Up Close: Profile of the General Manager of Attractions & Entertainment
If there's one thing I learned from Vikki Hultquist, General Manager of Attractions & Entertainment it's that hard work pays off. Throughout her storied career she has proven that dedication, passion and desire reward you for doing what you love. After all, she was the first female Assistant General Manager of the Hershey Bears and more recently, named the first female General Manager of the Hershey Entertainment Complex.
She's a true leader in every sense of the word. No matter the time of day, if a team member needs her she's available. Vikki knows almost everyone by name and always takes a minute to talk and find out how their day is going. She's highly respected among her peers, but also a valued mentor and teacher at Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R).
It was such a pleasure to chat with Vikki about her career path, biggest accomplishments, learn why she always has a smile on her face and more. I hope you'll enjoy reading her story as much as I did writing it.
Q) Tell us about your career. Where did you go to school? What was your career path prior to joining Hershey?
A) I graduated from Trenton State College with a degree in Communications. Upon graduation I moved to Pittsburgh to coach soccer at Robert Morris College. While there, I assisted running soccer operations at a local indoor facility SporTrak, located in Sewickly, PA. In addition, I coached youth soccer with the Beadling Soccer Club.
Timing was on my side as the Pittsburgh Penguins were launching two additional sports franchises – the Pittsburgh Stingers, which was a professional indoor soccer team who would play in the Continental Indoor Soccer League (CISL) and the Pittsburgh Phantoms, a professional roller hockey team who would be a part of Roller Hockey International (RHI). I took on an additional part-time ticket sales role with these organizations as the original thought was the full-time staff of the Pittsburgh Penguins would also assume operational responsibilities for these new franchises. Lucky for me, it was quickly identified the Stingers and Phantoms needed an Assistant General Manager to support team administration and operational needs. They offered me my first full-time position which I eagerly accepted!
A year into my Assistant General Manager role, I was asked if I would have interest in game production for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and was given the opportunity to sit in on a video editing session. Since I was a Communications major I had related training, previous exposure and a general interest in this area. Then, I was asked to listen in on headsets for game production during the next home Penguins game. I remember it vividly. It was a sellout crowd at the Civic Arena against the New York Rangers. After one period of listening in, the Director fell ill and I had to learn on the fly. That moment was a game changer for my career path.
The next several years I led Game Entertainment oversight for the Penguins in to addition to helping them open a new practice and sports facility. Then, the President and Vice President of the Penguins moved to Ottawa, Canada and assumed management roles for the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club. They recruited me, and I was responsible for all entertainment, event marketing, player appearances and functions for the Senators.
Fast forward to the Hershey Bears and HE&R planning the building of Giant Center. It was an opportunity to not only come back home to the States, but I was able to be part of the launch of a new venue and the historic Hershey Bears hockey club. There are few chances in a career within sports to have that opportunity. I never dreamed of all the chapters of my next 17+ years at HE&R…..
Q) Walk us through your career so far at Hershey.
A) I've been fortunate throughout my career at HE&R to have the chance to gain additional exposure and the opportunity to expand my career. My journey started in November of 2001, as the Director of Hockey Business Operations and Sports & Entertainment Marketing. Next, I was the first female Assistant General Manager of the Hershey Bears. Then, I had the opportunity to book entertainment offerings at Giant Center, Hersheypark Stadium, The Star Pavilion and Hershey Theatre. In addition, I was able to work with our teams responsible for both facility and revenue operations for Hersheypark and Hershey Entertainment Complex. Summer of 2018 led to my most recent earning, General Manager, Attractions & Entertainment. It's been an awesome "ride" and one I look forward to continuing.
"We have team members who work so hard and are incredibly passionate about what they do – it inspires me daily."
Q) Why did you choose to work for Hershey?
A) There were so many reasons why I originally chose to come to Hershey Entertainment and decided to stay for over 17 years. Being from Yardley, PA, it was a chance to come home while having the opportunity to be part of opening Giant Center. It also led me to gaining additional experience within the sports and entertainment industries, and now having the privilege to be a part of honoring our legacy with the announcement of Hershey’s Chocolatetown.
Every day we are executing multiple offerings for guests from around the world while building our future. That in itself is so motivating. We have team members who work so hard and are incredibly passionate about what they do – it inspires me daily. Last, but certainly not least, is to have a chance to interact with the students at Milton Hershey School. It allows me to see first-hand how appreciative they are of our collective efforts to support them; since supporting the school is our company’s core purpose which is greater than all of us. For all those reasons I am thankful I've had the opportunity to spend the majority of my career here in Hershey.
Q) What's your biggest accomplishment since joining the Hershey team?
A) I've been fortunate to experience 'firsts' in the industries that mean so much to me. Earlier in my career, I was appointed the first female Assistant General Manager of the Hershey Bears, the longest standing franchise in the American Hockey League. More recently, I was named the first female General Manager of the Hershey Entertainment Complex which includes Hersheypark, Hersheypark Arena, Hersheypark Stadium, Giant Center, Hershey Theatre and ZooAmerica.
Q) What's your favorite ride at Hersheypark?
A) I absolutely love that at Hersheypark we truly have something for everyone. From rides to water attractions to entertainment offerings and games. To ZooAmerica, food & beverage and retail offerings, our teams work tirelessly to have a wide range of offerings on beautiful grounds which are safe for families to enjoy. Some of my favorite rides include Great Bear, Whitecap Racer and I can't wait for Reese's Cupfusion to officially open on May 25!
Q) What's the most rewarding aspect of your job?
A) There is no doubt the most rewarding aspect of my career is to have the privilege to work side-by-side with our team members who strive to raise the bar each and every day to deliver sweet experiences and ultimately support our core purpose, the Milton Hershey School.
Q) What advice would you give someone interested in a career in amusement parks?
A) The best advice I can give someone who has an interest in pursuing a career in amusement parks is to secure a job or internship at a park... in fact, we are hiring here at Hersheypark. Join our team, we would love to have you!
Q) What's the best perk of your job?
A) Taking a moment to pause while hearing the screams of joy from our guests at Hersheypark riding our coasters, the applause of our guests enjoying some of the best talent in the world at our shows, seeing the animals we have given a second chance on life at ZooAmerica and hearing the "B-E-A-R-S BEARS BEARS BEARS Woooooo" chant at Hershey Bears games! Every day our team collectively creates sweet family moments.
Q) What does a typical day consist of?
A) Currently a typical day is a balance of meetings preparing for our day-to-day operations along with the planning for Hershey’s Chocolatetown, while making sure I am actively out walking around our operations and talking to employees.
Q) Tell us something folks might not know about you.
A) I am passionate about rescue animals and have four rescue pups named Dantes, Rocky, Foxy Brown and Titan whose unconditional love brightens my every day.