M&T Bank Arena executive director recognized for working tirelessly to lead top-notch fan experience
October 03, 2023
October 03, 2023
Such were his impressions in 2006 when he interviewed for a position up the hill at an arena that was still being constructed.
Now 14 years into his tenure as the executive director of the M&T Bank Arena, the sight of Grgurich seated across from a box containing the men’s ice hockey team’s national championship banner, next to a phone on which he fields calls about the hottest tickets in the sport, would make a pretty good “how it started/how it’s going” meme.
And later this month, he will add another piece of hardware to the décor: the university’s Center for Staff and Faculty Excellence award.
“Being here for so long, I've seen the names of the people that have won this award over the years, and to me, they’re like legends,” Grgurich said. “They are colleagues that I respect highly. And to be now associated with those folks is a great honor.”
There were 11 season-ticket holders for men’s ice hockey when Grgurich stepped into his former role as director of marketing and promotions for athletics in 2006. The waiting list for season tickets is now north of more than 350, and the gameday operations he oversees are about as sophisticated as what you’d find in a National Hockey League arena, albeit on a smaller scale.
“The Bank” is a jewel of the university, whether it’s hosting an NCAA women’s ice hockey Frozen Four, sold-out battles against arch-rival Yale or raucous “Wake the Giant” concerts. Hearing praise from fans — including the ones visiting from other schools — is a perk that never gets old.
“It just gives you a sense of pride to see how far it’s come and to watch the vision come together,” Grgurich said.
A history major at Stonehill with a minor in secondary education, Grgurich thought he was headed for a career in teaching and coaching. But as he worked on a senior thesis project about the history of baseball, he was rerouted by a chance encounter with the president of the Triple-A baseball leagues, Branch B. Rickey, the grandson of the legendary executive who signed Jackie Robinson.
Spending a day in Rickey’s Ohio office sparked Grgurich’s interest in sports marketing, and he hasn’t looked back.
After minor league hockey stops in Cincinnati, Ohio, Hartford, Connecticut, and Lowell, Massachusetts, Grgurich — whose wife, Tania, is a clinical professor of diagnostic imaging in the School of Health Sciences at Quinnipiac — can’t imagine another professional home.
“This is a unique community — it’s just so engaging and close-knit,” Grgurich said. “That’s what I love about it here. All the people you work with, you feel like you’ve known them for years.”
Upon learning he was a Center for Staff and Faculty Excellence honoree from Athletic Director Greg Amodio and President Judy Olian while vacationing with Tania and their kids, Grgurich jokes that he had to tamp down his excitement. Tania had recently undergone surgery to donate a kidney, potentially saving the lives of one of her students, Samantha Markham ’21, and two others. His achievement, while humbling, didn’t quite measure up to her heroism.
Still, life behind the scenes of a bustling sports venue with a full slate of events — including holidays and weekends — can be “grueling,” as Beth Griswold, marketing director for M&T Bank Arena, noted in her nomination letter.
“Eric works tirelessly,” Griswold wrote. “He manages an extreme number of responsibilities and handles all aspects of the arena with expertise. Eric is involved with both staff and students, coaching and athletics, public safety, Hamden fire, police and EMS, admissions, the public, event staff — the list goes on and on.”
As with most successful athletic endeavors, contributions come from up and down the lineup, Grgurich said.
“I am supported by a very talented staff in the ticketing and marketing departments, from Matt Calcagni to Alexa Panzarino to Alex Goyette,” he said. “We have the opportunity to positively impact the student and alumni fan experience at games, but we are also proud that we have provided our student workers with first-hand experience they can leverage to land careers in the sports management and sports marketing professions.”
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