Lot Legends: FC Dallas’ Matt Daus
In this edition of Lot Legends, we sit down with Matt Daus, Stadium Operations Coordinator for FC Dallas to discuss the rapidly evolving role of technology in event operations and Matt’s quest to embrace the cutting edge.
Lot Legends is presented by ParkHub’s Amanda Browning, VP of Customer Experience, and Hongzhou Liu, Director of Revenue Operations, to shine a spotlight on the hardworking and passionate individuals working in our industry. To learn more about ParkHub’s best-in-class suite of parking solutions, visit www.parkhub.com.
H: Matt – thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today. Amanda and I are so excited to be speaking with you; one of our goals is to highlight the innovators in our industry and your name immediately came to mind.
H: We always like to start by asking our guests how they got started in parking. Everyone has a uniquely fascinating story and I’m sure yours is no exception.
M: It all started for me in college – I had an internship with an Independent League Baseball team which was very eye opening for me. That was my first job in sports, and though I enjoyed it, it also helped me realize that baseball wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to be long-term.
M: It was a minor league team, so not a lot of staff. I think we had maybe 7 full time staff and 30 interns over the summer. We had the chance to do a bit of everything, and I found that I liked the operations side because I had a very logistical way of looking at things. I also ended up realizing that baseball wasn’t where I wanted to be because of the long hours. We were often at the stadium from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM, sometimes seven, ten days in a row.
A: Up to that point you had been a Missouri native your entire life?
M: Correct. Prior to college I’d lived in St. Louis my entire childhood, and after 18 years I was kind of ready for a change. My thought was that if I ever did want to go back, that would be easy, so let me branch out while I’m young and don’t have anything really keeping me here.
H: All 3 of us have been DFW transplants at one time or another. Having been in DFW for a few years now, how do you like the city?
M: DFW is almost the opposite of St. Louis in the sense that DFW is constantly expanding, and there’s no shortage of things to do. I keep adding new things to my list and thinking, “gosh, how am I ever going to get around to all of these?”.
H: Obviously your MLS loyalties lie with FC Dallas, but what about the other sports? Have you become a convert or does your heart still belong to St. Louis?
M: We didn’t have a local NBA team growing up so I’ve become a Mavs fan! But for me, it’s still the Cardinals, the Royals, and the Chiefs all the way.
A: So after your experience working in Baseball, you wanted to continue your career in sports and that’s how you ended up with FC Dallas?
M: Correct – like you said, I had been in St. Louis my whole life aside from college, and when I was looking for my Senior internship I knew I wanted to go somewhere else. Dallas was really high on my list and it just so happened that I ended up getting an internship with FC Dallas in the summer of 2019.
H: You must have really enjoyed your experience over the summer to have stuck around! Having started in your current full time position in late 2019, and then the pandemic and the lockdowns hit pretty soon afterwards. Being so early on in your career, that must have been a real challenge for you.
M: It was interesting timing for us – we had never charged for parking for FC Dallas games prior to 2020, only for events such as concerts or for the FCS National Championship game. It had been determined that 2020 would be the year that we would move to paid parking, and I was tasked with figuring out how to make that happen.
M: We had gotten through the first two FC Dallas games and it had been going well, we had learned a lot. And I’ll never forget March 11th of 2020. We were in the office after having worked the SheBelieves Cup earlier and ESPN was on, and we watched the announcement that the NBA had shut down their season. Everyone in the office was like “what is happening?”.
A: That must have been quite jarring to be two games into the season and into the new operational challenge of managing paid parking, only to have everything upended on you.
M: Definitely. We didn’t reopen until August, and that was with a limit on capacity. So we obviously weren’t going to make our fans pay $10 to park when we could only have 2,500 fans total.
M: But in a weird way, I think it also helped a little bit. It gave me the opportunity to see how those first two events with paid parking went and then spend the next year or so thinking about what might work better and revising our plan.
H: You guys decided to take parking cashless not long after bringing paid parking back – did the pandemic have anything to do with that?
M: It definitely did. Prior to 2020 there wasn’t any real interest in cashless operations. If you would have asked us 5 years ago if we were tech forward, we would have laughed. But with the pandemic we felt that cashless was something we needed to do.
M: It helps our fans get into the parking lot and into the stadium faster, and it creates more control from a financial standpoint as well. With cash it’s easy for mistakes to happen – cashiers would end up with a total cash amount ending in $3 when we were charging $10 and it’s like, what’s happening here?
A: Would you say that FC Dallas has successfully rebounded from the pandemic?
M: Definitely. Last year was easily the best year that we have ever had from just about every standpoint, whether that’s fan attendance, revenue, all of that.
M: There’s been a lot of expansion in the MLS in the recent past, and one interesting thing that the Commissioner mentioned is that in many ways those teams have an advantage over us in the sense that it’s easier to build something new than it is to improve. So we’ve really been making an effort to keep up with the arms race.
H: Technology evolves so rapidly that keeping up can often be difficult, especially given outside factors like the pandemic or the economy. What advice would you give to other organizations who might be looking to replicate your success?
M: One important lesson that we learned through trial and error is the importance of having the right tools. When you’re considering the cost of software and comparing one against the other, it’s important to consider the upfront costs but also the cost of downtime. It’s really like making an investment into your future. If you make the right investment, it’ll pay off for you in the future, and if you make the wrong investment, it could end up costing you in the long run.
A: Wise words! Making any type of long term investment into infrastructure is a big commitment. Speaking of – what’s the number one feature on your wishlist that would make your life easier or have a positive impact on your operation?
M: Something that I’d be really interested in is the ability to create an integrated environment of parking sensors and software that feed into a fan app. Having to circle around looking for an open spot can be frustrating, and it would be so convenient to have the app tell you “hey, just take a right and there’s an opening 5 spots down”.
A: I love that idea! As a fan, that would remove so much of the headache from the parking experience. Well Matt, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today!