Wednesday: LA Sports & Entertainment Commission, AEG, Santa Monica

By: Taitum Kurasz, Hugo Marsans, Alex Johnson


After finally getting to sleep in a little bit this morning, the group headed to the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission. There we met with Allison Citelli, the Director of Events and Business Development. Allison is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara, and spent most of her time in college working in sports with organizations such as the Oakland Raiders, Washington Nationals, and Staples Center.

The Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission is a private, non-profit company. In conjunction with LA Tourism, the LA Sports Commission works with the city of Los Angeles to make major events come to life. The Sports Commission is best known for placing bids on high-profile events, such as the Super Bowl or the Olympics, and creating proposals for the independent governing bodies, such as the NFL or IOC. One of the main ideas that Allison stressed about the Sports Commission was that they are trying to get “heads in beds,” meaning that they are most concerned with bringing tourists into Los Angeles by hosting these major events, in hopes to have a large economic impact on the city. The Commission works in direct relation with the hotels, restaurants, venues and other businesses in the area to find ways to establish partnerships with these events and generate more profits for them as well. One way they do this is by adding a tax on hotel rooms during these high-traffic time frames. By establishing these taxes, the money goes straight back to the city.

IMG_2709Allison had experience in many different sectors of the sport industry, and she explained to us what made the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission special. Her department consisted of only six individuals, all of which were women. Since her department is so small, Allison says that there is a lot of room for movement within the company, which is an aspect she truly enjoys. Over the course of the time we spent at the LA Sports Commission, Allison gave us plenty of great advice and career tips, some of which included:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • “If it is to be, it is up to me”
  • Never be afraid to reach out to individuals
  • Set up Google News alerts for companies you may potentially want to work for

Our day with AEG began at 12 sharp right outside of LA Live where we met with Will Fogerty who would be our guide for the day and responsible for keeping the group on schedule. He was phenomenal at doing so, which allowed the group as much time as possible with each executive we met. AEG treated us to lunch at Mexicana Rosa where we had the privilege of meeting with two of AEG’s ‘big dogs’ off the bat; Kevin McDowell, CAO of AEG and Chuck Steedman, COO of AEG Facilities. Kevin began with a phenomenal 20 minute back story of AEG’s history and how they’ve successfully become the power they are today. He heavily emphasized AEG’s ability to be a “one time stop” and the advantages that come with that. By partnering with AEG, clients of all kinds have the opportunity to get involved in sports, music, venues, brands and much more. After all, AEG is one of the most global and dynamic organizations in the world and unique within the entertainment industry. Simply put, no one else does what AEG does at the level they execute.

As the COO, Chuck Steedman focuses on 85 facilities that fall under the stadia and arenas category. He highlighted the tremendous diversity of venues that fall under their group scattered across the globe. When building a new facility, it’s crucial to understand the local entertainment culture and practices of the local people. In Montevideo, Uruguay for example, because it’s a relatively small city of 600,000 people, the arena must have multi-diverse purposes to satisfy the needs of everyone. In Buenos Aires however, a much bigger city with a tremendous music culture, they can afford to build an arena solely dedicated to music. Chuck also spoke about the importance of having a global background and open mind. From an experience perspective, AEG needs their executives in charge of facilities to have many perspectives which will allow them to look at challenges and opportunities from many different points. The culture within AEG Facilities differs a lot depending on the arena or stadium. At StubHub center for example, the work environment is more relaxed whereas at Staples Center it’s more hyper. This is mostly due to not all venues being operated the same way. He finished by encouraging us to always proving yourself everyday.

In addition to Kevin and Chuck, we also got to meet with another 5 members of AEG including. One of the five members that was present was the director of business analytics. He talked about how analytics was just starting to catch on with sports agencies, and it was just starting to be valued as a high paying job. The director cautioned us about solely being interested in sports analytics, as he believes it is imperative to consider the other possibilities of business analytics when considering a potential career. All in all, he encouraged students to gain abilities and do programs to increase your personal value to a company.IMG_5008

Next, we moved a couple blocks down the street to the AEG Presents office. At AEG Presents, we met with three former Syracuse University graduates Jon Kane, Kelly DiStefano, and Lindsay Dworman. All three graduates were involved in the concerts and musical tours aspect of the business. Although each of them had slightly different jobs at AEG presents, they all agreed on the same passions within their sector of the business. Each of them believed that the company had a fantastic culture of creating a mutual level of respect amongst employees in all positions, from interns to high level executives.

