By: Sam Spector, Elijah Biggins, and Sky Regan
We started off our trip with a visit to Mandalay Entertainment Group, but we specifically had a chance to interact and learn from an executive in Mandalay Baseball. Larry Freedman, CEO and Owner of the Oklahoma City Dodgers, discussed his position, how he gained his success for the company, and the different aspects going into Mandalay Baseball. Mr. Freedman attended Boston University for his undergrad, and then attended Northwestern and UCLA for law school. He was inspired to attend law school because he was told that you can pursue any passion you want with a law degree. However, it was interesting to hear from him how he said to not attend law school, because he paid too much money for something that he didn’t really want to do. Mandalay Baseball is responsible for selling and buying minor league teams. Their most recent was the purchase of the OKC Dodgers and a Triple-A baseball park in Scranton, PA. Also, the recent selling of the Dayton Dragons. Mr. Freedman talked about five principles that are the basis of his company. 1) Affordable, high quality products 2) quality family entertainment 3) unsurpassed customer service 4) community development and 5) positive sponsor impact. He really focused on family fun entertainment; the experience is what matters engages people. Mandalay delivers first class experience at ball parks for their fans to keep coming back. Attending a baseball game is something for everyone of all ages. Young kids, parents, and grandparents can all enjoy some aspect of the game. Whether it’s the baseball match itself, entertainment between innings, or the food vendors, there is something in it for everyone. Some things I took away from Mr. Freedman and Mandalay was his stories of success. He lives by a quote from David Zelon, Producer at Mandalay that says, “Don’t ever let someone tell you no”. In order to build oneself up to success, you must be persistent, humble, patient, and ask questions. Mr. Freedman gave the example of a lady named Rachel Cohen, who wanted to work for the NY Yankees. She took an entry level position in sponsorships, but she felt she could make her way up into the legal department, because that is what she was passionate about. One day she walked down the hall to the office of a legal representative for the Yankees, and told her that she was a lawyer and wanted to work with them. The end result was that she was hired later on for that position. This stuck with me because it shows that one doesn’t know what they can obtain unless they ask. Moving forward, Mandalay will begin the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), as part of the MLS in 2017-2018, and also will create a new sport property in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for a Single- A White Sox minor league affiliate. ¸ After visiting with Larry Freedman at Mandalay Sports and Entertainment we walked back to the bus to depart for the Los Angeles Convention Center. As we walked out to meet Eber (our bus driver for the day) you could start to feel the California sun begin to warm up. Once we got on the bus, Mrs. Veley started to hand out all the hats that Mr. Freedman gave to our group as a parting gift, a collection of white “OKC” (Oklahoma City) Dodgers hats with an old school look to the lettering and a black Mandalay Entertainment hat with their tiger logo on the front of it. (Funny side note: Before we pulled off the side of the street, I overheard Mrs. Veley say “Hey there! Were leaving right now!” I didn’t think anything of it. It was 10:45 a.m. and I was running on about five hours of sleep, so I really wasn’t thinking at all. Suddenly, a random lady walked two steps up the bus, looked around, and said, “Wow, this is nice,” and left. Curious as to who this mystery woman was, we expected Mrs. Veley to let us know but when we asked, Mrs. Veley shook her head, smiled and said “I don’t know.” *Eber pulls off to head to the Los Angeles Convention Center*) As we got out of our perfectly cooled A/C bus onto Figueroa Street, you could really start to feel the heat. As if you opened a pre heated oven, the sun’s heat slapped you in the face and it was almost like it knew we were going back to 45 degree weather, so it was making sure we got as much of it as possible before we left. On our way down Figueroa to the Convention Center, the group spotted two Red Bull marketing girls who were giving out free Red Bulls. Like any normal college students would do after hearing “Free (fill in the blank),” in this case Red Bulls, we flocked to the marketers like pigeons would to a mound of seeds. Double fisting our Red Bulls, we walked into the LA Convention Center. The Convention Center gave off a very airport like feel, it was big, and full of people who needed to go somewhere and I had no clue where our destination would be. We got to our destination, the LA Marathon and expo, where there was a huge banner welcoming the runners and public to the expo which was sponsored by NutriBullet Health and Fitness. Before our meeting we had planned with Tracy Russell, the CEO of the LA Marathon, we had about an hour to kill so we had the chance to go in and explore the expo as well as grab a bite to eat. After lunch we met with Tracy Russell the CEO of the LA Marathon for a quick Q&A of the event. She told us about how this was the 30th anniversary of the marathon and that there were going to be about 178 “legacy” runners, meaning the runners who have been apart of the race for 30 years, since its conception.
