Denny Magruder, executive director of the Greater Wheeling Sports and Entertainment Authority, received international recognition this past week, taking home the top honor among public assembly venue managers from around the globe.
Magruder, longtime executive director of WesBanco Arena and the Capitol Theatre in Wheeling, was surrounded by family and friends last Thursday in Atlanta, Georgia, during the International Association of Venue Managers’ 96th VenueConnect Annual Conference and Trade Show.
A 35-year member of the IAVM, Magruder was presented with the prestigious Charles McElravy Award, a service award issued by the association’s board of directors to an industry professional who has made extraordinary contributions to the association and the profession over the years. Named in honor of one of the founding members of the IAVM, the Charles McElravy Award is considered a lifetime achievement award within the industry.
Certified Venue Executive John Siehl, the 2017 winner of the Charles McElravy Award, presented this year’s award to Magruder during the national conference.
“The Charles McElravy Award is the highest honor the IAVM bestows upon a member,” Seihl said, calling Magruder not only a personal friend but also “one of our hardest working, consistent, reliable and passionate members.”
Magruder said he was humbled to be named alongside some of the most recognized leaders in the industry’s history.
“It just makes me so very proud, and it’s extremely humbling,” Magruder said. “When I look at the names of the people who have won this honor before me, they are the mentors and the hall of fame members of the operation of public assembly facilities, and I still can hardly believe that my name is now a part of that group.
“It’s just a wonderful feeling, and I can’t do it alone. The team here in Wheeling always makes me look better than I am.”
Sonya Fedorko, administrative assistant with WesBanco Arena and the Capitol Theatre, attended the ceremony in Atlanta last week along with Magruder, several members of his family and a who’s who of industry leaders. Fedorko explained the significance of this achievement, noting that the Charles McElravy Award is the top honor within the wide-reaching IAVM, an association representing more than 7,000 members who manage venues ranging from 2,500-seat theaters to 80,000-seat stadiums around the world.
Fedorko said that while Magruder views the past winners of the award from over the past 60 years as mentors and industry leaders, she noted that this is how many current IAVM members view him, due primarily to his long history as an instructor with the association’s Venue Management School.
“He helped bring the IAVM to Oglebay and has taught many of them over the years,” Fedorko said, noting that until recently, the association’s Venue Management School had made its home in Wheeling each year since 1987.
“I’ve had a number of folks from around the country who have inspired me and have become great friends,” Magruder said, noting that his involvement with the association over the years has helped him in his professional development and has also helped him expand his “professional family” to include colleagues from across the country and around the world. “To have the opportunity to be part of the education process over the past 27 years and meet so many people makes me abundantly proud.”
Through the IAVM’s Venue Management School and Graduate Institute, Magruder has instructed classes on finance and other key courses in the industry for those seeking certifications and expansion of their leadership skills as managers and senior executives of auditoriums, arenas, convention centers, exhibit halls, stadiums, performing arts centers, university complexes, amphitheaters and fairgrounds.
The Venue Management School that for decades took place at Oglebay Resort is now held at Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, Florida.
Magruder thanked everyone who helped him over the years, particularly members of his staff.
“I think it’s all about working together,” he said. “It’s something that I think we’ve done here in Wheeling with the Capitol, the arena and our community. It’s about family and working together, and everybody doing their thing. I just won this award because, I guess they happened to say ‘hey, maybe it’s your turn.’ But all of us have had a role in this, and it’s just extremely humbling. I’m just totally awed.”
Over the past decade, Magruder has also received the Ray W. Ward Award for his service and outstanding contributions to the Venue Management School, and was inducted into the Wheeling Hall of Fame in 2011 in the Music and Arts category, celebrating his role as Wheeling’s “Mr. Entertainment” and for his decades of dedicated work to bring music, sporting events and other public events to the Ohio Valley.