By: Kellan Massino, Nik Santana, Max Josef
Today, our somber final day, started at 7:45 with the group going to the Toyota Center, the practice facility of the Los Angeles Kings, a continuation of the festivities from last night where we watched the Kings beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1. Professor Veley provided us with further information that Olympic figure skaters use one of the three rinks to practice as well. After 10 minutes for pictures of the facility, we entered the Kings’ offices to meet with AEG Sports CEO Kelly Cheeseman, Vice President of Digital Strategy and analytics at AEG sports, Aaron Levalley and Jennifer Pope, the VP of Community Relations and the Kings Care Foundation.
During the meeting, we discussed the fan base of the Kings. The team has a pretty diverse fan base, due in part to the fact that Los Angeles is a market full of people from all walks of life and ethnicities. This can be seen in their “We Are All Kings” marketing campaign that they played on the jumbotron the night before. They have even committed upwards of $4 million to various charities such as youth hockey at the YMCA, Camp Ronald McDonald and the Kids’ Science Museum, among others. The Kings have been around for 51 years and have a rich history in the sport and even though they share the Los Angeles hockey market with the Anaheim Ducks, who play their game 50-60 miles away in Orange County, they see them as a partner, not a competitor. Mr. Cheeseman said that the rivalry will help to increase fan loyalty and internet in the sport as the game of hockey continues to grow. The meeting closed with the trio giving career advice to us, which included studying people who are leaders in the industry, reading The Cubs’ Way, (an article about Theo Epstein and the Cubs’ Front Office), networking, not having tunnel vision, being prepared to put their head down and working because good things will come if you do good work. After meeting, we were off to the LA Coliseum.
Much like the Rose Bowl visit from yesterday, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is one of the most historic sporting venues in the United States.
Opening in 1923 as a memorial to those who fought in WW1, the Coliseum is the only venue to host the Super Bowl, Olympics, and World Series. Brian Grant, Senior Associate Director, was generous enough to show us around the active construction site. Along with the help of Frances Guerrero, Event Manager, the two ran us through some of the history of the Coliseum, as well as opportunities and challenges moving forward. USC has been the primary tenant in the facility since its opening, and recently signed a new 98 year lease agreement with the facility starting in 2013.
Having played their games in the Coliseum for almost 100 years, the Trojans are poised to stay for the next hundred. Outside of USC football, the Coliseum has played host to the 1932/1984 Olympic Games, the 1959 World Series, the World Series, and Super Bowls , and I and VII. The current construction plan includes two separate 6 month builds, with the 2018 season being played press box structures. The aggressive $300+ million renovation will cost more than the original construction of the venue, and requires workers to commit 20 hour days, 6 days a week just to keep in line with the scheduled mid-August 2019 opening. Moving forward, USC plans to buy the property from the city of Los Angeles, who currently owns it. Owning the property would help alleviate some of challenges that come with needing approval from both the city and county before taking action. Also, with the Coliseum being utilized for the 2028 Olympics, renovations will need to be started on the visiting team locker room to meet specifications. Under the direction of Al Davis, the visiting team team locker room was modeled after a casino, and puts the visitors at a severe disadvantage.
After touring the torn up LA Coliseum, we paid a visit to the NFL Network, where we were led by a fellow SU alum, Sara Ries, the Senior Associate Director at the Network. We were taken around the front office where most of the desk work takes place. Then, Sara gave us a preview of what the typical day in the office is like. Prior to the shows, they have meetings to discuss the news for the show and what’s expected to happen for the day. These meetings typically involve the producers, on-air talent and the people who do the graphics.
Next was the fan-favorite for the visit, seeing the stage where the filming happens. It was really cool to see the set you see on TV in person. Seeing a live set on 21st and Prime, Deion Sanders’ show, was also a great experience. We got to witness a rehearsal of the show before they went live, and it was cool to see both the in-person part, with Amber Theoharis in studio, and Deion Sanders’ part via Skype.
The most exciting part of the trip to NFL Network was stopping by a live control room during a show on the NFL Network broadcast. There are so many moving parts and it was quite entertaining to see some of the employees do their job and try to talk to us a little bit at the same time. It’s incredible how much focus and attention to detail you need to have when working in a control room, with so many moving parts. I’d be slower to learn the job than Los Angeles traffic on a Sunday. With the trip winding to a close, we’d finish off with our last stop by visiting some Legends.
Our last meeting of the trip took us to Legends Hospitality, a full-service agency backed by Jerry Jones and the Steinbrenners. While there, we spoke with Chris Terwoord, General Manager, Legends Global Sales. Also there were Dan Aran, Senior Development Associate, and Craig Sindici, whom we met yesterday with the Rose Bowl. Chris and Dan both work on the USC Coliseum renovation project, which we saw first hand earlier in the day.
Legends got its start with AT&T Stadium (Jerry’s World) being the first venue to get heavy into luxury premium space. Legends has a strong relationship with the NFL, and also headed up the construction of Levi Stadium in San Francisco, and Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Legends has a multitude of branches it focuses on, its newest being global attractions. Some of these include the One World Observatory in NYC and SkyRise in Miami. Legends prides it’s name on being associated with legendary brands in an attempt to properly tell their story. Moving forward, the company hopes to stay long term and manage facilities, as opposed to building the venue and handing it off to the client.
I believe Legends is well positioned to continue growing globally with their European properties, as well as expanding in different US markets. After finishing up our last meeting of the trip, we all headed to a final supper at Miceli’s.
Finally, our day ended at Miceli’s Italian Restaurant. This was quite the interesting dinner as the wait staff sang while diners ate. Dinner and a show, something that some of us probably have never experienced before. The dinner was amazing and we couldn’t thank Professor Veley and Kate Veley enough for the great experience. This was a good finale to the trip as we wereable to become closer to the group than we were (even though we were already pretty close). As the end of dinner came, the Syracuse basketball game tipped-off and we were watching the games on the March Madness App like we were in a trance. On the bus back to the hotel, the tunes were brought out and we sang Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” This trip was something more than just a networking opportunity and a way to see what sports are like on the West Coast, it was a way to meet people in the sport management of all ages. I think I speak for everyone when I say I met people I think I will be great friends with for the rest of my life. Looking back on the trip as a whole, this has been an incredible experience and I would totally recommend it to any student and cannot thank Professor Veley, Kate Veley, and Nicole Imbrogno for giving me the opportunity to go on this trip as a freshman and for giving the group a spring break we will remember forever. This is the 2018 SU LA Immersion Trip signing off. See you back in Syracuse.