Student sees NFL’s inner workings as intern in New York

By University Communications
August 21, 2015
Lindsay Erstad, a UW-Stout student from Lakeville, Minn., takes a break from her intern duties this summer at NFL headquarters in New York.

Photo: Lindsay Erstad at NFL headquarters in New York

Lindsay Erstad will watch the National Football League —and her favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings —with a special interest and renewed appreciation this fall.

Erstad, a hotel, restaurant and tourism management major at University of Wisconsin-Stout, had the opportunity this summer to do something many NFL fans might only dream about —go inside the league office.

For 11 weeks, ending in early August, Erstad was an intern. She saw firsthand how the NFL is much more than a game: It's a multibillion dollar business that requires year-round work and planning.

For certain, her summer in New York was exciting. She rubbed elbows with NFL owners and star players, witnessed the media circus outside the headquarters when New England quarterback Tom Brady arrived to appeal his suspension and had a lunch and Q&A session, along with other interns, with Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner.

The experience, most importantly, was educational. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the league offices on Park Avenue, in midtown Manhattan, Erstad began to grasp just how much work is needed to stage an NFL game or non-game event.

"Interning with the NFL has been an incredible learning experience, and I loved living in New York City," she said.

The internship aligned perfectly with Erstad's studies and career plans. A native of Lakeville, Minn., she will earn an event and meeting management certificate along with her bachelor's degree from UW-Stout. She plans to go into event planning to start her career. She will be a senior this fall.

A summer in the NFL

Erstad spent most of her summer as part of her own NFL team —a group of 26 people led by the senior vice president of events.

She helped streamline the bidding process for events that haven't even crossed the minds for most NFL fans —the 2019 and 2020 Super Bowls.

Cities hoping to host those seemingly far-away Super Bowls receive a 97-page document from the NFL that outlines the bid specifications, she said. "I helped re-envision the timeline for that bidding process, making sure there were checkpoints in place to help keep the planning process on track," Erstad said.

The potential host cities will make their bids in May of 2016. "It's easy to put off an event that's five years away, but I have seen firsthand how important it is for the NFL to start planning now," she said.

Erstad and other event strategy staff members communicated with the potential host cities to discuss the bid specifics.

The 2018 Super Bowl site has been chosen. It will be virtually in Erstad's backyard in Minneapolis, at the new Vikings stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2016. Erstad was responsible for planning the meeting itinerary for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee when it traveled to New York in August.

"It was great to network with powerful business leaders from the Minneapolis area," she said.

She also worked at the Aug. 9 NFL Hall of Fame game and events —an Aerosmith concert was one such event —surrounding the enshrinement ceremonies in Canton, Ohio. It so happened that her favorite team, the Vikings, played the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Along with long-term event planning, Erstad said the NFL internship gave her experience with collaboration across departments and working with industry partners.

"It was valuable to see how various departments within a successful company work together," she said.

She was one of 36 NFL collegiate summer interns, most of them sports management majors, she said. For housing, she lived in a university residence hall about a seven-minute walk to work.

Experiences add up

In 2014 Erstad worked from January through November for the Minnesota Twins through UW-Stout's Cooperative Education Program. She was a Target Field events intern, helping plan non-baseball events. Students in co-op positions receive a grade and class credit and are paid for their work.

"It was awesome having my office at the ballpark," she said.

Learn more about co-op positions at www.uwstout.edu/careers/student_coop.cfm.

At UW-Stout, Erstad has a part-time job in the Involvement Center. She was instrumental in helping launch the Find Your Fit program in spring 2014, according to Krista Proksch, Involvement Center director.

Find Your Fit is a peer-led program that seeks to help students become involved on campus.

"She's taken great initiative to get this program off the ground," said Proksch. "She continues to improve the program and promote it across campus."

Erstad also works with the Pick One! program, with student organizations and with special student events, including Backyard Bash and Stout's Got Talent.

Proksch has been impressed with Erstad's skills and ambition.

"It's been fun to watch Lindsay grow over the past two years that I've known her. From the minute she stepped on campus, she sought out opportunities to get involved and gain experience, which thankfully led her right to us in the Involvement Center.

"One of the best things about Lindsay is that she knows what she wants and works hard to get it. The drive and passion she has for the field of event planning is truly admirable," Proksch said.

For more information about the hotel, restaurant and tourism management undergraduate program, go to www.uwstout.edu/programs/bshrtm.