HJ/EDHerald Journal, Dec. 12, 2005

New Germany native loves job, mingling with 'The Great One'

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

A little girl who spent her whole life growing up in New Germany has become a professional dealing with some of the nation’s most elite athletes, and is following her passion across the country.

Jackie Johnson is the daughter of Bruce and Helen Johnson of New Germany, who formerly owned the Hollywood Ranch House.

Johnson remembers spending a lot of time at the Ranch House from the time she was born all the way through high school.

But before she even graduated college, she found herself accepting a job offer that would take her to another time zone, and certainly another climate, in Arizona.

Johnson was offered a job in sales with the Phoenix Suns after attending a NBA job fair her senior year of college.

“You have to really just take any opportunity you can. This industry is so competitive, you can’t hold anything back,” Johnson said.

Johnson gained experience working the Minnesota State University, Mankato basketball games while attending the college, and has been taking her share of opportunities since graduating in 2004.

A three-sport athlete in high school, Johnson has been around sports all her life, but didn’t consider it a career option until attending Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“In high school, I always wanted to do marketing, but never thought it would be in sales. This just kind of fell into my lap,” Johnson said.

After making the decision to move away and take the job in Arizona, Jackie received another job offer to work with the Atlanta Hawks basketball team and the Thrasher hockey team.

Johnson decided to pack up her bags and move to Georgia in January 2005, seven months after starting with the Suns.

Although the job in Atlanta was a promotion, Johnson learned a lot from her first job.

“It basically taught me how to sell season tickets. You have to be able to show people the value of season tickets, buying a ticket for one game is different than buying season tickets,” Johnson said.

But in July she found herself moving back to the desert to work with the Phoenix hockey team, the Coyotes, after the hocky lockout came to an end.

So is all the moving worth it for a girl from rural Minnesota?

“It’s really a self-rewarding job,” Johnson said, who works on commission. “The pay is what you make of it, and I like that it’s all in my hands.”

The job also comes with some other perks, including mingling with “The Great One,” hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

Johnson’s responsibilities with the Coyotes include customer service, and occasionally taking care of Gretzky, who is also the team’s coach.

“We have set up a couple of events where Wayne was there, and we make sure he doesn’t get bombarded with people and gets to talk to everybody he needs to,” Johnson said.

She also gets the opportunity to sit in on concerts where her Coyote season ticket holders have bought tickets.

Her job is to make sure everything goes smoothly, whether there is a mistake on the credit card bill, a missing ticket in will call, or a missing cup holder on their seats.

“I make sure all problems get solved,” Johnson said.

Some problems are easier to solve than others, and some are downright comical.

“Sometimes, the little things people can get worked up about, and it takes two seconds to fix,” Johnson said.

For example, because of the way the tickets are printed, the letters “D” and “O” are difficult to tell apart.

On more than one occasion, Johnson has had to calm down an angry patron who thought someone was in their seat, when actually their seat was in row “D,” not row “O.”

When problems are at a minimum, Johnson can sit back and watch the likes of Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, and Bon Jovi, who are all on tap to perform at the arena this year on days when the Coyotes are not taking the ice.

But aside from the concerts, Johnson’s favorite part of the job is walking into a full arena.

“It’s an incredible feeling knowing that I sold a lot of those tickets,” she said.

For those who are interested in a career like Johnson’s, she stresses the importance of grabbing experience wherever you can, even if it does mean moving.

Although her family and friends are far from the desert, Johnson finds it is easy to make friends with her coworkers, many of whom moved just like she did.

But, for now, Johnson is content doing what she loves where she is.

“It’s an industry where you have to move around to get the jobs you want, but this is a good spot for me right now,” Johnson said.

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