By: Alexis Richer, Emma Schambers, and Ben Rossetti
Today was day four of the trip and we started off leaving the hotel around 8:15 in our nicest clothes because today is the day we went to AEG. First was the meeting at the Los Angeles Kings practice facility with Kelly Cheeseman, the COO of AEG Sports who has been there for 17 years. He gave a brief history of his background and the background of the LA Kings. He informed us and gave us an overview of the 17 teams that AEG owns. We asked him how the hockey franchise survives and succeeds in Southern California and he explained that The Kings having such a strong fanbase is what allows them every year to be successful. When the team was started 50 years ago the owners wanted to create a franchise that people who move from other areas can relate to while still rooting for their home town team.
The Staples Center is also a huge part of The Kings and in 1996 when it was bought it opened up a whole new fan base because of the central location for all people of diverse LA to enjoy. The Kings also are the only Los Angeles team that was born and bred in Los Angeles. Another way the fan base is kept so involved is because AEG has built local satellite rinks around the LA area for young fans to get involved with hockey. While hockey can be an expensive sport for kids to get involved in at a young age there are programs through The Kings that teach kids how to play at a relatively low cost. The culture of The Kings is a family oriented team that started off small with 250 people and grew into a huge business. Kelly Cheeseman gave us great advice to be team players, ready to work hard, and to get experience even if it is not doing what you want because it can eventually.
Next stop was The Los Angeles Clippers office with Matt Paye, he is the vice president of marketing with the team and his presentation was incredible. Before working here he worked at NASCAR. He joined the team after the change of ownership and he talked about the NBA and The LA Clippers culture. The NBA is global force and recognized around the world, not just the United States. The Los Angeles Clippers have always had a pretty strong fan base but after the change of ownership there has been a more fan oriented base. While it is hard having two basketball teams in the same arena, he explained that the Lakers are more of an upscale team that appeal to a wealthier fan base but The Clippers appeal to everyone. Fans are also very diverse so it is important to appeal to all different ethnicities which is why there are certain nights devoted to different ethnicities, for example, tonight was Japanese-American night.
To me something very important that Mr. Paye discussed was the positive impact that the players had on and off the court. Over $3 Million dollars was contributed to CityYear which is an organization to improve the graduation rates for high school students. The Clippers and Matt Paye were a great organization. After this we walked over to The Staples and had lunch in the press room where there were sandwiches and fruit waiting. The press room is used for journalists and media.
As we were finishing up our oh-so-delicious lunch and dessert, Nicole Graf (Event Producer, Employee Engagement) welcomed us to AEG. She played AEG’s intro video that summarized their work throughout the sports, music, and entertainment industries. The video was a great primer to show us just how huge of an entertainment empire AEG is. The video finished with their slogan: “Giving the world reason to cheer.”
After the video, Kevin McDowell (Executive VP & Chief Administrative Officer) took center stage to talk to us for about 40 minutes; covering everything from the history of AEG, the different sports properties AEG owns and/or manages, as well as what’s now and what’s next for the company. After his presentation, he discussed AEG’s set of organizational values by highlighting, “Our Truths” which included: Your opinion matters, Make a difference, Good enough… isn’t, Work well / Be Well, etc. These core values, in addition to their commitment to their community outreach efforts, showed us what AEG is all about.
