By Matthew Biddle
This summer, the world’s largest youth Gaelic Games event is expected to bring 18,000 people and nearly $2 million in economic impact to Buffalo — thanks, in large part, to two groups of School of Management interns.
One group successfully pitched the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) to consider Buffalo for 2017, while the other is working to secure sponsorships and market the city to attendees.
As a result of their efforts, from July 26-31, 2017, the city will host the Continental Youth Championships (CYC), an annual Gaelic football and hurling tournament that attracts more than 250 teams from across the United States and Canada. About 800 hotel rooms are already reserved for athletes and their families, most of whom will be visiting Buffalo for the first time.
The process to bring the competition to Buffalo began in early 2014 when Padraic Walsh, a UB law student and chair of the local CYC organizing committee, approached the School of Management’s Internship and Experiential Learning team for help developing a proposal to convince the GAA to bet on Buffalo for 2017.
The team quickly developed an internship around the bid process, and three students joined the committee: Keith Fernandes, MS ’15; Venkata Viswanath Miriyapalli, MS ’14; and Jack Staudt, BS ’14. Over four hectic months, the team met multiple times per week, gathering and analyzing data on venues, hotel occupancies, transportation and additional resources, and coordinating with stakeholders from Visit Buffalo Niagara, the City of Buffalo, New York State Assembly and other organizations.
“The most challenging part was researching Buffalo to construct a competitive bid,” says Fernandes, now a financial analyst for Stampede Presentation Products in New Jersey. “Before this project, I had been in the United States for six months, having moved from Mumbai, India, to pursue my master’s. To bridge this gap, I spent time talking with native Buffalonians and reading about the region’s heritage, architecture and attractions.”
In April 2014, the team delivered an hourlong presentation at the Buffalo Club to international GAA representatives and local leaders. The bid was well-received and successful, and the interns gained important real-life experience.
“I learned how to construct impactful presentations, manage a team, network with local leaders and effectively manage time in a deadline situation,” says Staudt, now an associate at global media agency Universal McCann in New York. “When I graduated, I put the CYC at the top of my résumé, and during interviews, potential employers were immediately interested in the experience. I would not be where I am today without that experience.”
With Buffalo selected as the 2017 CYC host city, Walsh focused his attention on organizing, marketing and financing the event, and again turned to the School of Management. He proposed another internship, highlighting the skills and network that students would gain.
“The GAA is the largest amateur sporting organization in the world, with clubs in cities and countries around the globe,” Walsh says. “By getting involved in this event and the GAA, these students will have a built-in network anywhere in the world. If they move somewhere in their careers and reach out to the local GAA club, those people will drop everything to help them.”
Résumés flooded in, and he and volunteer intern coordinator Megan Corcoran, BS ’09, selected six undergraduates.
“This is not a traditional internship, where students come to an office with employees who have done this before,” says Corcoran, a project manager at Sodexo and student in the school’s Professional MBA program. “We’re brainstorming and working together, and the students have the opportunity to be creative, develop and lead their own projects, and gain lots of hands-on experience.”
With the event less than five months away, the group has created a marketing plan to excite attendees and encourage them to see the city.
“We’re developing a 100-page publication that explains the history of the GAA in Buffalo and provides a guide to the event and to Buffalo and Niagara Falls, so they can explore the region,” says Elyssa Mountain, a junior studying business administration and Spanish. “It’s rewarding that we all have an equal role in putting together this huge event.”
In addition, the interns are working to secure advertisements from area restaurants and attractions and developing presentations to pitch local and national companies for corporate sponsorships.
“Having an opportunity to present for these major companies is incredible,” says Jenah Hernek, a business administration senior. “It’s going to help with our public speaking skills and our ability to develop ideas from scratch and solve problems.”
In the end, these students — like the group before them — will play a vital role in bringing an international event to Buffalo, right before they embark on the next stage of their careers.
“After graduation, I plan to move to Washington, D.C., and work in sports marketing for professional teams, so this will definitely be valuable experience,” says Alec LaCorazza, a business administration senior. “I’m also a big advocate for youth sports, so it’ll be great to see all of this come together and to share Irish culture and sports with our community.”