Women of Influence: Maggie McCartney

A view from the top…
Scene75 is a family entertainment center (FEC) company owned and operated by Les Sandler and his son Jonah Sandler.  The company opened its first location in 2012 in Dayton, Ohio.

With the success of that facility, the Sandlers went on to open a second Scene75  in 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio, a third in 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio, a fourth in 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a fifth and largest location in 2019 in Columbus, Ohio.

Maggie McCartney

 The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in shuttering the Pittsburgh location. But the company is currently constructing a location in Chicago, Illinois. 

Maggie McCartney began with the company with the opening of that first location in Dayton. Of the 150 hired in the originally recruitment, two are still with Scene75. She is one of the them, and she has been growing and learning and developing a passion for the attractions industry since. 

Accomplishments and affiliations…
•Member, International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA)
•Member, American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE)
•Member, Great Ohio Coaster Club

McCartney enjoys ride of her life

DAYTON, Ohio — It would be easy to say Maggie McCartney, at 29 years old, is a newcomer to the attractions industry. In fact, that is actually how she feels. She is still learning about the industry. She is still growing within the industry. She still has that excitement. 

But, looking closer, at 29 years old, McCartney has spent almost one-third of her young life working for the family entertainment company Scene75. 

Like many in the attractions industry, she started part time with an entry level position. She was 20 years old at the time and was attending Wright State University in Dayton, going after a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She wanted to be a graphic artist. 

“A friend of mine at school told me she had gone to interview for a job for this new business,” McCartney said. “She told me I should, too. I did and got a job as an attraction attendant working at the laser tag.”

She said the interview process took place in a hotel across the street from the new Scene75 in Dayton. The building wasn’t finished, but they did walk over and take a look. 

“There were wires hanging from the ceiling and building materials everywhere,” she said. 

She had no idea what she was really getting into. But she knew it would give her some extra money while attending school. And she couldn’t let go of the passion shown by owners Les Sandler and his son Jonah Sandler. 

“They really believed in what they were doing,” McCartney said. “There were people who didn’t think this center would make it. But they believed in it.”

And it wasn’t long before she did as well. 

McCartney was born and raised in Dayton. Never one for organized sports, after-school clubs or social clubs while growing up, she spent much of her time playing with graphics and design on the computer. 

“My older brother kept putting all these Adobe products on the computer,” McCartney said. “I taught myself how to use them and loved it.”

She was 10 years when she started that. 

She did not grow up in a family associated with the attractions industry. Her father, Dennis McCartney, was a carpenter who loved boats. Her mother, Mary Harsacky, was in the U.S. Army before she married Dennis McCartney. 

“Sometimes my mom would say things that would remind us she was in the military at one time,” McCartney said. “I remember when she would bathe us and soap would get in our eyes, she would tell us to blink real fast, ‘that is what they taught us if we were ever to get sprayed in the face with chemical,’ she would tell us.”

So, at 20 years old in 2012, she started with Scene75. She worked alongside the owners, who were and still are, she said, very hands-on.

“They have always been so supportive and have empowered so many young people,” she said. 

When the Sandlers realized that McCartney was in school for graphic design, they asked if she would like to do some design for them. She jumped at the chance and soon was so entrenched, she put school on hold and began working full time.

In 2015, McCartney was promoted to art director, responsible for theming out the attractions in the new centers Scene75 was opening. She was learning on the job.

“Sometimes I just wasn’t sure if what I was doing was right or not,” she said. 

That was when she decided to go back to school and to hone and further develop her skills. She continued full time with Scene75 while attending Modern College of Design in Kettering, Ohio, just about 15 minutes south of Dayton. She was there to get an associate degree in Applied Business in Design. 

She received her degree in 2019 and is thankful she went back. It not only taught her new ideas, but it also gave her more confidence in her work. 

“I found out that I was actually doing some things right,” she said. 

She had been working on the theming and graphics for Scene75’s largest FEC, the 200,000-square-foot store in Columbus, Ohio, which opened in 2019. 

She themed that center’s SBF/Visa spinning coaster into the Nuclear Rush Coaster, giving it energy and attractiveness to all ages. She themed the Moser Drop Tower there, as well as the laser tag and the other attractions. 

“It was a really fun project,” McCartney said.

Last year, McCartney became the director of marketing and branding. 

“I love it all,” she said. “I have such a passion for this industry. I can’t believe it was something I didn’t know anything about just a few years ago. But I now have this wonderful direction for my career.”

She loves the people in the industry. She loves going to the IAAPA Expo and feeling the excitement there. 

She loves riding roller coasters. And it is probably a good thing, because it seems she is on the ride of her life. 

Pam Sherborne

This article appears in the  JUNE 2021 issue of Amusement Today.
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