He was good at the job and the job was good to him, and that’s how he ended up working at the $1.3 billion (€1.1bn) Levi’s Stadium, which opened in summer 2014 and hosts tomorrow’s Super Bowl 50.
“I work with Fortune 500 companies both in the Bay Area and nationally,” says Mannion. “I handle suite sales, which are sold on long-term contracts — five to 20 years. They’re not cheap, so we pitch the suite as a total experience — companies can bring out their top clients to one of the best venues in the country for a big game.
“They come to the game, out of the car and into a private lounge where their food and drink is taken care of, then a lift to the private suite upstairs, another private lounge behind that. So it’s a great day out for them.”
The experience is good for everyone. There’s the in-stadium app that allows fans to watch replays, but connectivity in the arena has to serve 70,000 people using devices.
As a result, the stadium features 400 miles of fibre optic cable providing stadium-wide wifi capability; there are 1,200 distributed antenna systems in the stadium, with wifi routers placed every 100 seats to ensure constant connectivity, as well as 1,700 throughout the venue which use bluetooth technology to provide locations and services.
It’s the first American football stadium to receive LEED Gold certification — a green building rating system — thanks to its nearly 20,000 square feet of solar panels, a 27,000-square-foot living roof above the suites planted with native California species, while 80% of the water used is from recycled water.
Reclaimed wood from an old airplane hangar was used in construction; the stadium vendors are ecofriendly, reducing waste by recycling and composting, while public transportation and bike paths nearby serve to cut pollution also.
“Something that separates the stadium from others is the connectivity.” Mannion says. “You go to an NFL game and there’s always a long line to get a drink or buy some food. Here you go to your seat, download our app and your food and drink is brought to your seat — the app tracks how long that takes, five minutes or six minutes.
“It’s the way the whole world is going, not just this area. Everyone wants to be connected to LinkedIn, Instagram, all of those sites. We’re aware of that, and some of the people involved in keeping the stadium so connected are former executives with the likes of Yahoo and YouTube — some of the sharpest minds in that area.”
He points out that the old stadium the 49ers played in, Candlestick Park, was designed for baseball: “This one’s designed specifically for football, which means all the sight lines in the ground suit that.
“You’re elevated to a perfect height to appreciate the game, it’s all geared towards the NFL.”
That goes for the playing surface also — a brand new field was installed in January, 75,000 square feet of grass from West Coast Turf in California’s Central Valley has had three dozen workers caring for it since then, in advance of tomorrow’s game.
The Mayo native has been busy in the run-up.
“Everything regarding tickets was done by the NFL, while we covered the suite sales and so on. It was one of my greatest experiences in sport, selling those, but it was also 15-hour days in work. To buy one of the packages might require seven or eight signatures in a company — they range from $400,000 up to $1m for a suite.
“We got out in front of it, but it was still pretty busy — there are 170 suites and we had 165 sold by last week; the last few we sold last week, the very last on Friday (January 29). There’s a lot of paperwork, wiring money, signing off on contracts, so they’re still available, technically, until there’s cash on hand, even if you have a verbal agreement.
“Our most successful time is from February to September, we get out in front of the rush and meet executives to make sales, so when the season actually rolls around the relationship is strong — and the pitch is that much easier. We’re always creating new revenue streams, like a new hospitality venue on our rooftop, a VIP product. We’re always trying to create new products, and it’s a very competitive market.”
Just about tomorrow night, is he... “Going? I will be, I have a ticket so I’ll be taking everything in.
“I’ve seen tickets in the low end go for $3,000-$4,000, and tickets at club level go for $15-$16,000. One thing, though, the NFL has done well this year is the ticket is so heavily bar-coded, that you’d need to be a genius to counterfeit one.
“I hope Peyton Manning has a good game, but I’ll be neutral, really.” Well, if you’re working in the 49ers stadium, you’d have to be.