Internships lead Brown, '13, to role in Buffalo's downtown revitalization
During Madison Brown's college search, she initially limited her choices to schools in commuting distance to her Niagara County home of Wheatfield, N.Y. However, she later added Fredonia to her list, even though it was just far enough away that commuting was not an option.
"The more I thought about it, I realized I really wanted to go away to school," she says. "Walking around Fredonia just felt natural. I felt very comfortable and at home on campus, unlike any other school I visited."
Fredonia had another draw: a strong women's soccer program.
"I came down to meet the team," she recalls. "I watched a game and stayed overnight with two of the players to get a feeling for what it was actually like on campus. After that night, I knew I was choosing Fredonia."
Despite starting as a graphic design major, Madison began to realize that her love of sports and interacting with people was steering her toward a different path. She soon decided to "double major" in Sport Management and Public Relations, and added a Business Administration minor.
In addition to her classes, she especially valued the field trips which help students gain experience, and the networking events that connect them to professionals.
"What helped me most were the opportunities that our professors provided us," Brown attests. "[Sport Management Department Chair] Penny Hite was always forwarding us internship notices and helping us connect with professionals in various sports organizations."
Those connections included the Buffalo Bisons and Buffalo Sabres, with whom Madison enjoyed two beneficial, high-profile internships.
With the Bisons she assisted the team as it hosted the 2012 Triple-A All-Star Game.
"Most of the time I was leading their social media efforts, but I also learned how to record stats during games, write the game notes and perform other tasks involved in the daily operations," she recalls.
Her senior capstone experience as a digital media specialist with the Sabres proved to be exceptionally valuable. She mainly wrote feature stories for sabres.com but also developed game recaps and edited video footage after Sabres and Buffalo Bandits (professional lacrosse) games, and published them on the teams' websites.
Word of Madison's talents and work ethic eventually reached Nik Fattey, a player scout with the Sabres — and a fellow Fredonian (a Class of 2002 graduate who majored in History). Nik was so impressed that, right after she graduated, he invited her to work at a hockey league he owns in West Seneca, N.Y. Just weeks later, however, he was named vice president and hockey director of the new HarborCenter project — the $172 million downtown Buffalo economic development initiative spearheaded by Sabres Owner Terry Pegula.
A few weeks after that, Madison was part of a new team.
Today, she's the assistant program coordinator for the HarborCenter, a hockey and entertainment facility that will consist of twin ice rinks, retail space, a restaurant, and parking garage when it opens in the fall of 2014, as well as a 205-room Marriott hotel set to follow in May 2015. In just the first few months, she's been involved in the planning for virtually every aspect of the complex, although she's had the most experience with the hockey portion.
Madison and her colleagues estimate that the HarborCenter will welcome at least 500,000 people annually.
"We want HarborCenter to be a world-class facility for youth and amateur hockey development, and a destination for people from all around the world," Brown explains. "Buffalo has made tremendous strides recently to improve and beautify its outer harbor, and this is the next step in that process."
Madison fully appreciates all of the opportunities that Fredonia gave her. Dr. Hite, however, is quick to credit Madison for proactively making the most of her time at Fredonia.
"Maddie was a Dean's List scholar, a student-athlete captain and an outstanding student worker," Hite reports. "She was inquisitive, added great insight to classroom discussions, and was a gifted presenter. I always felt she would excel in whatever aspect of Sport Management she pursued."
Brown also made an impression on soccer team Head Coach Chris Case, who made his defensive stalwart a team captain during her junior and senior years.
"Madison was an excellent leader and captain," Coach Case said. "We were extremely lucky to have a person with her character, professionalism and integrity. She carried herself with confidence, yet never looked down on anyone. She always tried to find the positives in someone or something. Coaching her was an absolute pleasure."
Brown sometimes marvels at the speed with which her career has been launched, but she knows that it's something she and her Fredonia professors/mentors worked hard to achieve.
"I've already learned an unbelievable amount from my co-workers," Madison says. "I feel extremely honored to be a part of this project, as well as the revitalization of downtown Buffalo. I'm very excited for the year ahead!"