One of the main challenges that AEG Presents faces is their competition in ticketing. Live Nation, one of their major competitors, owns Ticketmaster, who sells a large portion of tickets for concerts- some of those being in AEG venues. This raises an issue as Live Nation gains a profit from AEG’s events and facilities. Another issue that they have when it comes to ticketing is dealing with the secondary ticket market in general. They are attempting to fix these problems by implementing more analytics in terms of dynamic pricing in their ticketing models.

After AEG Presents, we walked back to LA Live where we met with Michele Kajiwara, Senior VP of Premium Sales & Services at Staples Center, George Pappas, VP of Partnership Sales and Marla Gibson, VP of HR for Facilities.

It’s safe to say Michele blew everyone of us away. She’s as experienced, put together, and diverse as female executives come in this industry. She began by giving us her story and the importance travel and being curious has played into becoming the person and professional she is today. Staples Center Premium Services generate AEG $105 million of annual revenue. Their lowest suite price is $325,000. In order to sell such expensive experiences, team performance always helps, however, making sure you always have great value proposition is key at the end of the day in such a crowded market like LA. She emphasized to focus on the things you can control and to always try to go broader with what you’re considering and never put a ceiling to how much you’re willing to earn and make revenue wise. She’s a firm believer of always acting like a leader and setting the bar high for everyone else you work with. With such organizational culture, it’s no surprise the numbers she manages to produce.

Marla was a very practical speaker who tried to inform us on the best way to get jobs. Marla (like all other speakers) emphasized the importance of networking in order to get jobs. As a part of networking, she told us that we need to have our quick elevator pitch ready so that when we run into someone important, we have the highest possible chance of earning an opportunity with them. She suggested that every time we meet with someone and get their business card, we should add them on Linkedin and shoot them an email. In that email, we should keep in touch and make the extra effort to develop a relationship with the person because that goes a long way in the business world. Proceeding to specific interview tips, Marla wanted us to be prepared for anything and warned of the “gotcha interviewers” who throw you questions to find faults in you and potentially eliminate you as a candidate for a position. Marla cold called on me and forced me to state one of my biggest weekends in front of the whole group. It was a stressful situation to be put on the spot, but I am grateful she did it because the next time someone asks me that question, I will be much more prepared. A final tip that I remember Marla giving was to make sure we are proficient in multiple languages. She cited Portuguese, Spanish, and Mandarin as the most important ones to gain proficiency in. All in all, the meeting with Marla was good for the whole group and gave us valuable information on how to get jobs.

IMG_1731George’s energy was felt right away. He began by telling us about his experiences in the professional world and how much he’s learned from failure. In his mind, every time you fail is a learning experience which should only make you stronger going forward. Such mindset has helped him get to where he is today as well as focusing on building a relationship and not a transaction. In the world of sales, sustaining a healthy partnership where both parties achieve their goals and you genuinely care for the needs of your client is everything. Short term gain does not have a place in AEG’s Global Partnership sales culture. He explained the importance of the Founding Partners to the success of the Global Partnership department. As an organization, they’re always looking to build ‘Pillar Projects’ that will in the long run help the organization grow into a bigger player and influencer in the industry. He left us with a simple yet powerful tip of advice which was to always prepare. How you deliver your message is everything in the world of sales and preparing will give you that extra edge over the competition.

