It takes a lot of fortitude to rise in the venue world as quickly as SMG Knoxville’s Mitch List. The current AGM for the SMG-managed Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum in Tennessee started his career feeling the full force of soft foam hockey pucks being thrown at him.
List explained that his first job in the industry was as an intern for the Topeka Roadrunners hockey team in Kansas and he helped run the on-ice activities that took place during games. One game, Chuck-a-Puck, he remembers very well.
“The fans get these pucks for five bucks and they try to throw them into this basket in the center of the ice. The first person to make it in the basket, if anyone makes it into the basket, wins the grand prize,” List told Amplify. “My job was to sit in the penalty box and if a puck made it into the bucket, I would have to run out there and get that puck while everyone else was throwing these pucks. People are drinking so they just end up throwing hockey pucks at you instead.”
List was not deterred and started as an intern for SMG the following year at the Kansas Expocentre. He nagged GM at the time, H.R. Cook for the position and quickly moved to event coordinator.
“H.R. was at the building pretty much the whole time I was and really took me under his wing,” List said. “He made sure I knew how to do changeovers and how to set the basketball floor on an overnight flip, do hockey glass and dashers and build ice. SMG trains you how to work the box office, sell tickets, read an audit. They allowed me to jump into the booking side when I was just an event coordinator. H.R. let me be as involved as I wanted to be which was great for somebody just starting in the industry with a desire to move up.”
According to List, the expansive network of general managers at SMG and their willingness to teach has helped him move from intern to assistant general manager in under six years. That and his passion for everything that goes into putting on a live event.
“You find out pretty quick if this is for you,” List said. “If you make it a year or two, you’re determined and this is what you really want to do.”
Amplify caught up with List to hear about five of the best shows he’s seen so far.
Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie at Kansas Expocentre
Oct. 4, 2012
This was the first show I ever worked as an intern and wow was it eye-opening. This was the moment where I was sure this is what I wanted to do with my life. To be able to work an open floor rock show for my first show was pretty intense. I was hooked from there on out! Fans wait all week to attend an event, so when I see people walk into the building, the lights go down and that first acts goes on stage, I’m in awe. I didn’t know what to expect when I worked my first concert. I got to see behind the scenes and how everything worked, all the different pieces that came together to make an event of that magnitude.
Jason Aldean with Florida Georgia Line at Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Oct. 3, 2014
I was lucky enough to be a part of the team that helped open the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This was the grand opening concert for the new arena, so it was special to be a small part of that. Seeing people walk into this beautiful new arena in their hometown for the first time was a neat experience. Hearing the roar of the crowd when the house lights went down was awesome. It helps when you have two amazing headliners at the show too!
Thomas Rhett with Kelsea Ballerini at Knoxville Coliseum in Tennessee
March 23, 2017
This sold out show really capped off our first year after SMG had assumed management of the Civic Auditorium and Coliseum in 2016. We had a native Tennessean in Thomas Rhett headlining, with Knoxvillian Kelsea Ballerini opening, so the ‘Home Team Tour’ was really a home town tour in Knoxville. The Coliseum is a smaller arena, so when it’s a sold out show, it’s really an intimate experience for the fans.
Kenny Rogers and the I Love the 90s Tour at Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum
April 6, 2017
This was two shows on the same night. Kenny Rogers and I Love the 90s Tour occupied to the property on the same evening. We had Kenny Rogers performing in the auditorium and the I Love the 90’s tour in the Coliseum on the same night. Coolio actually did a remake of Kenny Rogers song The Gambler years earlier, so we had Kenny and Coolio hanging out backstage in the auditorium before the show. Right before Kenny Rogers was going to walk on stage, Coolio grabbed the mic, walked out on the stage and introduced Kenny Rogers. The best part of this was the look on people’s faces that expected to see Kenny Rogers and instead saw Coolio walking on stage. These two events really show off how unique our property is to be able to host two completely different crowds on site at the same time.