One of their primary long-term goals was to build the races credibility as one of the top tier marathons in the nation, to likes of the Boston, New York and Chicago Marathons. The race takes almost a year to plan and they have a full time staff of 11 people who work to make the race happen and a total of 6000 volunteers. They’re really trying to hammer home the message of health and fitness to everyone at the expo. An interesting aspect of the expo as well was that, as a sponsor, if you buy a booth, don’t expect sponsorship exclusivity, meaning your rivals are likely to also have a booth there. Finally, they are hosting the Olympic trials next year in February. Next we traveled through LA to the famous LA Coliseum, which was constructed in 1923. Upon our arrival we were greeted by Anastasia Johnson who is the director of business development for USC. She talked about her role and responsibilities working in such a unique venue and partnership with the LA Coliseum. She also manages the LA Sports Arena, which is now often rented out for concert rehearsals for major events like Katy Perry’s Super Bowl performance this past year. We then walked into the stadium and we were all amazed by the architecture and could just feel the rich history of the venue. We were immediately taken back by the huge 92,000 seat complex, which goes up 94 rows. The University of Southern California recently gained the master lease for the facility in 2013, and have been able to put their own touch on it ever since. They are in the process of raising funds to undertake a massive renovation of the stadium. During the renovation it is very important to the people at USC to still keep the historic feel of the Coliseum so they do not plan to alter the basic shape or the famous archways and parasol. Under this new renovation they will finally be able to add a much needed premium seating area in the stadium, which will drive up their revenue. They also plan to add some technology features like improved jumbotrons, and Wi-Fi throughout the building. On one side of the building they have the 4th largest jumbotron in the nation but the other side is outdated. We were escorted onto the field by Assistant Athletic Director Jeff Fucci, who then took us into the newly designed locker room. Before leaving the Coliseum we all posed for our Heisman imitation. We were escorted onto the field by Assistant Athletic Director Jeff Fucci, who then took us into the newly designed locker room. Before leaving the Coliseum we all posed for our Heisman imitation. We then got back on the bus to head over to USC’s campus which was absolutely magnificent. Mr. Fucci met back up with us and took us into the McKay center that is an athletic training facility for all 21 of USC’s sports. The 110,000 square foot facility was built in 2012 and cost $70 million to complete. Immediately we saw the modern technology of the facility when Jeff used his finger print to enter into the building, which is programmed for all student athletes. The building was amazing from start to finish. The first floor was completely dedicated to academic services for student athletes. He then took us on a tour through the rest of the building very similar to a tour a top level recruit would get. We saw the meeting rooms, team lounges, training rooms, and even their state-of-the-art weight room that includes a 50 yard indoor field. One of the more impressive things was a display of all the Nike gear that all the athletes would wear. They even had an interactive touch screen where you could select a sport and see all of the Nike gear that the team wear for that sport. At the end of the tour we stopped to see all of the Heisman trophies and championships won by this storied University.
Throughout our time at USC, we could take away that everything they did in their facilities was to appeal to a recruit during their visit to campus. Their new Head Football Coach Steve Sarkisian rebranded the team with a much more present day look by displaying USC former players that are now current NFL players. This was done because potential recruits and current USC players have much more of a connection with those athletes. The University worked with the Advent Marketing Group to display all new graphics of recent USC players across their facilities. Overall, we were all wowed by USC’s campus and top of the line athletic facilities for their student athletes, and I think if we were all on our football recruiting trip we know where we would choose. After the tour of the Los Angeles Coliseum and the USC athletic buildings with Mr. Fucci, we went to the Toyota Center, which we had previously visited on Wednesday for the LA Kings, instead this time we were taking a tour of the Lakers practice facility. At the facility we met with John Black, Vice President of Public Relations for the Lakers, who gave us a tour of the facility. We started in the media room, where the media can come in and ask questions to players and coaches. Mr. Black told us about how the Lakers had been practicing in the facility since February of 2000 and how they were planning on buying a piece of land across the street for a new, bigger and modern facility. We walked onto the practice court and then the training rooms as well as the weight room and locker room. Half of all Lakers employees work at the Toyota center and the Lakers D-League affiliates D-Fenders play and practice at the facility. We finally settled into the film room where we had a Q&A with John Black and Mark Medina who is a Syracuse Alum and an L.A. daily News and Lakers beat writer. In the Q&A we talked on everything from Dr. Buss’ impact to the impact that analytics play in their organization. The biggest thing I took from today was how vital it was to have good connections and relationships with people within this industry. It has definitely been a topic that has been hammered home the whole week and is something I will take with me as a valuable piece of advice from countless professionals we’ve met with in a span of seven days. You never know how someone you meet in the industry can help you, whether its getting a job/internship or connecting you with someone who can be beneficial to something your working toward, whether that’s a job or a independent study. The connections you make every single day are crucial to your growth as a professional in the industry, and you should take full advantage of them because for the most part people genuinely want to help you. We ended a week of unforgettable memories and experiences with a family dinner at Miceli’s, with great food, dancing, singing and endless laughs. Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Veley for making this trip possible for all the students who came and your genuine support of our dreams and aspirations. You’ve inspired us all. Until next time Los Angeles!