When Ivan Marin was working in the ticket office for the Miami Dolphins and Florida Marlins at Pro Player Stadium during the 1990s, he began plotting what he’d dreamed of since the eighth grade: his own business in the sports world.

Marin, now 31, of Kendall, wrote down everything he didn’t like about his job — all the things he realized were crucial to the often-maligned area of sports events, ticket operations. He thought he could accomplish more doing the work he was doing at the stadium for others. After all, without ticket sales, there’d be no event.
In June 2000, Marin and two stadium colleagues, Danny Katz, 36, of Davie, and Dan Axman, 32, of Plantation, launched Complete Ticket Solutions, (CTS) a company that handles every aspect of ticket sales, from running a box office and advance sales to providing event-day ticket sellers.

“We have the ability to take an event from A to Z, marketing, sales, financial reporting, printing ticket stock,” said Marin, CTS vice president of sales and operations. “Every different department has to come through tickets.”

The three, who each studied sports management at St. Thomas University, began running their small business out of Katz’s home with one client, the University of Miami, helping sell tickets for Hurricanes events. Connections led them to running ticket operations for Baltimore Orioles’ spring training at Fort Lauderdale Stadium and the NFL Experience, a ticketed event at the Super Bowl each year.

They now work out of a 1,600-square-foot office in Dania Beach with a staff of six full-time employees, 135 part-timers and a roster of more than 40 clients that includes annual sporting events, such as the NASDAQ-100 Open tennis tournament on Key Biscayne and the FedEx Orange Bowl; arts and film festivals; parties; concerts; and last month’s annual Palm Beach Bike Show. They helped the Marlins sell tickets to last year’s playoffs at the Marlins en Miami store in Little Havana.
The company operates much like an outsourced operation or a call center — aligning with and blending into a team or event. Patrons of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, who buy tickets online, are actually logging into CTS’ network. Axman, CTS vice president of business operations, said the company collects data for future marketing, tracking credit card sales and customer data that teams and events find invaluable.

While one staffer, Matt Fillioe, was handling the allotment of tickets for NBC and its guests for the Olympics in Athens, other CTS staff were gearing up for college football season. They’ll be staffing the box office at the Orange Bowl for the Hurricanes’ opener Monday night against Florida State. Before that, on Thursday, they’re running the box office at Florida International University’s football home opener, as they do for each of the 3-year-old football program’s games, handling all ticket needs, from season ticket to day of game sales.

“People don’t even know they’re not our staff,” FIU Athletic Director Rick Mello said. Mello predicts as newer college athletics programs grow, schools will more often hire companies like CTS to run their ticket operations. “It is just too financially efficient.”

Katherine Phillips, director of operations for the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, said CTS found the arts festival when it began preparing to change from a free to a ticketed event last year.

“We met with them and it just clicked from the beginning. They knew what they were talking about,” Phillips said. “They handled everything that we needed for the event on the ticketing end.”

With the help of family and friends who often serve as ticket sellers, the company has built a solid reputation — clients couldn’t say enough about the company’s expertise. Although the office staff still counts pennies, clipping coupons for office supplies, CTS had revenues of more than $500,000 last year. Not bad for a company whose mastermind, Marin, was an intern picking rubber rats from the ice of Miami Arena during the Florida Panthers’ magical playoff run in 1996.

While, the company has out-of-state clients, including the San Antonio New World Wine & Food Festival and Jazz Aspen Snowmass, the next goal is to open an office in another city, said Katz, CTS president.

It may not be glamorous — Marin said for years his younger sister thought he sold hot dogs at the stadium — and it’s rare they actually get to enjoy an event, but it’s touching the most important part of events that gives CTS staffers a rush.

“The biggest thrill to me,” Katz said, “is seeing a packed house and knowing I helped put them there.” Sarah Talalay can be reached at stalalay@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4173.