Returning to the Met: Veteran sports administrator appointed head of complex
The Hoover Metropolitan Complex has a new general manager who just moved from Wisconsin, but he’s no stranger to Hoover.
Shannon Ealy spent around 30 years in sports management, including 19 years in Birmingham, where he previously ran the SEC Baseball Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium for the SEC and Bruno Event Team for 10 years.
“He knows what we are doing. He knows the events that are important to us, ”said Allan Rice, administrator of Hoover City.
John Sparks, vice-chairman of The Sports Facilities Companies, whose subsidiary runs the Hoover Met Complex, said Ealy’s background and experience in the Birmingham and Hoover communities propelled him to the front of the pack among candidates to fill the vacancy.
EJ Brophy served as general manager of the Hoover Met Complex for about nine months in 2021, but left for another opportunity in October, Sparks said.
Ealy, who was hired to replace Brophy in February, has a long history in sports administration. He got his start in 1992 as an assistant athletic director at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and after two years spent a year as a marketing assistant at the University of Florida.
In 1996 he moved to Birmingham, serving as director of championship marketing and operations for the SEC for four years. In this role, he was responsible for event planning and operations for the SEC Football Championship Game, SEC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament, SEC Softball Tournament, the SEC and part of the NCAA basketball tournament.
Beginning in 2000, he spent seven years with the Bruno Event Team and the Alabama Sports Foundation, planning and coordinating events such as SEC Baseball Tournament, SEC Gymnastics Championships, Magic City Classic, Southwestern Athletic Conference Football Championship, Association of Volleyball Professionals Pro Beach Volleyball, American Football Games and American Olympic Marathon Trials.
At the same time he provided consultancy services to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex to assist in the planning, programming and support of a Birmingham city center stadium, entertainment and accommodation district as as Chairman of Birmingham Sports Ventures.
He then spent nearly eight years at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, most of it as senior associate athletic director overseeing day-to-day operations and a budget of over $30 million a year. He was named interim athletic director just as the university canceled football, bowling and rifle programs, then helped restore all three sports within six months after a public outcry.
Ealy said the whole experience was tough, but it made him a better leader and gave him insight into how to handle adversity.
Shortly after hiring a new athletic director, Ealy accepted a UAB settlement and became athletic director at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for two years. For the past two years, he ran a business called Outsource Sports Management which served sports, entertainment and tourism organizations.
Ealy applied for the job of general manager of the Hoover Met Complex when it was established in late 2016 and was a finalist for the job, he said. He said he’s been keeping tabs on it ever since and is looking forward to returning to the Birmingham-Hoover area to be closer to his children.
His familiarity with the complex and the people at Hoover shortened the learning curve, and he worked hard to understand day-to-day operations, structures and procedures, he said. “I’m very good. I love it.”
He has also been very busy rebuilding the administrative team, including key positions such as CFO, Marketing Director, HR Director and Concessions Coordinator.
His priorities are to solidify the relationship the management company has with the City of Hoover and ensure Sports Facilities Management is a good partner with the city, he said. The city has invested a lot of money in the complex, and it wants to make sure the city sees a good economic return on its investment while meeting the needs of the local community, Ealy said.
He wants to be the model facility for the 30 or so sports facilities run by his company, he said. “I think it’s a lofty goal, but that’s what I’m aiming for.”