With the regular season on hold, the suspension provides a chance to highlight those who work behind the scenes. Today’s profile is on Dan Lolli, FC Cincinnati’s vice president of facilities and stadium general manager.
Dan Lolli’s job is to ensure FC Cincinnati are winning off the field. That’s a thankless task in many ways.
“We could win a game, 3-0, and have an incredible on-field product, but if the last thing a person remembers is their parking attendant was rude or they couldn’t get out of the parking garage, then their entire night has been skewed,” Lolli said. “Everything facilities and operations-wise is really just as much about our brand as what our marketing team pushes out.”
As FCC’s vice president of facilities and stadium general manager, Lolli’s job is to make sure players, coaches and fans are satisfied with their experience with the Queen City’s club.
On matchdays, that means fans enjoy their experience in a way that highlights excitement and value. And once the final whistle blows, his group focuses on every other aspect to keep the club operating at full steam.
“I’m worried about everything from the HVAC, to the plumbing, to the physical security,” Lolli said. “Everything that needs to be there for the team to operate within it.”
In a sense, the goal is trying to create as few of distractions as possible.
“The less distractions, the more (people) can focus on soccer,” he said. “That’s how operations and facilities can help the team goal of winning an MLS Cup.”
Growing up in the northern Cincinnati suburbs, he went to The Ohio State University and eventually got an unpaid internship with the Columbus Crew.
“That’s a bad thing to talk about here,” Lolli said, jokingly.
But while he was there, he was a marketing and promotions intern. Sometimes that meant hosting prize wheels, or simply just interacting with fans. That eventually led him to a full-time job with the club as a marketing and brand coordinator.
His interests shifted, though. Soon, he started helping out with event production, like MAPFRE Stadium’s Rock on the Range, and eventually stadium operations. His roles varied from overseeing parking and merchandise, to concert bookings and security.
But then Lolli left Columbus to work at Sporting Kansas City as the VP of operations.
“Going from the first soccer-specific stadium, to what a lot of people in MLS consider the best soccer-specific stadium, Children’s Mercy Park, was a great experience to evolve my skills.”
While there Lolli also helped open up SKC’s training center. All of this shows exactly why Lolli is the right person for his new role with FC Cincinnati.
Now working for his hometown team since the end of February, he’s running the organization's facilities, including the Fourth St. club headquarters and the future West End Stadium. That also means he’ll oversee operations for the new standard of soccer-specific stadia in this country when it opens next year.
“For me, I want to help continue growing that momentum that’s been growing with FC Cincinnati for the past five years,” Lolli said. “I’m excited to put my mark on the operations for the team, which is trying to put its mark on changing the skyline of my hometown.”
On what the operations staff does for FCC
“We’re kind of a customer service department for every other department in the organization,” he said. “Our clientele is the ticket sales department, the communications department and the team. Everybody uses our product, which are the facilities.”
When it comes to the players and coaches, it’s focusing on the little details that can make big differences.
For example: the grass at the West End Stadium will be identical to the surface at Mercy Health Training Center. The locker rooms will be similar, while the players’ entry and exit from faculties will be similar, too.
The less players have to worry about things off the field, the better. And just as Lolli pointed out about the parking garages early, it’s about winning off the field to keep fans coming back, too.