Day 4: Nice to Meet You, Mr. President

By: Sarah Gardner, Mateo Diaz, and Courtnay McClure

To say that Day 3 was a whirlwind would be a complete understatement. Nobody likes a 6:00 am wakeup

Outside of the Toyota Center, practice facility of the Los Angeles Kings

Outside of the Toyota Center, practice facility of the Los Angeles Kings

call, but when it’s for a 9:00 am meeting with the Los Angeles Kings, we all decided that we could manage. Taking a tour through the practice facility for the Los Angeles Kings and the Lakers was unlike anything else that we’ve done on the trip so far. In this facility, there were multiple ice rinks that the Kings utilized, one that housed Stanley Cup-winning players, and the other that took care of established Olympic figure skaters. It’s safe to say that no matter where we go on this trip, we’re in good company.

A majority of our trip was dedicated to speaking with Kelly Cheeseman, the COO of the LA Kings. Kelly was a charismatic and knowledgeable man, able to talk about the business structures of not only the Kings, but the LA Galaxy and AEG, the owner of the Kings, as well. We had the privilege of getting an inside look at the organization itself, as Mr. Cheeseman described and emphasized a “family-oriented” structure within the Kings. “We want them to feel at home,” he said, “from the second they are drafted to the time they put on a uniform.” He went on to say that marketing strategies for the Kings and Galaxy focus a lot on homegrown players, people that come from the state of California to give the teams an atmosphere that is reminiscent of “keeping it all in the family.” To help grow hockey in the California market, and to enable the city of Los Angeles to identify with these players, having hometown heroes is very important to the organization.

Touching more on some of the challenges that he and the organization face daily, Kelly told us about the governance structures of soccer and hockey, which he equated to “the Democrats and Republicans.” The MLS is very centralized, while the NHL is very hands off. This makes for various challenges in making both types of governance fit the mold of the business. He also talked a lot about working with the Staples Center, and with that, three other professional sports teams in the same venues. “We all want Saturday games,” Cheeseman remarked about scheduling preference, “but the Lakers need some of those, and the Clippers, and the Sparks. You can’t always get what you want.” However, considering the Kings have won two out of the last three Stanley Cups, it seems that they’ve still got what they need.

All in all, the practice facility was astounding. It created a feel of family and unity, with LA Kings branding everywhere, from the locker rooms to the wall-stickers in the weight room, you were an LA King from the moment that you stepped through the door; and that’s what this franchise is all about. When they say “We Are All Kings,” they mean it. They mean their players, their families, and their fans, from any demographic. Its evident that although the Kings may have an unconventional market, they consider themselves like everyone else, and still excel in getting a loyal audience no matter what.

After visiting everything Kings, we headed over to Olympic Blvd. to get a behind the scenes tour of the one and only Staples Center. Jen and Armin toured us around and at the beginning of the tour we asked a couple questions about the center before getting to see everything. We got to learn about how they transition from each sport. Since the Staples center is home to four professional sport franchises, there is a lot of work that goes into changing up the venue for each event, whether it be the LA Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Sparks, or other special events, such as concerts and even the Grammy’s. They host over 250 events each year, which can be a handful. Jen talked about how their team was a “well oiled machine” that was capable of handling every task put in front of them. They typically have a crew or 30-40 people that help transition the venue overnight to each sport amenity. However, in the past, they have had days where they have back to back games in a day and, in that case, they double their team and get it done within an amount of hours. Their record was 1 hour 24 min. As for the merchandising store, they decided to move the store a while back both to give a larger selection of products and also for their own benefit. The merchandise that hangs on the walls are actually on a swivel, which makes it easy for them to change the store between each game and event. We then got a bit of a lesson as to the work environment that goes on for the two guides. They talked about how their job was stressful but still fun, which is why they’ve been working for the venue for so long. An occurring theme between a lot of professionals in the industry is the fact that the job is not a weekly 9-7 job and is instead a random hour job every day of the week. That being said, it is still possible to have a normal life, it just requires a lot of work. Finally, before our tour, they gave us some advice about being curious and having internships. Jen mentioned that “this industry is based on trust” and finally not to be discouraged by rejection and instead be persistent.

After our pep talk, we went on to tour the building. Our first stop was in the newly established lounge and tables area. This was a very cool idea to give a private viewing experience for the premier seat holders. This area was sponsored by San Manuel Casino. The capacity is up to 21,000 depending on each event. The regular sports hold around 18-19 thousand fans. Included are 150 luxury suites, over 100 premier seating and 25 lounges and tables. We were introduced to the fact that the Staples Center has very minimal sponsors. They keep 12 founding sponsors and make sure that they are the only ones in the building and that they have a good relationship with those sponsors through various tactics, such as not allowing competitions.

Taking the court at the Staples Center

Taking the court at the Staples Center

After this, we went down to the lower floors and saw where celebrities or important fans enter into the building. They only have to take about 18 steps from their car to the door. We continued down and got to see the locker rooms for the LA Kings and the LA Lakers. We also got to see the Presidents lounge, which is where all the important celebrities and distinguished guests get to relax, have a drink, smoke a cigar, and not be bothered with cameras. Apparently, the craziest guest to come through was Katy Perry, while the largest tab holder goes to Mr. Jay-Z.

