A Profile of Tia Freiburger
Taking Sports Facility Management to A New Tier
Senior Manager Facility Operations for Corporate Real Estate
Tia Freiburger, Senior Manager, Facility Operations for Corporate Real Estate at apparel manufacturer, Under Armour, transitioned to corporate America following a 20-year career in collegiate sports and recreation facility management.
“At the college level, it's all about the students, putting in the time and creating these amazing relationships,” she said.
Comfortable and confident both on and off the field working with facilities teams, she’s in her zone when it comes to juggling roles and responsibilities and ensuring that the sports experience is fun, safe, and innovative.
“I'm learning so many new things at Under Armour. I've learned that my skill set really does lend itself to a lot of different opportunities,” she added. “Now I have a laptop and my cell phone, and I am mobile all day long taking meetings from various locations. In between meetings, I’m constantly interacting with my team.”
Tia proudly spoke about one of the company’s most recent major projects – a multi-purpose stadium with an eight-lane track surrounding a full-sized football field, which involved coordinating with construction teams and communication updates with key constituents.
“We’ve had Ultimate Frisbee and lots of different events at the stadium already, not just sporting events. We’ve also used the stadium for team building. The plan is to partner with Baltimore City Public Schools and other youth groups, too.”
Tia and her nine-person team are responsible for all venue services. She’s in close contact with service vendors, and she and her team take care of food services, shipping and receiving, fitness centers, cleaning, and facilities including office buildings in multiple locations. Tia has also assisted in hosting big name athletes like Lindsey Vonn, Natasha Hastings, Steph Curry, and the Rock who are often on-campus for meetings and special events.
She loves being in Baltimore, where she lives with her young daughter and the pair go out to playgrounds, read Harry Potter and plan big trips.
“I knew that I didn't want to stay within student affairs anymore. When I applied for the Under Armour job. I thought, "Wow, this position checks off so many things I've already done,” she said.
“My schedule is incredibly flexible, and our hierarchy is fluid, so I can talk to vice presidents and presidents and our CEOs and CFOs. I'm encouraged to share information,” she added.
Finding a group of like-minded, simpatico, professional women is another benefit of being in Baltimore and Tia is active in an informal group that meets monthly – The Baltimore Power Group -- offering the freedom to be transparent, open, and excited by sharing ideas, contacts, and stories. Tia walked into a room filled with 80 women and listened to and learned from their stories. She’s met the facilities people for the Orioles and Ravens stadiums.
“It’s an amazing network. If I'm looking at a cleaning contract, I've got two or three other people I can contact as references. If I'm looking at getting a tour of a specific building, I know who I can contact for that,” she said. Tia also pointed out that touring other facilities is one of the best ways to stay current with facility team workflows, equipment maintenance and emergency responsiveness, as no two facilities are exactly alike, and every facility has different staffing needs and challenges.
Getting better at emergency preparation is really a matter of practice and being calm under pressure. Drills should be meaningful, so Tia carefully times how quickly staff members can evacuate a building. Practice has paid off as an entire building was vacated in less than five minutes during a practice run.
Weekly facility safety audits are a great way to stay on top of both internal and external concerns, like warning people to move obstacles away from doorways and not parking in fire lanes.
Next on the horizon is a new corporate headquarters scheduled to open in 2025. Tia is super excited about this project, a net zero building with rain collection features, solar panels, rooftop vegetation and terraces, stores, a gym, and cafeteria.
“It’s very rare to have the same day twice,” said Tia. “Things change all day long with 4-5 new assignments popping up. The main thing is, I feel like I’m always making an impact.”
Tia believes that if you are doing the same thing and not finding pleasure and you’re just jumping from job to job in the same field, then it’s ok to look outside your field at similar positions. A good place to start is by finding a mentor.
For women curious about the facility management industry, Tia said, “Don’t be scared. This field is so much more than maintenance. There’s real estate, technology, fiscal responsibility, safety, improving employee experiences, and changing the way buildings are managed sustainably. What more could one ask for?”