The Rick Nafe Award for Excellence in Stadium Management

To demonstrate an enduring heartfelt appreciation, the annual Rick Nafe Award for Excellence in Stadium Management was created to formally recognize the incredible industry and community contributions of Rick Nafe, Stadium Managers Association (SMA) co-founder and leader.

Funds raised will:

  • help recognize students and industry professionals who embody the beloved characteristics of Rick and demonstrate commitment to the stadium industry, community involvement, leadership, and volunteerism.
  • provide scholarships to honorees to further their professional development.

The first recipient will be recognized in 2024 at the SMA Annual Seminar.

The SMA Foundation is seeking donations to support this program, which will celebrate those deserving of the award and keep our friend Rick's legacy alive for many years.

Please consider a donation to support a program that looks to highlight individuals that hold the same values and traits that Rick demonstrated daily. In his name, we’ll support excellence in the industry that he loved and continue to tell his stories. He inspired us all to give our best and made sure we knew just how much he appreciated it.

To donate - please click the button below, fill out the online form, and select the Rick Nafe Award in the drop down menu for Donation Designation.

Inaugural Award Nomination Period Now Closed

This award looks to recognize individuals that demonstrate an unparalleled commitment to the stadium industry, shown through community involvement, leadership and volunteerism who also display characteristics that embodies the kindness, love of laughter, energy, and bold personality of our friend and colleague Rick Nafe.

Let’s remember and honor our friend, while recognizing another industry leader in the process.

Please note, it's not a requirement that your nominee be a current SMA member.

Nomination Period

The nomination period for this award is now closed. 

Award Criteria

Click below to see the standards that have been developed for this award.

Scoring Details

Click below to see the scoring details that will be used during the selection process.

Remembering Rick Nafe

Rick Nafe attended his first meeting of what would become SMA in 1980 and has been a driving force in making this organization what is today, in the nearly forty years since.

He led the charge (some would call it a revolt) at the 1986 meeting in New Orleans – where the attendees had to spend the afternoon following Super Bowl XX sitting on their luggage in the hotel lobby waiting for the previous guests to check out - to formally create Stadium Managers Association. He played host to every annual seminar since, always finding the humor in the absurdity of everyday life, and always making certain that everyone was entertained.

His vision of Stadium Managers Association was to be the group that provided educational sessions in an enjoyable way, and to provide experiences that few others ever get to experience.

Rick Nafe

Rick Nafe served as the Tampa Bay Rays Major League Baseball team as Vice President of Operations & Facilities from 1996 until his retirement in 2019. Prior to joining the Rays in 1997, he served as Director of Operations at Tampa Stadium and Executive Director of the Tampa Sports Authority. Under his leadership at the TSA, he helped design and open three major facilities: Raymond James Stadium, George M. Steinbrenner Field and Amalie Arena, all of which continue to shape the sports landscape today. 

He served as President of the SMA from 1986 to 1997, was Program Chairman and acted as Emcee of the SMA Annual Seminar since 1986. His lifetime career in the industry as a leader, and his exceptional contribution to the Association exemplify SMA’s mission to provide resources to assist professional and collegiate stadium managers in achieving the highest level of facility administration and operation.

Rick was happiest at SMA and surrounded by those he loved.

Award Committee

Mario Coutinho
Mario Coutinho
VP Stadium Operations & Security
Rogers Centre
Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club
Toronto, ON
Justin Durfey
Justin Durfey
BYU LaVell Edwards Stadium
Provo, UT
Jim Folk
Jim Folk
VP, Ballpark Operations
Progressive Field
Cleveland, OH
Dr. Michael Jackson
Dr. Michael Jackson
Professor - Sport/Recreation Administration
Temple University
Philadelphia, PA
Matthew Kastel
Matthew Kastel
Stadium Manager
Maryland Stadium Authority / Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Baltimore, MD
Mike McCormick
Mike McCormick
Michael C. McCormick, Attorney & Consultant
Greenwood, MO
Ken Curry
Ken Curry
Rexdale, ON
Coke Irwin
Coke Irwin
Senior VP Sales & Marketing
Irwin Seating Company
Grand Rapids, MI
Chris Lamberth
Chris Lamberth
Los Angeles, CA

The Rick Nafe Award for Excellence in Stadium Management is a joint project between the Stadium Managers Association and the SMA Foundation. The Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization serving as a fiduciary for the Award and qualifies for tax-exempt donations. Please speak with your tax professional about your donation.