Chase Center and the Golden State Warriors have been managing the operation of a state-of-the-art arena in a pandemic for over a year now. This includes navigating event postponements, creating the COVID-safe Warriors training camp “The Dubble,” hosting fan-less NBA games and planning for the eventual reopening to fans.
The leaders on the arena operations side of the business responsible for these things are a team of four women — Chase Center General Manager Kim Stone , VP of Programming Sheena Way, Director of Facility Hygiene & Health Jacklyn Ventura and VP of Ticket Operations Stevie Gray.
“U.S Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, ‘Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn't be that women are the exception.’ This idea is all encompassing – women belong at the proverbial table regardless of the sector or industry,” Ventura says. Ventura comes from 15 years of experience in arena operations with the Miami Heat, working with facility services and operations. She worked alongside Kim Stone, who also came from the Heat, where together they tackled many crisis communications around hurricanes, Zika, H1N1 and SARS. Now, they worked together again at Chase Center navigating the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am incredibly proud to be a part of the phenomenal female team that is leading Chase Center through the global pandemic. Our diversity of thought is one of the reasons we have consistently been at the forefront of the pandemic and have continued to be a leader for the city, state, and the NBA” Ventura says.
Now in her second year at Chase Center, following 23 years at the Miami HEAT, Kim Stone has worked across almost every department in an NBA organization. Navigating the pandemic, she’s tapped into her breadth of experience quite a bit.
“Twelve months of my two years with Chase Center have been in COVID,” Stone says. “It’s been a new challenge, I’ve used all my skillsets to get to where we are today.”
While Stone has had many people be her mentors and a champion on her growth across her career, she’s witnessed what it is like to be a woman in such a powerful role.
“I’ve seen it happen where people only see a certain type of person in a certain role, so therefore they only think that type of person can do that role,” she says. “That’s unconscious bias, and it can leak into your everyday work and perhaps prevent you from having all the opportunities that others might.” In June of 2020, the Warriors welcomed Sheena Way from Oilers Entertainment Group in Canada as the VP of Content and Programming for Chase Center, which means she oversees the scheduling of shows, the programing of the Thrive City plaza and folding in basketball events in between.
Joining an organization and working in arena operations mid-pandemic certainly was a challenge, but coming from a background in the music industry, she was more than familiar with the obstacles women face in the industry.
“There was always an assistant at the end of your title, you could do two jobs, do more and more or even take on an entire department but it didn’t matter. There was always an assistant at the end of your title,” she shares. “This taught me to move around these big obstacles with my tenacity and creativity.”
As she started with the Golden State Warriors and Chase Center, she was immediately impressed by the number of women “sitting at the table,” or in today’s world on video calls, with her.
“I’ve never seen so many strong, dynamic, inspiring women on the same screen,” she says. “I often find myself thinking ‘This is not the norm, and this is beautiful.’”
She now takes the lesson she learned into her role as a leader in Chase Center.
“As you grow in your career and start to become a leader yourself, the next lens isn’t about you anymore. It’s about other women,” she says. “It’s not about what I can do to move forward anymore, it’s about what I can do to raise everyone else up.” Another woman who has worked alongside Jacklyn, Sheena and Kim is VP of Ticket Operations Stevie Gray.
Gray has been with the Warriors for 18 seasons. At a young age she interviewed with a local media company where she made so much of a great impression that they called the Warriors on her behalf to set up an informal interview. Since then, she’s broken down countless barriers to provide more opportunities for women in this industry.
“Like so many BIPOC and women of color, I have survived rejections, othering, macro and micro aggressions, and just being the “only” in the room,” she says. “I am able to persist and push through the barriers and burdens of this industry, entering spaces with people that don’t look like me and sometimes don’t welcome me, because I have to honor and value my vision over my comfort.”
As she reflects on what Women’s Empowerment means to her, she recognizes that it comes down to continuing to support other women.
“Women’s Empowerment Month is about encouraging women to keep shining, promoting and highlighting all of their wins and achievements, inspiring their next steps, and educating allies,” she says. Kim Stone also recognizes that the month of March has been a time to reflect on the responsibility she has to give young women the opportunities that so many others in this industry did not have, or had to fight incredibly hard for.
“This month shines a spotlight on our history, but also where we need to go,” Stone says. “It’s a wonderful thing that the conversations are turning to how we can harness our collective focus and willpower to drive forward opportunities.”