next time so that I could actually sign up for events that I wanted to participate in.”
Salahuddin said she volunteered for the Pro Bowl pregame events and the welcoming party at the Newport Beach Resort on Sunny Isles Beach. Volunteers were known as South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee Ambassadors and had to work a minimum of two five-hour shifts and attend several training sessions. In addition to helping out in the stadium during the games, they answered questions and helped direct visitors at the three South Florida airports and in various hotel lobbies. Those who could make more of a time commitment could sign up as Ambassador Captains and take on additional responsibilities.
“The experience was very time-consuming,” said Thomas Hipp, a sport management graduate student from Germany. “I did enjoy it though, especially afterwards, because you could go into the stadium and watch the game.” Hipp said he was in charge of directing people to their hospitality suites and making sure ticket holders had proper access to select areas.
“I am about to graduate and I wanted to network with professionals who are in the business,” he added.
While Hipp had the chance to watch the New Orleans Saints defeat the Indianapolis Colts during the Super Bowl, freshman Kiara Barnes was outside working in Fan Plaza, an area full of football-related events and activities that was only open to people who held tickets to the games.
“My experience was once in a lifetime; I would love to do it again,” said Barnes, who also helped to decorate Sun Life Stadium for the Pro Bowl.
The volunteer experience wasn’t just reserved for Barry students, however. Dr. Darlene Kluka, a professor in the School of Human Performance and Leisure Sciences, worked at the NFL Experience, a fan festival event held just outside of the stadium during the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl.
“At the Pro Bowl I put on tattoos for people, what fun,” said Kluka, who is the coordinator of the sport management programs.
Besides the free food and interesting jobs, several of the students had the chance to be up close and personal with celebrities. Hipp said he stood right next to actor Jamie Foxx and rapper Lil Wayne.
Kluka said she met former NBA player P.J. Brown, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and CNN political analyst Donna Brazile.
Tourism officials estimate that 200,000 people descended on South Florida for the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl and that the economic impact to the region was approximately $153 million. South Florida’s Super Bowl Host Committee has already put in a bid to host the 2014 Super Bowl, which would give a fresh crop of Barry students and faculty the chance to participate in one of the world’s largest sporting events.