After lunch and Mr. McDowell’s presentation, we took a tour of the Staples Center guided by Blake Malcom (Event Manager – Staples Center) and Mike Kravec (Assistant Manager of Events – Staples Center). While it’s certainly no Carrier Dome (just kidding… kind of), getting an exclusive tour of the Staples Center turned out to be an incredible experience. We first went down to the “Events Level”, where we toured the Wells Fargo Chairman’s Lounge, locker rooms of the LA Kings and LA Lakers, and walked through the hallway that Grammy winners walk to get their Grammy after the awards show. Some of us even got to catch a glimpse of future NBA Hall of Famer Paul Pierce up close and personal as he got off the elevator. Through this tour, we (dis)covered things such as:
- Staples Center Current Tenants: LA Kings (NHL), LA Lakers (NBA), LA Clippers (NBA), LA Sparks (WNBA)
- Staples Center Full-Time Staff: 80-90 employees
- LA Kings’ lounge and locker rooms serve as dressing rooms for performing artists at the Grammys, even the Queen herself (Beyoncé, not the actual Queen)
- Total Event Days Per Year in the Staples Center: 250-260
- 180 Suites in Staples Center + 25 Lounge areas + 2400 Premium Seats=Serious ca$h
The Staples Center is considered the “Mothership” of AEG, as other venues (and resulting entertainment districts like LA Live) followed in the footsteps of the Staples Center when it opened 19 years ago. Blake and Mike highlighted just how much of a “dance” it can be when changing tenants and events (basketball, hockey, concerts, award show, etc.), especially when they have very limited time to do so. Blake said that on occasion there has been as little as 85 minutes from when the first event ends until the start of the next event. We also learned how they manage an ice rink under the basketball court (HVAC system, Engineers monitor humidity, dew points, external temp, etc.). Our tour of the Staples Center finished on the court and we got a great group picture at half court. After our tour ended, Nicole, Yolanda, and Will took us across the street through LA Live to the corporate offices of AEG.
We were now lucky enough to meet with a few of AEG’s executives. First, Cassie Zebisch, Director of Communications came to talk to us. Cassie attended San Diego State University for undergraduate school and was part of the water polo team. After college, she was in the restaurant industry for a year until she attended University of San Francisco and gained her master’s in sport management. Her first internship was at AEG in the communication department. She then interned for the Angels in their events office. Cassie told us that internships make you realize what you and do not want to do. She encouraged us to do as many as we can. She has been at AEG since 2008 and worked her way up to her current position. Cassie gave us great social media advice. It is clear that social media is a big part of most our lives, and it is important to be conscious of what we are posting. When Cassie is hiring someone, she googles them first. She claims that this can show a lot about who people are. Next, we met with Michele Kajiwara, Vice President of Premium Seating Sales. She had an interesting path that shapes her into the person she is. She majored in communications at University of Southern California. She bounced from company to company and also did a lot of traveling. Michele looks back at her traveling experiences as one of the best decisions in her life. It gave her skills that she uses often now. AEG is the place that made her really stay and she is going on her fourteenth year. She chose to stay because of the uniqueness of the platform. Michele gave us several pieces of beneficial advice. First, she told us to learn and listen to someone who is good at what we want to do. Second, she told us to not be afraid of following our passions. Third, she told us to stay authentic and treat everyone the same. Finally, we met with George Pappas, Vice President of Global Partnerships. He received his undergraduate degree from USC. He then jumped around from company to company before going to University of San Francisco to receive a degree in sport management. He jumped around to a few more companies before ending up at AEG. His job, in short, is to generate revenue for the company. He gave us the advice: “Anything you touch, carries your signature.” George told us to always leave our mark, whether it takes as little as a handwritten note or tickets to a Coldplay concert. He then provided us with a list of “parts of the sale” and we went over an example, emphasizing that people buy people first and products second. He told us that confidence takes time and experience and we must find opportunities where we can add our value. The AEG presentations were incredible and we feel lucky to have heard from great executives.
For the last part of our long and exciting day, we attended the Clippers game. They played the Milwaukee Bucks and lost an exciting game, 97 to 96. It was Japanese American night, and all of those members of the community that attended received the hats pictured below. We all sat together in great seats in section 217. Clippers games are electric. There was not a single dull moment when nothing was going on. The music was the type of music played on the radio, everyone knew what was playing. There were dance competitions, with people of a wide range of ages participating and adding to the fun and excitement. There were also shooting competitions, and one man even won a trip to London for making two free throws and answering a question. At one point, we were featured on the jumbotron, and that was an awesome experience and feeling! Chuck, the California Condor and Clippers’ mascot, did a phenomenal job keeping everyone pumped up. He even dunked at one point. Although the Clippers did not come out with a win, it was an exciting game where we were all pumped up at the end and had a great time together!