We then proceeded to the court where we got to take a few photos and hear some finishing remarks about the venue. Amazingly, the Clippers light show requires heavy-duty gear that is hung above the court and allows for an amazing video type introduction shown on the court. The most important point brought up by Jen was the fact that they don’t separate each division, they all work together as a well-oiled team. The experience is what is most important at Staples Center and that starts with your parking experience, the experience you get entering the building, and even ordering food. It’s not just about the game and the overall experience is what makes this venue so unique and great because they focus on every aspect to get fans to come back. This tour was an amazing experience to add to our trip.

After the lunch at Rosa Mexicano, we got a tour of LA Live. We first started with going to the top of a parking lot. Traditionally, this is nothing special; however, AEG, along with other partners, was able to convert the boring lot into an enormous tent, called Restaurant Stadium, home to the All-Star Chef Classic. This event is a 4-day experience that hosts some of the top chefs in the world to cook a 5-course meal for you as well as a cheese and wine event the last day. The first day they bring in chefs from France, the next from America, then the last from the UK. This event was absolutely amazing to get to see because it will not be broadcasted at all. It was also interesting to hear about other events that are hosted on top of the lot, specifically the X Games.

Once we toured the lot, we went down to the LA Live area that consists of restaurants, broadcasting companies, such as ESPN’s broadcasting and radio station, hotels, and other venues, such as Nokia Theatre and Club. The interesting thing about the area is that, although it is also owned by AEG, there are rival sponsors to the Staples Center across the street, specifically Target to Staples and Panasonic to Toshiba. This is possible because it is privately owned and therefore a separate entity from the Staples Center. Many events have occurred in LA Live, such as smaller concerts in the Nokia Theatre and even hosting viewings in the center of the square. Some viewings include the sports going on inside, as well as, the World Cup.

Our last event of the day was a nice evening where we got to network with a lot of alumni or current students at SULA. This was a great way to connect with those who are getting experience here in LA and those who are already in the working world, willing to help us out. After a few hours of mingling, we headed into a small theatre where we watched an episode of Blackish and got to have a Q and A type talk with two of the cast members, a comedian and television actress, and a manager and film producer. This was extremely fun to listen to these funny people and get a different type of experience that happens in LA.

Overall, our day was probably the greatest day we will have on this trip, meeting with so many professionals and seeing so many great venues and sights. It was a long day but we got to experience something that not very many people get to experience and it was amazing.

AEG spoiled us today! We met with nine executives ranging from different departments. Here is the list:

  1. Steve Joudi: Vice President, Global Support Services at AEG
  2. Will Fogerty: Project Specialist at AEG
  3. Marla Gibson: Vice President, Human Resources-AEG Facilities
  4. Whitney Johnson: Manager, Talent Acquisition at AEG
  5. Andrew Arrospide: Partnership Sales Analyst at AEG Worldwide
  6. Michelle Kajiwara: Vice President, Premium Seating Sales at AEG/STAPLES Center
  7. Russell Silvers: Senior Vice President, Partnership Activation at AEG
  8. Dan Beckerman: CEO and President of AEG
  9. Eric Bresler: Vice President Event Booking and Development AEG Facilities

Our AEG Afternoon began with lunch at Rosa Mexicano, which was kindly provided by AEG. This lunch allowed us to sit, talk and eat with AEG executives. There we met with Steve Joudi, Will Fogerty, Marla Gibson, Whitney Johnson and Andrew Arrospide. Steve Joudi ran the event by presenting a power point will all types of need to know information about AEG. As a way of rewarding us he gave out Starbucks gift cards along with JBL Headphones to whoever got a question correct. Each speaker had about 10-15 minutes to speak to us.

Marla Gibson was the first speaker. She is going on three years in this position. She told us about the FLDP program, which is an internship program for seniors or recent college graduates. In order to be a candidate for this position one needs relevant experience, leadership potential, a strong work ethic, desire to work in sports/Entertainment/hospitality/venue, flexibility, and extracurricular participation. She also said that she does not like clever letters and neither does Whitney Johnson.

Whitney Johnson also spoke about another AEG opportunity called a Insight a sale program. Focuses on recruiting for positions for specific groups under their corporate umbrella. She said that it is about an 8 year position.

Andrew Arrospide started as an intern for AEG through his Sport Management capstone. He told us to make connections. Connections are key in this world.

After the lunch we headed back to their offices to meet with Michelle Kajiwara, Russell Silvers, Dan Beckerman and Eric Bresler. Michelle Kajiwara truly believes that it’s not just a single team, it’s a platform for a fan to get everything. She also made it clear that our first jobs will not be gift wrapped. Even if you do not have a manager’s title, you should always act like one. She also said that, you will grow the most in places where you are challenged the most.

Russell Silvers spoke about who are the 12 founding partners and why is it that they only have 12. They would rather have a clean stadium with few advertisements the a stadium full of them. It’s about catering to the customer. In this situation less is more.

We were beyond lucky to have had the honor of meeting AEG’s CEO, Dan Beckerman. We are the first group of immersion trippers to have gotten the amazing opportunity to meet him in person. He spoke about how getting a foot in the door is important. He also mentioned that one has to be willing to do anything. All in all, if you want to be in the business, just take a chance.

Our last speaker of the day was Eric Bresler. He is Involved with programming and content development for the venues. He told us to take out first job seriously because that way we are able to get our foot in the door. He oversees all venues and makes sure that they are all getting booked. Every venue has someone responsible of booking the venue and every team and every arena has a legal department.

View of LA Live and Staples Center from the AEG offices

View of LA Live and Staples Center from the AEG offices

These men and women took time out of their day to instill much needed knowledge in us all. We are extremely grateful.

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Departure!March 12th, 2016
LA here we come!
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