By: Elijah Newsome, Neil Cusat, & Peter Nagle
Our day began bright and early with a tour of the AEG property: The Stubhub center. Our tour was led by the GM of the Stubhub Center Katie Pandolfo as well as Adam Duvendeck the Director of Operations for the Stubhub Center. For many of us on the Immersion trip we thought the Stubhub Center was just where the LA Galaxy play. We were astonished when we discovered that it is actually a large complex with the not only the stadium where the Galaxy play, but also numerous practice fields, a tennis stadium, and the only indoor velodrome in North America.
Katie and Adam showed us the Soccer and Tennis stadium first; letting us know how each venue is able to adapt to host such events like the Crossfit Games or the Tough Mudder races. Katie briefly touched on their plans on how they are going to accommodate the LA Chargers. She showed us how they were going to add in seating to an area that the Galaxy use as a place where fans can bring their own chairs and watch the game. Katie went on to explain that the Stubhub Center is home to a lot of athletes not just LA galaxy players. USA Cycling, USA Soccer, the USTA and many other organizations use the Stubhub center for training purposes. The public is also able to use some of the facilities such as the Velodrome.
Katie and Adam then took us to the Velodrome, where Adam got the chance to talk a little about his story and the complexities of running such a unique facility. Adam, touched on his past experiences which included training to be a US Olympian as an indoor cyclist. His years of training at the Stubhub Center led to him eventually working there, and rising to the role he has today. Adam touched on the uniqueness of the Velodrome, as it is the only indoor Velodrome of it’s size in North America, and he also touched on the various changes they would have to make in order for the Velodrome to be up to Olympic standards.
Our conversations at the Velodrome shifted from biking to culture as Katie began discussing the culture she was trying to build. She discussed the importance of work life balance and how she implements that in her “office”. She believes it is important for people to exercise so she encourages her staff to go out and exercise at 4 PM, doing an activity of their choosing. She also has provided her staff with Weekly Yoga and Crossfit classes, as well as providing healthy lunches prepared by their on site chefs for her staff to enjoy for free. Katie then touched on her initiative of creating a green workplace through having an employee garden and bee hive. Adam chirped in and added that these initiatives are some of the reasons why he enjoys working there.
After touring the facilities at the StubHub Center, we took a trip to the Santa Anita Racetrack. We met with Marketing Coordinator, Alfred Granillo, who took us on a tour of the “bucket list racetrack.” We walked to the paddock, where the horses are prepped before they are paraded out to the track for the race. Then we took an exclusive trip into the Jockey Room which is usually only authorized for entry by owners, trainers and jockeys. Inside the Jockey Room, there is a cafeteria, a lounge to watch races and scout horses, a locker room and the silks room, which holds over 14,000 different silks that jockeys wear.
Alfred then talked a little bit more about what he does and the background of Santa Anita Park, Horse Racing, and his role in the organization. Granillo talked about the challenges the park faces in a large sports market like Los Angeles, and pointed to missing a generation of fans due to lack of interest and being an afterthought. Santa Anita combats this with trying to provide a fun experience that makes people want to come out for an afternoon at the track with things like Food Festivals, Musical entertainment, and the KRock Olympic Beer Festival. These experiences are focused more on bringing in the younger fans from 18-24, based on the importance of wagering in horse racing. The tracks biggest source of revenue is through gambling, over the past two years they’ve used the Wagering Ambassador Program to teach new fans how to wager, read a program, and say a bet. The other source of revenue is through sponsors and smaller partnerships in the community, that bring a connection between the track and the Los Angeles area. Lastly the attendance fluctuates based on the day, weekdays average 3,000-7,000 people, while weekends bring in around 30,000 people and on big races and opening day, closer to 50,000 people will come to the track.
Next we were treated with a special surprise and met jockey Iggy Puglisi, who was racing in the 2nd race of the day. Iggy described his love for racing, routine and uniqueness of being a jockey. Iggy realized that he wanted to be a jockey based on his size and his love for horses. He was racing as early as 18 years old. Iggy’s routine starts early around 5 or 6 in the morning, he drinks a coffee or juice, works out horses at the track, races, and then will finally eat well. He races twice a day and four times a week. A question asked was how Iggy is scheduled to race, and since there are no contracts for jockeys it is usually just an agreement between owner/trainer and jockey. Jockeys can be let go and replaced at any time by any other jockey so it is a very competitive.
Lastly we got to head over to the track side, where we ate lunch and toured the clubhouse. These premium seats made up mostly all of Santa Anita making it unique to horse racing and a connection to the culture in Los Angeles. We even were treated to $2 betting vouchers which we placed on the 5 horse field. After making our bets we went to watch the race from the winner’s circle porch, where the 2 horse Kristi’s Copilot won the race. (Ben Rosetti was the only person to win his bet.) Alfred gave us a one of a kind tour that taught us about the unique sport of horse racing, how awesome Santa Anita Park is, and made us all want to see another horse race.
Our third stop of the day was the hundred year old, world famous venue, the Rose Bowl. We were greeted at the gate by the two main executives of the facility, George Cunningham and Jens Weiden. From their presentation, we learned the hundred year history of the Rose Bowl and the recent addition of the Donahue Pavilion. Weiden explained that the Rose Bowl is not a private facility but is in fact a municipal possession of the city of Pasadena. It was initially built in 1922 to house the football game that annually taken place after the Rose Parade and has now become one of the most famous venues in the world. We also learned that along with the Rose Bowl and all UCLA home games, the venue hosts several concerts, community events, and festivals such as the new Arroyo Seco weekend. Weiden and Cunningham stressed the importance of their personal efforts to raise revenue so the facility maintains a cycle of self-sufficiency to prevent Pasadena from letting it fall into disrepair.
The other host from the Rose Bowl was an SU alum named Jonathan Jackowski. His job responsibility focuses on the sale of premium seating and luxury suites within the Donahue Pavilion. Jonathan works for a company called Legends who are contracted by the Rose Bowl. He gave us a window in the world of high end venue sales. Not only does he have several competing entertainment options in a huge market like Los Angeles, but Jackowski deals with a constantly shifting market of supply and demand that he monitors to provide the maximum revenue to his company. He mentioned the importance of the Rose Bowl contract to Legends, it is the only college property in their portfolio and it acts like a crown jewel due to its popularity around the world. According to Jackowski, Legends corporate culture is professional but relational enough to celebrate achievement in what he termed, “Work hard play hard.” Jonathan also gave us valuable career advice that included a strong endorsement of vigorous networking. In fact the job he has now was gained through maintaining relationships with people he had not seen for years. His best quote, “Do it every chance you get, you can’t network enough.”
The finale of the our sixth night in southern California was a Kings vs. Sabres NHL hockey game. We entered the Staples Center before the game started while constantly wondering what surprises Professor Veley had up his sleeve. When the time came we were brought down to the tunnel where were we witnessed the Kings take the ice feet away from the VIP tunnel. It was a great surprise that definitely improved the experience. The game itself was rather uneventful until the third period which saw two unanswered Kings goals and a fight, which is what most people watch hockey for. Overall it was exceedingly entertaining and tick of my bucket list, being my first NHL game.
Tomorrow is the conclusion of our trip when we visit the LA Coliseum, and NFL Network.