Enjoy the Experience

Eric Jaramillo is the man in charge of Corpus Christi’s most exciting events.

By: Caroline R. Freeman
Photos by: Dark Lab

Eric Jaramillo’s journey to the prominent and influential position of general manager at the SMG-managed American Bank Center was paved by hard work, enthusiasm and ingenuity. With the American Bank Center Convention Center, Arena and Selena Auditorium at the core of Corpus Christi’s events, Jaramillo makes the Coastal Bend more progressive every day. “I am very fortunate to be in a position to make such progression happen on a day-to-day basis,” Jaramillo says.

Jaramillo is a born-and-raised Texan who grew up in San Antonio. While studying marketing at the University of Texas at San Antonio, he obtained an internship on the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs game operations crew, his lifelong favorite team.

“I’ll never forget my first day of orientation with the Spurs back in ‘02,” he says. “The thing that set off the light bulb for me was the game operations manager saying, ‘What you put into this is what you are going to get out of it.’ I still have that mentality instilled in me from day one.”

Before the first game of the season, Jaramillo contacted all the other game crewmembers and told them that if they ever needed someone to cover their shifts, to let him be their first call. “I got email after email. I was hitting overtime every week for the game crew, and nobody had ever hit overtime working game crew before but me. The next season, the Spurs actually made a policy that no game crewmembers could get overtime,” he laughs. “Again, what you put into this is what you’re going to get out of it.”

As a part of the Spurs Sports and Entertainment game crew, Jaramillo helped organize and execute the creative in-game promotions for the NBA Spurs, WNBA Silver Stars and AHL Rampage. In his first year in the business, the Spurs won the national championship. Jaramillo recalls, “the confetti falling down from the rafters, my team I’ve loved growing up … it was an unbelievable introduction to the industry. I immediately fell in love with it.”

Jaramillo was with Spurs Sports and Entertainment for a total of four years. He transitioned from sports franchise’s game crew and internship into working fulltime on concerts and family shows for the venue, AT&T Center.

“I was a part-time intern while going to school. Then I graduated and didn’t tell them because I didn’t want to leave!” he says. “I went into another year with the Spurs and got called into HR in the middle of the season. They asked, ‘Did you graduate?’ At that point, I’d been there three years and loved it and knew it was the direction I wanted to go. However, I was deathly afraid of them telling me that I had to move on since I had already graduated. To my surprise, they said, ‘Well, we have to bring you on part-time with our office staff and pay you hourly now!’”

After a year of working part-time, he gravitated more and more toward the operations aspect of venue management and was promoted to a fulltime event marketing coordinator for Community Arena Management, AT&T Center’s venue management group.

After several years, he was ready to take on more responsibility and leadership. Jaramillo applied for management positions and interviewed all over the country, including at the American Bank Center.

He explains his fortuitous connection to Corpus Christi: “While working at AT&T Center, I worked as a DJ at the venue on the side – playing music, getting people excited before the games. The GM of the American Bank Center went to the Spurs games and would see me outside, so he knew who I was. When I applied for the job, he checked out my references and recommended me.”

SMG, a worldwide entertainment and conference venue management firm, and the City of Corpus Christi hired Jaramillo as the SMG-managed American Bank Center’s director of marketing. The position was a great fit, and Jaramillo quickly fell in love with Corpus, met his wife and began laying down his roots in the Coastal Bend.

The acting general manager at the time, Jim Salamenta, became an influential person in his life. “The GM came from an operations world,” Jaramillo says. “He knew everything. He could walk into the restroom and tell you the chemicals they use to clean it. I told him I wanted to download everything he had upstairs into my own head.”

They soon began meeting every other week as Jaramillo strived to learn everything his mentor knew about operations, from finances to HVAC systems. When Salamenta decided to move, he recommended Jaramillo as his successor.

Jaramillo explains: “He recommended me as taking over one day, so they promoted me to assistant GM/director of marketing. I was still in the marketing world, which I love, but I was in a position to lead and run departments and get involved officially instead of just inquiring. A year-and-a-half later, he moved and I was promoted to general manager.”

As the general manager, Jaramillo wears many hats, and no two days are the same. Jaramillo oversees department heads, establishes and maintains relationships with promoters, prepares and negotiates contracts and manages budgets, among many other responsibilities. It is through these many duties at the SMG-managed American Bank Center that Jaramillo consistently improves the quality of life for Corpus Christians and the city as a whole.

Jaramillo strongly believes Corpus Christi has huge opportunity for growth, and he recognizes the city investing in itself. He acknowledges that Corpus is already on the map in many ways. “We have had Cirque du Soleil, Dolly Parton, Beach Boys, HBO boxing, Def Leppard and the Selena MAC launch,” he says. “I get to meet those people who are coming in from out of state and even out of the country. It’s amazing! But soon, I believe Corpus will really be on the map even more than we are now.”

Jaramillo and the SMG-managed American Bank Center are directly related to Corpus Christi’s growth, and under Jaramillo’s leadership, Corpus has experienced many of the most famous and sought-after acts in the world, such as Elton John, Enrique Iglesias, Kevin Hart, WWE Elimination Chamber Pay Per View, Lil Wayne and Jerry Seinfeld. “For me to be in the position to host these events is huge,” Jaramillo says. “We’re a progressive town because we’re truly a destination.”

Though he is not one to be star-struck with celebrities, he admits, “When I see a full-house arena or auditorium, I get goose bumps. It’s not because of who is onstage; it’s because of the crowd. I see the passion that’s there. They spend their hard-earned money to be here for three or four hours – to leave their problems at the door and enjoy an entrainment experience.”

Looking forward, Jaramillo hopes to deepen his roots by starting a family while continuing his stellar leadership of Corpus Christi’s premier event spaces. “Don’t look down – look up! Good things are happening. Things are bright here in Corpus,” he smiles. And the future looks just as sunny for the passionate, skilled and inventive Eric Jaramillo.

For more information, visit www.americanbankcenter.com.