Facility Training

A Real Fan’s Fan

By Rachele Canfield

Wayne Coleman loves baseball, and he wants you to love it, too. He loves baseball so much that he plays in an organized league for men 40 and over and is a longtime member and past president of the Braves 400 Club for fans.

Coleman has transferred his love for the game into his profession as a training consultant. In 1991, he approached the Braves’ stadium operations people with his made-for-baseball strategy designed to make Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium a better place for all of us to watch a game. He worked with employees at the stadium for three years and has since founded TAME (Training Assembly Managers and Employees), a company that does what its acronym promises by employing unconventional methods such as role-playing and discussion groups rather than the traditional lecture format.

"Badly upsetting one fan can affect hundreds (who are) standing by, watching," says Coleman.

Coleman is entertainment’s answer to Dale Carnegie—or at least the B.F. Skinner of stadium/arena/convention center/amphitheater operations. His seminars cover all the bases, from teaching front office telephone courtesy to supplying vendors with proper responses to fans screaming about the price of beer and training co-workers to deal with each other.

A veteran of 23 years in the consulting business, Coleman also works with such major-league companies as Coca-Cola, Sprint and United Parcel Service as well as those at stadiums and other entertainment venues throughout the country.

He re-writes and publishes employee handbooks, including one for the Georgia Dome, and also travels the speaking circuit. Sometimes he even goes undercover as an event attendee to gauge the performance of employees.

Return business is critical to the success of any company, and it’s certainly no different in sports and entertainment. The management of Toronto’s SkyDome estimates that the lifetime value of the average fan is $3,240, considering money spent for tickets, parking, concessions and souvenirs on multiple visits.

Among the clients who have hired Coleman to keep their customers coming back is New York’s Shea Stadium, home of the Mets and a facility not generally regarded as one of the warmer ones in baseball. He knew his mission to "put a smile in every seat" had been completed to satisfaction when four lawyers representing the National League came to Shea Stadium and asked, "What are you doing different out here? It’s so pleasant," he says proudly.

The irony of a mild-mannered Atlantan being brought in as a "hired gun" to clean up one of New York’s venues doesn’t escape Coleman. But Shea’s problems, or those of any facility, are not indigenous. Shea, he says, is subtly different than Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, but not entirely. Workers deal with the same kinds of problems and share similar inclinations toward handling them.

But Coleman is the first to defend the employees, even the crusty variety. He knows first-hand what it’s like to have "3 million fans…yelling right in your face" since his experiences as a teenager included ticket-taking, lot-attending, food-selling and scoreboard-keeping.

"It’s three hours out there, in the hot sun, on asphalt, under car exhaust," he says, describing the woes of a typical parking lot attendant. Nonetheless, he adds, the attendant is taught to keep conversation going, issue directions, direct the car to a spot, wish them a good game… After all, baseball is big business.

Reprinted from ChopTalk, official publication of the Atlanta Braves, June 1995