Student Workers Help Provide Best Fan Experience in Big 12

From start to finish, a K-State game day is a day filled with memories for each and every fan.

Ensuring you those memories will be good ones are K-State Athletics' student workers who, every game day, show up ready to make sure each event goes smoothly.

"A lot of folks don't realize that K-State Athletics, in our $60 million budget, spend about $1 million a year on student wages and on work study students who are working throughout our facilities taking care of our buildings, doing night custodial work and helping park cars in our parking lots," explained K-State athletics director John Currie. "The ushers at our basketball and football games, many of those folks are students at K-State."

From the friendly faces when you park your car to the security personnel who keep an eye out for the fans, K-State Athletics hires nearly 500 student workers who play a key role helping K-State provide the best fan experience in the Big 12. Currie said that while many other universities outsource a company to handle the custodial, parking and patron tasks, K-State Athletics takes pride in giving students the opportunity to work their way into leadership roles and gain valuable experiences that will carry over into their future careers.

"These folks really reflect the K-State character and the K-State spirit of doing whatever it takes to get the job done," said Currie. "One of our goals is to have the best fan experience in the Big 12, and students like these are absolutely part of that experience."

PARKING LOT SUPERVISOR Lane Trautwein is a senior in computer engineering ready to graduate from K-State this weekend and head off to Lenexa, Kansas, where he will begin working with IBM.

A student-worker with K-State Athletics for six years, Trautwein quickly climbed the ranks and has spent the past five and a half years as the East Parking Lot Supervisor for both Bill Snyder Family Stadium and Bramlage Coliseum's game days and special events.

"Working with K-State has definitely put me in a leadership role," explained Trautwein, "especially because I had to develop very quickly. I was promoted within six months of starting this position because there was a need. I think it's very important and it's made me a lot more comfortable with dealing with people. I've been able to develop those skills and not be a typical engineer. I was kind of an introvert, but I've come out of that and enjoyed the leadership roles of working with K-State."

Before football games Trautwein showed up nearly eight hours before kickoff while during basketball season he and his crew showed up three hours before the game.

He is in charge of setting up his parking lot, making sure it is ready for patrons and then opening the gates. He and his crew work to get people into the lot and to the right spot as effectively and safely as possible - and they do a good job considering the east parking lot can hold over 1,000 cars.

"My favorite part is dealing with the people, be it patrons or my staff, we all like to have fun and we enjoy our jobs," said Trautwein. "I think that's what has kept me here so long because we really enjoy what we do and the people we do it with; the patrons add in to that. If we're not dealing with any big issues, we get to interact with the patrons on a daily basis and it's just an enjoyable position because you meet so many new K-Staters."

During a game, Trautwein rides around his lot providing added security before the time comes to coordinate with the Riley County Police Department and control traffic leaving an event. 

"With the leadership roles and the people skill roles, this job has grown me a lot," said Trautwein. "I'd never had a job where I directly dealt with making the patron happy, keeping them as happy as you can. This one has really focused on the people and getting the people to be happy, and I think that is one of the greatest things, along with learning that leadership, that I'll take with me."

LEAD OF PATRON STAFF AND SECURITYAdrian Esquilin, a senior at K-State majoring in journalism and mass communications and advertising, works as the lead of K-State Athletics' patron staff during game days and events. He's been around the system for three years and has seen his share of excitement at K-State events.

While he has worked up the ranks - he started in 2011 helping a friend who needed extra staff for a football game to now holds one of the highest positions a student can have with K-State Athletics - he said the job is one he loves and one that will help him as he works towards his future.

"This job has helped out tremendously, and I've taken every single day I'm here at work as a learning experience," began Esquilin. "I try to help build my own understanding of my own leadership capabilities so I can continue to strive on that as I continue to move forward. I can't think of another way here at K-State to help me with my leadership capabilities than to put me in a role where I'm supervising a staff of this size at events like K-State basketball and football games. It's truly helped me foster my own abilities and see where my leadership starts and ends."