After our time with AEG, we took our bus to the area surrounding the Santa Monica pier and went to sports bar to watch the Syracuse vs Arizona State game. This game was to determine which team would make it into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Before the game started, Professor Veley ordered appetizers for us students to enjoy. Five Syracuse University, sport management graduates were invited to watch the game with us students. They were are relatively recent graduates, and three of them had been on this same LA Immersion trip that we are on. The first half went by with Syracuse being up by two. We all were fairly relaxed in the first half with some of us playing shuffleboard and some of us networking with the Alumni. As soon as the second half began, Arizona State went on a quick 8-0 run. It appeared as if the momentum was shifting and we all grew nervous. After the run, our team proceeded to lock Arizona State down and prohibit them from scoring many buckets. The only issue was that we were turning the ball over and not getting calls on the offense end. Towards the end of the game, both teams found their rhythm a bit and it looked like it was going to be a very close end. Up until about the point with one minute left, the score was about even, and all the Syracuse students were on their toes praying for an orange victory. Nobody was getting overly excited as we did not want to be let down. Long story short, after a huge off-dribble shot from Tyus Battle and some clutch free throws from Chukwu, Syracuse came away with a close victory. The bar erupted into pandemonium and “Go Cuse” chants. Professor Veley was specifically excited and gave a celebratory Jim Boeheim impression.IMG_5475

After the game, all of the five alumni lined up to talk a little bit about their experiences at Syracuse and to answer questions from students. There were many common threads between all of the pieces of advice given by the alumni. One of the biggest ones that was echoed by  speakers from earlier in the week was to not have set expectations for how our careers will turn out. This involves not limiting the possibilities for what industry we chose to work in. An example of this that Professor Veley talked about today was that “everyone wants to work with a team, but there are so many other opportunities.” Another thing that the alumni told us was that working in the sports industry is long, hard, and grueling work in which only people who are willing to take low salaries and put in lots of hours can be successful in. The alumni encouraged us to not get discouraged and to pursue our passions regardless of what happens when we first get in to the industry. They alluded that the industry will chew us up and spit us out if we aren’t mentally tough. A final piece of advice given by one of the Alumni was to not forget to enjoy the remainder of our college experience as it flies by quickly.

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Tuesday: Dodgers, LA Marathon, FOX Sports, CAA

By: Jason Herman, Sean Onwualu, Frank Petrillo, Noah Diorio

We started today at historic Dodger Stadium. We began our time at the stadium with a stadium tour where we learned about the stadium history, structure, and fun facts. The name “Dodgers” comes from the fans, as they had to dodge trolley cars on their way to the games in Brooklyn. Dodger Stadium was built in 1913, making it 105 years old and the third oldest stadium in the MLB. The capacity is 56,000 which is 6,000 more than any other stadium in the league. Each year, Dodger Stadium brings in over four million fans, making it the most-visited sports venue in the country. The stadium was built into the mountainside, which provides a unique setting and atmosphere. On the tour, the guide Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 12.41.33 AMgave us a lot of history of the Dodgers. We learned that the Dodgers moved to the west coast in 1958, becoming the first team to move west of St. Louis. Because they needed a team to play on the west, the Giants moved with them, and settled in San Francisco. Since then, the two teams have stayed rivals. For the first four years, the Dodgers played at the LA Coliseum, even though the dimensions of the stadium weren’t suited for baseball.

On our tour, we went around the inside of the stadium, visited the Vin Scully Press Box, went inside a luxury box, and were even allowed to go on the field and in the home dugout. On our way to the field, we saw the Dodgers’ trophy case, including their World Series trophies, Silver Slugger Awards, Cy Young Awards, and much, much more. When we finally got on the field, we saw multiple grounds crew members, who work year-round to maintain the field for events, concerts, and other activities that take place at Dodger Stadium during the off season. We were told by our tour guide that in 2028, the stadium could be used as an Olympic venue for the Olympics in LA. We were able to sit in the Dodgers’ dugout and took pictures both there and on the field.

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After our tour was over we went to a conference room where we met with multiple executives. During that time, we talked to Antonio Morici (VP of Premium Sales), Scott Gwartz (Director of Corporate Partnerships), David Kirkpatrick (Director of Non-Premium Season Tickets), Bobby Mayorgo (Senior Manager of Premium Sales), Shelly Wagner (Director of Marketing, Advertising, and Promotions), and Paige Kirkpatrick (Director of Partnerships, Services, and Sales). Everyone we talked to was extremely honest and informative, and answered every question we asked. By the end of our meeting, we were given a ton of useful information and advice. Overall, it was a great start to the day.

