From sales to security: Point Loma resident turned his love for events into a second career at Pechanga Arena
Mark Shults directs guest services and security at the venue where he went to sports and music events while growing up in San Diego.
When Point Loma resident Mark Shults retired from a long sales career, he knew his working years weren’t over quite yet.
The San Diego native felt he had a knack for management and live events, so he shifted his focus back to an occupation that had caught his attention many years earlier: event security.
He got a job as a security guard at Pechanga Arena in the Midway District, and in just five years he advanced to his current role as director of guest services and security at the venerable sports and entertainment venue.
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“While I was at Loyola Marymount University [in Los Angeles], I used to work private security at various places where people go to see bands. I really enjoyed it and it was something I did on the side with my studies,” Shults said.
After graduating from Loyola Marymount, Shults got into the world of sales, and it wasn’t until later that he began pondering returning to security.
“In 2016, my son and I were at the Holiday Bowl and we were down on the field and my son turned to me and said, ‘Didn’t you used to do that?’ and pointed at the security guards,” Shults said. “So my New Year’s resolution for 2017 was to start doing private security again and I started doing that here in San Diego.”
“I took an early retirement package with AT&T,” he said. “In March of 2017, I started working at the arena and have been working there since.”
Having attended sports and music events there while growing up, Shults felt at home at San Diego’s arena, which opened in 1966. Thus, directing staff and managing events there was a natural shift for him.
“I have been coming here for over 50 years. I used to come watch the San Diego Clippers and San Diego Friars with my parents,” Shults said. “I would come here for ‘Disney on Ice.’ I have come here many times for many shows.”
From hockey to basketball to music and a lot more, the old Midway District venue was, and remains, a local icon even as redevelopment looms.
But leading the arena’s security team hasn’t always been easy.
“The most challenging has been, post-COVID, getting part-time employees,” he said. “Prior to COVID, we had a large in-house staff, but post-COVID, not a lot of people came back. I think, across the board, staffing has been the biggest challenge.”
For Shults, it’s vital that customers receive the same level of attention each time they visit.
“We do a great job of making sure we have resources on hand,” he said. “We want to create that exceptional customer experience. We want people to come and remember it exactly like it was when they came 20 or so years ago. We want to make sure we have a smile on and we are always here to help and that people feel safe.”
Ryan Golden, the arena’s assistant general manager, said Shults is always “looking for ways to improve Pechanga Arena ... whether it be additional signage, fixing old items that break, improving the culture and more. The team appreciates and notices all the hard work he puts in to transforming the arena. He continually works to see through the eyes of the overall guest experience, and Mark will always continue to try to make this special place better.”
“We want to create that exceptional customer experience. We want people to come and remember it exactly like it was when they came 20 or so years ago.”
— Mark Shults, director of guest services and security at Pechanga Arena
Though the city of San Diego is working with development team Midway Rising on a plan to redevelop the city’s 48-acre sports arena site, including a new arena, Shults said he’s still excited about welcoming guests to the old venue.
“We offer something for everyone, and after ... an incredibly rich history, the arena is still San Diego’s premier indoor venue for live entertainment,” he said.
For more information about Pechanga Arena, visit pechangaarenasd.com.