Melanie Gentrup has been a Husker fan since birth. Now the Husker alum is an assistant live events producer with HuskerVision where she gets to showcase the teams she grew up loving. Her work was recently on display for a world-record-breaking 92,003 fans in Memorial Stadium (and hundreds of thousands watching from across the country and world) for Volleyball Day in Nebraska. She takes us behind the scenes.
Talk about your job and your role in Volleyball Day in Nebraska.
I oversee the in-venue productions of soccer, volleyball, women’s basketball, men’s gymnastics, wrestling, baseball and swim & dive as well as assist with the in-venue production of football. My job is full of collaboration with other departments, such as marketing, communications, social media and Husker Athletic Partners. My goal is to ensure that all video and sponsor content is displayed across all venues. I also create a variety of features and graphics for both entertainment and informational purposes to enhance the game experience.
As the volleyball producer, I got the opportunity to produce the screen show for Volleyball Day in Nebraska. I built the show in terms of content playback as well as created a bunch of content for the screens. During the game, my job was to communicate with marketing to execute plans for the breaks as well as relay that information to the HuskerVision director, camera operators and really whoever else needed to know.
How long have you been involved in Husker Athletics? Do you have any unforgettable memories?
I’ve been involved in Husker Athletics since the fall of 2019. I started at HuskerVision during my freshman year of college which turned into a full-time position beginning before my senior year of college last year. There are a ton of memories to look back on in the last few years. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a ton of great people around the athletic department and have gotten the chance to be a part of some really fun events.
There are tons of memories that I really cherish. I think my favorite was volleyball against Ohio State last year. We were headed to a fifth set, and Devaney was the loudest I had ever heard it. It was so loud, that I could not communicate with marketing on the headset. We had to resort to texting each other our plan for the break. We ended up playing Narco…which the fans loved. Then the boards went to black, and we played a designated fifth set hype video courtesy of Tyler Rice, one of our amazing content creators. I thought before we got to the break that Devaney was loud. The roar from that video was next level. Our jobs are in-game experience, and when something like that happens and the crowd goes nuts, it’s an incredible feeling.
Selling out Memorial Stadium and breaking records for women’s athletic attendance is no small thing. What was the planning like for this event?
Simply put — it was wild. So many people from so many departments put in an incredible amount of work to make Volleyball Day in Nebraska possible. Everybody in athletics had a hand in making this thing happen. As far as HuskerVision goes, we built everything for the screens from the ground up. Obviously, we’ve never had a sporting event outside of football done in Memorial Stadium so, there were a ton of things to consider when planning. Everything from scoreboards, stats and data, features, graphics, sponsorships, videos and more were created and built for volleyball in Memorial Stadium.
Fortunately, the organization on our side of things was managed really well. We had a massive checklist of things to go through. It took a lot of work from everyone at HuskerVision. I’m really grateful for my boss, Alex Wood, for providing a ton of guidance through the entire process. He’s been a mentor to me for the last few years, so to be trusted with such a large event and also have his guidance was really sweet. I am so proud of the entire HuskerVision team for how well things looked on Wednesday.
Can you speak to the passion you have for the sports industry and Husker Athletics in particular?
I grew up in Nebraska, born a Husker fan. It was a dream to get to go to school at Nebraska, but I could’ve never dreamed up what I get to do for a living. Growing up a Husker fan, to get to be a part of the events is a dream come true. I went from being a kid dreaming about just attending Husker games to now producing the HuskerVision shows for these games. My job is to help create memorable experiences for fans. It’s really special to do that for the programs you grew up watching. Volleyball Day was a huge event for Nebraska Athletics, the Nebraska Volleyball program, the state, and women’s sports. There aren’t a lot of words that can describe how it feels to have a part in it.
What was your favorite part of Volleyball Day?
It’s so hard to decide my favorite part of Volleyball Day. The whole thing was incredibly special. The big highlights were the tunnel walk, the intro video, the attendance announcement and the light/drone show. The energy in the stadium was super high all night, but those moments were the loudest and biggest.
I think the coolest part of the night was what happened when it was all over. There was a collective “holy cow, we did it.” There were some tears, hugs and congratulations all around from the staff. Everyone poured their hearts into Volleyball Day, and it really paid off. It was an unbelievable event and an unbelievable job well done by everyone who had a hand in it.
HuskerVision works very closely with the marketing department to pull off these shows. I got to produce the HuskerVision side of Volleyball Day with Bailey Schlotfeld, our director of marketing and fan experience. By the way, I’ve got to give credit where it’s due. Bailey is an amazing person to work with, and I couldn’t have had a better partner to pull off this show with. When the game was done, we took some photos on the court, and she made a comment about us “just being two kids from Nebraska.” That really kind of hit home for me. Two kids from Nebraska putting on not only one of the biggest shows for Nebraska Athletics, but the biggest women’s sporting event in the world. It really meant a lot to both of us to get the opportunity to run the game experience side of the night.
Is there anything fans, students, and Nebraskans would be surprised to know about the behind-the-scenes for Volleyball Day?
A lot of planning went into this, and I think the amount of preparation would surprise people. There was an immense attention to detail. Timing of the tunnel walk, volleyball-themed gate signs, changing the sellout streak number in the stadium. Headshots for every single player, graphics that only fit the football screens, graphics and videos that were designed for one night only. Meetings on meetings, brainstorms on brainstorms, hours just coming up with ideas. Designing a scoreboard layout; coordinating with sponsors; setting the correct lighting. The list goes on and on. Fans get to see everything we do once, but I think I had seen everything that ran 600 times before the actual day. I spent a ton of time going through every detail and every piece of the HuskerVision show, making sure it would be seamless and fun for the fans.
See the original blog post on Medium, "Behind the Scenes: Melanie Gentrup."