Following our first stop at the infamous Dodger Stadium, the group traveled to the Conqur Endurance Group, the organization who is responsible for the operation of the LA Marathon. Learning about the event was very interesting, as like the Toshiba Classic, the event only occurs once a year, impacting the production and marketing of the event. We had the privilege of meeting with Conqur Endurance Group VP of Business Development, Sheri Wish to learn more about the workings of the 33rd Annual marathon. Outlining the event, she described that the 25,000 participants will begin the marathon at the aforementioned Dodger Stadium, making their way through Chinatown, LA, and Hollywood before closing the finish line in Santa Monica.

The event, similar to golf tournaments, is run in large part due to volunteer participation, with the help of over 5,000 individuals. Ms. Wish stressed the importance of the event to the city of Los Angeles, noting the large impact of nearly $4 million a year over the past decade. In addition to these economic benefits, there are also major social implications that come along with the race. The LA Marathon incorporated the “Students Run LA” initiative, which provides a learning program for children at risk to install focus, discipline and hard work into these young individuals. This program has an incredible impact on the local community, with over 98% of the children involved have gone on to attend college.

Before moving to our next visit due to limited time availability with the marathon being this Sunday, Wish left us with a few tips for young individuals looking to break into the sports industry, noting:

  • Any on-job experience is good experience, particularly through internships
  • Be interested and willing to grow and learn in the field of sports
  • Don’t be afraid of the “dirty” jobs
  • Always continue to expand your network
  • Utilize your time as a student to learn, as many are willing to teach youScreen Shot 2018-03-14 at 12.42.41 AM

After we learned about the iconic LA Marathon, the group traveled to the Fox Sports studios in Century City. The afternoon turned into an unforgettable experience. After lunch at Moe’s Cafe (yes, the Moe from the Simpsons), we entered the Fox Sports building. The lobby of Fox Sports was filled with 2018 World Cup decorations and advertisements. There was a big countdown to the World Cup, as well as wallpaper that featured Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba, and Javier Hernandez.IMG_2259

We went up into the building, and spoke with Mike Connelly, the Senior Vice President and Executive Producer of Production at Fox Sports. Connelly previously launched Fox Sports Arizona before coming to LA. Before his career in Arizona, he worked for Fox Sports North as an Executive Producer. He compared the sports culture in Arizona to its culture in Los Angeles. There is not a lot of passion for sports in Arizona. Because of this, Connelly was responsible for educating everyone on how to create positive culture within Fox Sports Arizona. He described the four S’s of sports production; show, strategy, stars, and sell.

Many students were interested in the cultural differences at ESPN and Fox Sports. Connelly noted that ESPN is more of a corporation that lacks creativity. At Fox Sports, making mistakes is encouraged, as Connelly believes that is how an employee truly learns. Fox Sports has the mantra “if you want something, go get it.” This contrasts from the work culture at ESPN, as Connelly said ESPN wants the network to be bigger than any of its talent and other employees.

Connelly really focused on improving the Fox Sports culture when he first began his career with the company. He recited to us his 5 steps on how he successfully did this.

1) Use the Fox logo within Fox Sports

2) Create a consistent look for the company through its studios across the country

3) Train the Executive Producers

4) Train and find the directors and other producers, and teach them how to deal with every possible situation

5) Find talent, which is the hardest thing to manage

We were also joined by Fox Sports COO Larry Jones, who is fresh off making a$550, 5-year deal for the rights of Thursday Night Football. As much of Fox was purchased by Disney recently, Jones thinks Fox broadcasting TNF shows consumers that the network will still compete in sports broadcasting. Also, because they own rights to Sunday games, Fox can move notable Sunday games to Thursday. Jones also discussed the affect of the US Men’s National Team missing the upcoming World Cup, which will be broadcasted on Fox Sports. To compensate, the network is focusing heavily on marketing the three major stars; Ronaldo, Messi, and Neymar. Also, Fox Sports is advertising the Mexican National Team, due to its large following in the states.IMG_2258.JPG

After we met with the two executives, we went on a tour of the Fox lot. The group got a first hand look at the set of Fox’s new show LA to Vegas The stage included a mock airplane and airport. We then checked out the “Wardrobe Hall of Fame.” There we saw famous costumes used in various movies such as Titanic, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Planet of the Apes.

