By: Matt Ellman, Jason Vest, and Derek Peters
Today’s day started with a tour of what was the most historic venue that we’ve visited thus far; the Rose Bowl. The bright sun of the Pasadena sky shined down on the beautiful stadium as we got an abundance of information in what goes into the sales and operations of this unique building. The Rose Bowl has been up and running for 92 years, easily one of the oldest stadiums in college football. They have the privilege of hosting UCLA home games, as well as “The Granddaddy of Them All”, the Rose Bowl Game. We were able to meet with 3 executives of the Rose Bowl who are key to the success of the stadium:
- Mike Forrester: Senior Director of Sales
- Jonathan Jackowski: Premium Sales Manager
- George Cunningham: Chief Operating Officer
Mr. Cunningham talked in great detail about what goes into the operations of the Rose Bowl and what makes it unique in comparison to other stadiums. He taught us the difference between what are major and minor events at the Rose Bowl. Minor events are any events that is under 20,000 in attendance and major events are over 20,000. Mr. Cunningham stressed to use that the major events are what the stadium survives off of, since the Rose Bowl doesn’t have events going every day. The Rose Bowl also is owned by the city of Pasadena, which has its positives and negatives. On the positive side, the Rose Bowl is able to use city services such as electricians, guardrails, and garbage systems. Mr. Cunningham also stressed to us that he could call the city manager to take care of any problem with those services and it’s at no cost to the building. A disadvantage of being a public entity is that they have to get permission to host events like concerts and soccer games from the Pasadena City Council, as well as the union rate. The Rose Bowl is also surrounded by a beautiful community of luxurious mansions. However, these residents don’t take too kindly to the stadium’s raucous noises from concerts and other events. Since the Rose Bowl is a public entity, the City Council has the right to put the nix on the event. It’s important in the sport industry to reach more people every year, and the Rose Bowl will continue to accomplish this with the introduction of a music festival in 2016. Cunningham was proud to announce that the Rose Bowl signed a term sheet with AEG to host this festival which would generate $3 million over 10 years. Along with the hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations, the Rose Bowl seems to be set for another 92 years. Clearly, the Rose Bowl is more than just a sports stadium, it’s an entertainment cathedral that will continue to innovate with new events and renovations. These are things that many of us had not known about the Rose Bowl, as the knowledge that Mr. Cunningham had for the business of operating a historic venue like the Rose Bowl.
Mr. Forrester was instrumental in teaching us what it takes to be a Senior Director of Sales for the Rose Bowl. Because there is a thirty year bond debt that is at $13 million and growing, it’s critical for the venue to make up for that by selling premium seats, which is where Mr. Forrester comes in. Especially for the Rose Bowl Game, he has to sell suites that are up to $100,000 in value. In addition to the suites, he has to deal with thousands of regular tickets that he has to push in a three to four day window for the Rose Bowl. Although he explained that the days before the big game are chaotic, they have been able to be successful, as the Rose Bowl Game is able to generate over $300 million in revenue for the city. At the end of the day, Mr. Forrester has to sell tickets off the legacy of the venue, as some of the greatest moments in sports have happened at the Rose Bowl. This legacy helps the revenue of the Rose Bowl and it helps the Rose Bowl to continue innovating and becoming greater every single day.
We were able to go on the field of the Rose Bowl, which is one of the coolest and unique experiences that we’ve had on the trip so far. It’s not every day where you get to stand in the middle of a venue that holds nearly 100,000 people. The Rose Bowl proved to be one of the most remarkable sports and entertainment venues in the world, where they continue to innovate and give an experience to fans like no other.
Once we left Pasadena and the Rose Bowl, we luckily beat the infamous LA traffic and found ourselves in sunny Carson, California at the StubHub Center. Located on the spacious campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills, this 125-acre complex is owned by AEG, a company that we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to learn about and meet a handful of successful executives from yesterday. The facility houses multiple teams and facilities such as the Los Angeles Galaxy, United States Soccer Federation, United States Tennis Association, Velo Sports Center, and Athletes Performance Center. Immediately, the gorgeous campus caught our eyes as we strolled by the practice fields for the Galaxy and walked past the buildings. What makes this facility interesting is the unique partnership between professional teams owned by AEG and the college campus. It was truly one of a kind and quite a sight to see.
We met with Katie Pandolfo, General Manager, and Kyle Waters, Assistant General Manager, of the facility. First, we walked across the complex to the 100,000 square foot VELO Sports Center, a 2,450 seat-capacity indoor velodrome, with a 250-meter track with a 45-degree slant. However, this track cycling arena was one of a kind, as it is the only indoor racing facility in America that has a wooden track. Made of Siberian wood, it is durable and long lasting, as well as known for being termite resistant. Along with the racetrack, it has a hardwood floor infield with two full regulation basketball/volleyball courts. What makes the VELO Sports Center unique is that it is one of twelve facilities that can fly the Olympic and Paralympic rings. Events usually draw in around 1,000 fans, and the facility ensures safety by having an ambulance close by just in case any bikers get injured.
Following the VELO Center, we walked a short ways to the tennis and boxing stadium. The stadium can seat 8,000 people permanently, however, around 4,000 additional seats can be added for larger events such as the CrossFit Games and boxing matches. Along with this, 19 premium luxury suites are offered. Along with tennis and boxing matches, the stadium is used for other non-tennis events such as weddings, small concerts, etc. Across from it was a 27,000-seat soccer stadium that hosts the LA Galaxy. It is the biggest soccer specific stadium in America, and one of the first things we noticed was the 32×137 foot Jumbotron screen at the end of the field above the far-side goal. The venue also hosts international friendlies, as well as women’s world cup games.
One of the most interesting things that we learned about the StubHub Center is its workplace uniqueness of allowing employees of the facility to work out in two employee gyms and a cross-fit gym. This allows for team building amongst members of the organization, and improves communication. Also, we learned about an up and coming $1 million project that will feature free Wi-Fi, online ticketing, and implementing Apple pay, which allows fans to pay for virtually anything (tickets, concessions, parking, etc.) using their IPhone. All of the venues use the same core 12 sponsors of AEG. Overall, seeing StubHub Center was a treat for all of us, especially through the eyes of the General and Assistant General Managers.
To end our day, we went to Paramount Studios for lunch, followed by a tour of the entire studio. We were split up into two groups with a tour guide, each showing us all of the different stages and areas where production occurs. It was really amazing to see how a movie is made behind the scenes. We sat in the Paramount Studios screening room, where many expensive screenings take place and got the feeling of what its really like to be famous. We walked the streets of the studio and were able to see the different buildings that have been built for specific movies and shows. For example, there is a street dedicated to all New York based movies and shows with the buildings replicating New York City buildings, which make the movies look very realistic. The way movies are made was definitely a shock to everyone in both groups, as we did not realize how informal and how often the same sets are used for multiple movies. The most amazing part of the tour to us was the use of a “fake sky” in movies. In the back of their parking lot, Paramount has a huge painted backdrop acting as the sky. This is done surprisingly well because viewers find that the real sky looks fake and believe a fake sky is real. Yes, we were confused too! To wrap up the tour, we went to Sunset Gower Studios, where the hit show Scandal films their episodes. While some have never seen the show, the entire group was in awe of seeing the set of one of the most popular shows on television. We were taken into many of the sets used in the show but the one that amazed us more than any other was the makeshift “Oval Office” that was almost too realistic! This was a day of many firsts that concluded with a nice relaxing night by the pool.