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Published: June 08, 2020

UT Business Students Help a Tampa Landmark Thrive

The late Vincent Naimoli — founder and first owner of the Tampa Bay Rays, emeritus chair of UT’s Board of Trustees and a longtime donor — was certainly onto something big when he established UT’s Naimoli Institute for Business Strategy (NIBS) in 1998 within the Sykes College of Business.

Students in Management 431: Practical Strategic Assessment take a tour of the Tampa Theatre.
Students in Management 431: Practical Strategic Assessment tour the iconic Tampa Theatre. Photo courtesy of Jody Tompson.

NIBS is directed by Jody Tompson, professor of management and entrepreneurship. He was one of seven NIBS faculty teaching 14 sections of a class spring semester called Management 431: Practical Strategic Assessment, where undergraduates form teams and work with a local company or nonprofit to find solutions to real-world business challenges in a case study competition.

Hundreds of companies and organizations have participated in the past, including Starbucks, College Hunks Hauling Junk, Regions Bank and United Way Suncoast. This spring semester, the participating organization was one of downtown Tampa’s most iconic and historic landmarks: the Tampa Theatre, which was built in 1926 and is famous for having a ceiling that is painted like a night sky and studded with twinkling light-bulb stars.

The challenge for students?

The retail space next to the theatre’s box office will soon be vacated by the florist who’s currently there. The nonprofit would like to turn that 1,260-square-foot space into an additional theatre, a “micro-cinema” that seats about 40 people. The students were tasked to figure out: What are the best ways to utilize that new space? How should it be positioned in conjunction with the existing facilities?

Outside marquee at the Tampa Theatre.
The Tampa Theatre was built in 1926 and is famous for having a ceiling that is painted like a night sky and studded with twinkling light-bulb stars. Photo by Jeff Fay

Throughout the semester, student teams met with managers from the Tampa Theatre to strategize about design, marketing and operations. On May 1, each finalist team made a presentation to those managers.

“The competition brings together and encapsulates everything I’ve learned over the four years,” said Rachel Warden ’20. “Our team is analyzed real-life business challenges, and we’ve learned how to best leverage each team member’s strengths.”

The winning team —Monica Perez, Owen McCormack, Kristi Pratt, Ingrid Sognlien and Pernille Albrektsen — recommended modernizing the theater while still exhibiting pieces from its rich history, increasing membership options and improving social media marketing. 

The entire process is a win-win for both students and the nonprofit.

“We’re impressed by how fast the students took a deep dive into their analyses and the level of questions they’ve asked,” says John Bell, CEO of Tampa Theatre. “The process has been energizing. Success is fleeting, so you need to continually stay relevant and cultivate new audiences, especially among younger generations, who will be responsible for the future care and preservation of this landmark.”

This story first appeared in the Spring 2020 UT Journal. Read the UT Journal is its entirety.

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