Super homecoming for sports business alum

Andrew Hudgins relishes his new title in stadium operations for the Las Vegas Raiders.

Andrew Hudgins wisely heeded the advice of a planner before Super Bowl LVIII in February.

At about 5 a.m. – more than 10 hours before kickoff – Hudgins climbed to the top row of Allegiant Stadium to ponder the transformation of his hometown and his young but eventful career.

“Being able to have that moment and reflection of thinking back to all the previous experiences and everything I’ve done to get me to this moment, it’s pretty special,” Hudgins said.

“To be able to do it in my hometown, it’s something I’ll never forget, for sure.”

Hudgins grew up in Las Vegas – home of the Las Vegas Raiders and their 65,000-seat stadium that also is host to other major events. But when Hudgins left to attend Grand Canyon University in 2014, his hometown had yet to experience a growth spurt as a major sports town.

In the last 10 years, the massive expansion of Las Vegas, coupled with the experience Hudgins gained with the Sports and Entertainment Business Club at GCU, major league spring training and the Oakland Athletics, lined up perfectly for him to take over as senior manager of stadium operations for the Raiders.

Andrew Hudgins gained experience at GCU while his hometown of Las Vegas was growing as a sports destination.

“It’s incredible to see the trajectory of things,” said Hudgins, who graduated from GCU in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management.

“When I attended GCU, there weren’t the major sports attractions (in Vegas). There was Triple-A baseball and (NBA) Summer League and rodeo in town. But that was primarily it, and now in a short decade it exploded to the NFL, NHL, WNBA, and hopefully major league baseball and NBA will follow suit.”

Hudgins’ duties deal primarily with the Raiders and implementing a gameday setup. Because the Raiders own Allegiant Stadium, they have more input in day-to-day operations – especially when hosting other events. Hudgins and his colleagues work in conjunction with ASM Global, a venue and concert management company, to provide the best fan experience possible.

In addition to Raiders home games and the Super Bowl, Allegiant Stadium has been host to concerts, soccer matches, UNLV football games and college football bowl games.

“Our game weeks start when the clock hits zero from the game before,” Hudgins said. “We’re already moving forward into thinking that next week and what’s going on. The offseason deals a lot with preplanning and making sure systems, programs and processes are in place to where if we have to adjust and adapt on a game week or on a game day on the fly, we have the resources and ability to do so.”

Hudgins learned the importance of versatility at GCU, gaining “hands-on perspective that multiplied tenfold” when he entered the workforce. The sports event planning and sports management classes were instrumented in the gameday process.

His desire to be a “jack-of-all trades” paid off as a member of GCU's Sports Entertainment and Business Club, where he could volunteer to work at a golf course or assist at the Jerry Colangelo Classic or a Suns or Diamondbacks event.

“I just wanted to put my foot in the door everywhere to find what my niche market or industry would be in, and then being able to pull that into a full-time career,” Hudgins said. “It really is continuing to learn every stop of the way, being a sponge and absorb as much knowledge and information as possible.”

Hudgins, like many former Sports Entertainment and Business Club members, raved about the freedom given to him during an internship by Joe Pun, director of spring training business operations for the Oakland Athletics.

“He empowers a lot of the GCU students and serves well as a servant leader of wanting students to get the most out of their internship and being able to learn facets of what goes into operating, not just for business but the gameday experience as well,” Hudgins said of Pun, who serves on GCU’s Sports Business Advisory Board.

Hudgins was hired as a spring training events coordinator for the A’s the next three springs before moving to Oakland to serve as a full-time stadium operations and events assistant in 2017.

At that time, the A’s shared the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum complex with the Raiders and Warriors. That indirectly opened the door for Hudgins to return home and join the Raiders, who moved to Vegas after the 2019 season.

Hudgins said it was not uncommon for a group to work full time for one team and help their friends working for another team in the offseason.

One of his former A’s colleagues who was working for the Raiders asked if he would join their gameday staff. Since the Raiders had only 10 home dates, Hudgins accepted the offer.

Little did Hudgins know what was going to happen.

“I was able to move over there and make some connections with the Raiders,” Hudgins said. “They were moving to Las Vegas at that time, and I was able to be on a short list when it came time for fulltime opportunities that opened up in Las Vegas.

“Being able to stay established with my colleagues and have a connection that worked those positions helped elevate me to the role I’m in now.”

GCU News Senior Writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]

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