After our tour of the Fox lot, we got a tour of Fox Sports. The group saw a live recording of NASCAR Race Hub. The show featured NASCAR icon Darrell Waltrip, who was nice enough to introduce himself to the group. We then saw the sets of other Fox Sports shows such as The Herd, Undisputed, and Fox NFL Sunday. We checked out the production room, which holds about 30 people on Sundays during the production of Fox NFL Sunday. In the production room, there is a sign that reads “Control Room Rules: assume nothing, less is more, be cool.” This was created by Fox Sports’ founder David Hill in 1994.


From Fox Sports we went to visit Nez Balelo of CAA, arguably the most prolific baseball agent in the world. At CAA Mr. Balelo told us about his background and how he grew up in a family of fisherman. As the youngest of six his family decided that he’d be the only one that went to college. So he got into Pepperdine University where he also played baseball. From Pepperdine he went on to play Minor League Baseball for several years. When he was done playing baseball he turned his eye towards player development. As he spent more time with the players he began to represent them, and from there it was a very natural transition to becoming a sports agent.

Commenting on the culture of CAA, he described their style of recruitment as “humanistic”, by creating real and impactful relationships with each athlete and their families. Emphasizing the importance of selling who himself and the agency are as people, and allowing the name of brand and their bodies of work do the talking. He generalized this principle to any kind of sale, saying “You can never go wrong with using a humanistic approach to anything”, as the honesty of the relationship brings confidence and trust. In addition to this, he talks about providing each client with the utmost attention and respect, treating each individual as his only athlete in an effort to build strong relationships.

One major tip that was expressed repeatedly in our conversations was that we should not worry about our competitors, yet focus on bettering ourselves. He provided the analogy of putting on blinders, quoted saying: “If you have blinders on, you spend less time worrying about the competition, and more time focusing on yourself. And once you are at the top, you will have clear vision.” He speaks about improving oneself instead of worrying about the footsteps of others working towards the same goal. It is evident that Mr. Balelo’s success stems from his excellent work ethic and determination to be the best, and has truly made an impact on the world of baseball and athlete representation.

Thanks to Joe Bucz a member of the group sales team we found ourselves at the iconic Staples Center for a Laker game.  In front of a crowd of about 20,000, The Los Angeles Lakers played the Denver Nuggets as both teams jockey for position  in the western conference. To say the game was exciting was an understatement. The Lakers were up early in the first quarter but the Nuggets were able to storm back to only trail by one before the half. Julius Randle was easily the first half MVP.  During the third quarter, it was the Nuggets that jumped out to a lead that looked unsurmountable. Luckily for the home team, because Kyle Kuzma and Isaiah Thomas, the Lakers were able to come back and win 112-103. It was amazing to see how much fan support the Lakers get. For example: there has been a little feud between Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray and select players on the Lakers roster. In unwavering support, the crowd booed every time Murray touched the ball during the game.

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Basketball wasn’t the only thing that caught our eyes during our time at the Staples Center. Upon entry we noticed the McDonald’s right in front of us. Additionally, it was interesting to see that the only big name franchises that we saw inside the Staples Center was McDonald’s and Wetzel’s Pretzels. All other stores seemed to be generic Staples owned food places, which shows you who is paying the big bucks for vision. Also we noticed the Wish patches on the player’s jerseys. We believe that it is safe to say the more sponsors paid, the more visibility they received. Brands like Mercedes, Mcdonald’s and Wish; got prime real estate on the Jumbotron. While McDonald’s had to settle with signage around the stadium.

Time to get some sleep! Busy day tomorrow at AEG!

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