Leadership (T)Amplified: Prom King

Senior Vice President of Event Management, Tampa Bay Lightning – Amalie Arena

Like high school underclassmen staging a prom for the graduating seniors, the Leadership Tampa Class of 2018 has chosen a project that promises to bring back memories of tuxedos, wrist corsages and photo booths.

In short, LT ’18 is taking it back to the old school.

Kevin Preast, the senior vice president of event management at Amalie Arena, has teamed with his LT ’18 classmates to help stage “Launching Into The Future: Prom 2.0” on Aug. 10 at the arena’s Firestick Grill.

The event aims to not only serve as a good time for the current class but grow into an annual “reunion” for all Leadership Tampa Alumni members.

Preast, a University of South Florida graduate, recently spoke about programming live events for Amalie and the University of South Florida’s Yuengling Center, what he gained from Leadership Tampa and how LT ’18 struck upon the idea of a high school prom.

Tell me about your Leadership Tampa experience.
It was awesome. I went into it not really sure how it would go. I had a general idea, but I was thinking it was going to be a little bit more vanilla, but it quickly became something you anticipated, mainly because of the people. The peak behind the curtain about the community was complemented by the people. Then it became this full circle of things I wanted to do more.

You’ve spent a good bit of time telling the story of Tampa to producers and artists. Elaborate on that.
Tampa is a boomtown. We’re growing at an exponential rate with more than 200 people a day moving into our DMA (designated market area). We’re getting younger, we’re getting more diverse, we’re getting more innovative and we have more disposable dollars than ever. And that’s only continuing to grow. Explaining that to people who aren’t from here, or who don’t understand what’s happening here, has been my challenge.

You became the senior vice president 2½ years ago with the goal of boosting Amalie’s brand and truly making this sports arena a cultural center for the community. How’s that gone?
It’s gone really well. We’ve grown in the national and world rankings. We’ve pretty much lived in a top 10 position in the national rankings, but we had a record year in the fiscal year 2016-17, and we actually just broke that record in 2017-18. We’re on an uptick. We’ve told the story of what Tampa is, and what being a boom town means, and we’ve actually backed it up by selling tickets. When artists or acts or family shows come here, our market has responded by coming and enjoying the events. When you start to have more events and sell tickets, other people start to pay attention and they want to come here and be a part of that. The last two years have exceeded expectations.

How much has being in Leadership Tampa enhanced your ability to tell Tampa’s story?
It’s given me so much content I haven’t even used it all. One of the things I’ve learned about Tampa is this community gives back to itself, more than anyone realizes. There are organizations that preside here and help with issues like at-risk kids, food deserts and transportation issues. There are so many things this community does to give back to itself, it’s mind-numbing. Another example, the scope of Port Tampa Bay. We all know the Port, we all hear about it, but it was amazing to go in at the granular level and learn how much it impacts our daily lives.

So, you had the knowledge piece and you developed the bond with the class. How did you come up with a prom?
First, we had to choose a benefactor. For that, we ultimately decided to go with the CDC of Tampa — whose CEO Ernest Coney is a member of Leadership Tampa 2018 — because we decided we could immediately be impactful in what they’re trying to do and create a legacy of impact. Then, we shifted to the theme. We seemed to have a strong presence of marketing and events people in our group. So, as we were talking through it, we thought it would be a good use of our varying skillsets to put on an event. From that, we decided we want to create something not just for our class project, but an event for a community that gives back to itself, and an annual get together. So, every year, we want to host this event and hope it will be sort of a class reunion for the class.

That’s ambitious.
Well, it’s not “kind of” Leadership Tampa (laughs). I will say in our group, we have a lot of A-Type personalities. Each one of us individually will conquer the world, but collectively we’re just a bunch of hard-headed business people (laughs). So, we love the idea of creating something that not only would bring us back together but that we could extend to other classes, our spouses and our businesses.

It also seems like your class wants to connect LTA to the event. You guys really are like underclassmen throwing a prom for the seniors.
We were enamoured with tying in with the bonds of the other classes. We all believe we can take on the world, and we felt like if we set something up that would be inclusive to everybody that’s been inclusive to LTA, it would make it that much easier for it to live on in perpetuity.

Launching Into The Future will feature an open bar, dinner, dancing and complimentary valet. Tickets are $75. For tickets and sponsorship opportunities, visit https://www.cdcoftampa.org/prom

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