On a typical day of work at Bramlage Coliseum, Esquilin shows up about three hours before tipoff. He meets with his group of managers and goes over the events happening pre, post and during the game. He then briefs the patron staff supervisors to make sure everyone is on the same page.

"Then we welcome the guests in. 'Welcome to K-State' is a big part of being here, so we welcome everyone into our arena and get them set for the game," explained Esquilin. "Then I'm pretty much just everywhere at once... I try to be at least. I roam the concourse, stay on the floor and I answer fans' questions whenever they come up. I do that the entire game."

The patron staff solves problems, makes sure rules are followed and helps provide all fans in and out of the arena a safe, enjoyable atmosphere. The atmosphere he helps create is, in fact, Esquilin's favorite part of the job.

"I love being here for game days. I love the atmosphere; it's my favorite part," he said. "Nothing excites me more than being a part of a team that creates the best fan experience in the Big 12 for our fans, especially when our Cats can pull out a win."

Working so closely with K-State Athletics and its games and events, Esquilin has seen his share of both great victories and bitter defeat. He has seen fans at happiest and at their saddest.

But when it comes to his favorite moment on the job, he didn't even blink an eye - that memory was an easy one to remember.

"The 2012 football season when we beat Texas and everyone rushed the field," Esquilin said with a laugh. "We'd talked about it and prepared for it beforehand, but the atmosphere of everyone excited that we won a Big 12 Championship, everyone celebrating with the coaches, players, Collin Klein and Bill Snyder - I think that whole season was probably my favorite, but that one instance was my favorite moment as a staff member and supervisor here."

LEAD OF CUSTODIAL STAFFAndre Watkins is a senior graduating with a degree in Agricultural Technology Management this weekend and has a job lined up with Cargill working in the company's operations department in Dallas, Texas, upon graduation.

Just finishing his fifth year working with K-State's custodial department, Watkins is the lead of K-State Athletics Custodial staff and spends his game days making sure the venues are in top-shape for Wildcat fans.

"We go around the concourse and check seating areas to make sure everything looks good for when the fans come in," said Watkins on his typical day on the job. "It has to look presentable; we have to make sure the fans get what they pay for. Then we just make sure everything is clean throughout the day, keep stock and make sure everything is up to par with our standards here at K-State."

As the lead supervisor, he has his fair share of people working under him. Watkins explained he has two group supervisors who oversee about 40 student-workers during game days, four scheduling supervisors who make sure all workers are signed up to work the events and then he has three crew leaders who he explains are the "liaisons between the workers and supervisors."

Watkins said, though his job is often a thankless job, it has grown and matured him and he believes played a key factor in achieving his job with Cargill after college.

"I honestly believe that working here at K-State in the custodial department was what got me my job at Cargill when I graduate," he explained. "I think a lot of people see that and understand that having to deal with a custodial department is a big job in itself, especially when you're in a leadership role. We're not always looked at as a big job, we're kind of in the background and do the dirty work, but just being able to get it done, there's a lot of effort that goes into it and that shows."

Along with the leadership skills Watkins said he developed during his time working with K-State, he also said he learned management skills and how to deal with people who, most often, are looking to him to resolve a problem. 

He said though he started the job simply as a way to make money during his college years, he never expected it would take him this far and in a position so large.

But in the end, despite his title, he's still a K-State student and still a K-State fan, and knows when the Wildcats win, it's a good day for everyone.

"The most memorable moment was when we beat KU in Bramlage Coliseum," Watkins said with a smile. "I never actually got to experience it firsthand, but everyone stormed the court. It was a big deal. We were supposed to keep the people back, but that's not as easy as it sounds, and I was just as excited as everybody else. So I was trying to keep them back while I keep my excitement composed, it was a big job for me, but I enjoyed it. It was a big deal seeing us win and seeing how happy all the fans were."

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.