Recently I was able to sit down with Terry Savarise, the Senior Vice-President of both U.S. Cellular Field and the United Center here in Chicago. With a full slate of major league baseball, the United Center hosting over 220 events a year, and recently developing the Chicago White Sox & Los Angeles Dodgers new spring training facilities in Glendale, Arizona; Terry is a busy guy.
After graduating from Ohio University’s Sports Administration program, Terry launched his career as an intern for the Cleveland Cavaliers during their All-Star Game season in 1980-81. Shortly after, Jerry Reinsdorf hired him here with the Chicago White Sox. Click here for full bio.
How did you get to where you are today and what qualities do you attribute to that?
When I first began working for the Sox, the office was a lot smaller, now there are over 100 people in here. If I could help make sales calls on a Saturday, I was helping make sales calls on Saturday. Anything I could do in or outside of my department I tried. Once I had demonstrated success in a few areas, more things came to me once they knew I could get the job done. Learning on the job and volunteering my time, helped immensely.
As busy as you are, how do you handle the different responsibilities you carry on a day to day basis?
Luckily I have not had to add a hockey team in Glendale to my list of responsibilities, yet. Also, I am lucky that seasons of the teams at both venues aren’t all going on at the same time. Of course there is some crossover, especially during playoff times; however I have great people in place at both venues to handle all of the day-to-day activities. I try to only get involved on the micro level when necessary, but in general I have great people working for me that do amazing jobs. Those people have been around a while and it is easy to trust them and know that the job(s) will get done.
Recently what has been one of your toughest challenges?
When Jerry asked me how long it would take to get our new spring training facility up and running, I told him about 17 months. He told me I had 11 months. Luckily building a great relationship with Frank McCourt of the Los Angles Dodgers and the city of Glendale, we were able to streamline some of the decision process’ to meet our goals in a timely manner. The way the contractors and sub-contractors were able to work as a team, really made the process smoother than initially anticipated.
The venue turned out amazing and is ecologically a gorgeous place to watch baseball in Arizona, what feed back have your received?
I guess imitation is one of the greatest forms of flattery as I have had many people that are working towards new spring training facilities ask a lot of questions. Ecologically the facility is more than meets the eye. The pond in the center of the area is used to recycle water for irrigation and in the desert you can see the value in such a system.
You touched on the ecological aspect of new facilities, are they’re any incentives outside of goals within the organization for those types of systematic changes?
The pressure is there from all types of outside factors, however the incentives as far as tax breaks and having the choice of who you receive your power from are not, just to name a few. You’ll see more ecological adaptations as the incentives for them to increase.
In working with Chicago sports venues for almost three decades, who are the athletes you have admired the most and why?
I’ve known Ozzie Guillen since he was 17 years old and always admired that he always had the dirtiest uniform when he left the field. I also admired guys like Harold Baines and Robin Ventura who always shared the same demeanor, no matter how much success they had on the field.
In getting to meet as many people as you have in the MLB, NBA, NHL, etc., what people in sports do you admire the most?
You’ve had the chance to work with many concerts that came through town and were instrumental in the operations for the 1996 Democratic National Convention, but what has been the greatest sports moment you have experienced?
I would have to say the 2005 World Series. The traveling rock show of the Bulls in the 1990’s was really fun, but almost every night you knew what was going to happen. All the years of being on the Southside and growing the brand together since the early 80’s really made it a special moment for me and our front office.
What are you looking forward to in the coming years in regards to Chicago sports and the venues you run?
We have some plans to roll out some new things that are uniquely positioned in sports and outside of sports. Our new Glendale Spring Training facility has begun to find additional revenue stream outside of March and the way the facility is designed really provides some new opportunities.
In working with the 2016 planning for the United Center, I believe it is essential to develop infrastructure that will last well beyond 2016. Gymnastics is one of the most largely attended events each Olympics, so to get people from all over the World into the United Center is neat. To have an opportunity in your City to really do something special that will last for a long time is something I cherish and look forward to.