Wednesday: LA Kings, LA Clippers, Staples Center, AEG, Clippers Game

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!

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Tuesday: Dodger Stadium, Marathon, Fox, Colin, Nez, Pier

By Christopher Peters, James Pappalardo, Justin Katz

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What a grind the week is turning out to be. The bar that was set so high the days before continually gets elevated and today was no exception. Tuesday was a busy day, four meetings, two tours, two meals, and several amazing individuals. We started bright and early, heading out promptly at 7:45 for Los Angeles Dodgers.

We began our Dodgers experience with a tour from the extremely knowledgeable Sal Delgadillo. Sal wasted no time and showed us right to Vin Scully’s vantage point. Scully retired last season and is arguably the most iconic broadcaster in baseball history.

The view from his sport was incredible. There is a magnificent backdrop of palm trees and the Gabriel mountains just past the outfield wall. When asked if there was any thought to building the stadium 180 degrees the other way around to overlook the city, Sal explained that the idea was never considered, and it was always the plan to have the stadium built into the mountain and have the lush, natural backdrop.

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After Sal took us all over the Dodger Stadium, including the Dodgers’ dugout and luxury suites, we met with Antonio Morici, Bobby Mayorga, and Jesse Nunez. They each spoke about their responsibilities within the organization and answered our questions ranging from sales, promotions, demographics, and sponsorships. David Siegel, VP of ticket sales also stopped by to engage with our group and answer questions. Shelley Wagner, Director of Advertising and Promotions told us about the professional and corporate culture the Dodgers organization has.

After the Dodgers, we loaded up the bus again to head over to the LA Marathon. Working out of a warehouse was probably unsettling for most of us in the group. However, the small, welcoming group there made us feel very important. They were clearly looking forward to having us. They had hats and other trinkets on our chairs upon arrival.

We spoke with Tracey Russell, CEO and Rachel Sanchez of Partnerships. They shared their presentation with us and took turns answering our questions.

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The LA Marathon is now Conqur, and we learned there has been more of a focus on having outreach and running/fitness engagement throughout the year. They have a fantastic kid (K-5) program targeted at getting kids to want to run. Their company culture focuses on empowerment, proactivity, and never hearing nor saying, “That’s not my job.”

The LA Marathon will be run next weekend, on Sunday, March 19. The event will set the record for the largest geo-filter on Snapchat, a photo and video-sharing social media app, during the race.

After our time at the LA marathon, we got on the bus and headed to Fox Studios. Unfortunately, but not to anyone’s surprise, we hit some traffic on the way. Because of this, we only had about 30 minutes to get and eat lunch from the Fox commissary before our tour of the facilities.

Once lunch was eaten, an upbeat tour guide named Angel greeted us. Our first stop on the tour was the original studio building where the scores for movies are recorded and mastered. The sound in this building is so clear that Fox has tried to duplicate it in other buildings, however, hired engineers couldn’t figure out what to duplicate, as the reason why the sound is so clear is a mystery.

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We then walked through the writer’s area of the studio. As we passed Seth MacFarlane’s reserved parking space, Angel pointed out the buildings where popular shows like “Stranger Things” and “New Girl” have been written.

Angel then took us to the room where popular costumes that have been used in the past were stored. These included famous characters like Deadpool and the Wolverine Claw. The room also included costumes from the Titanic and Mrs. Doubtfire. The coolest thing about this area might’ve happened before we even entered the room. While the group was walking down the hallway, famous actor Jason Bateman came out of the bathroom, much to the shock and enjoyment of not only the group but also the tour guide Angel.

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Our tour ended with trips to the famous New York Street where popular shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and “It’s Always Sunny and Philadelphia” are filmed, and the stage where “New Girl” is filmed.

We were then taken to Fox Sports and entered what’s called the Avocado room. We were then given an opportunity to listen and ask questions to a star-studded panel of Michael Connelly (Fox Sports Net Senior Vice President and Executive Producer), Colin Cowherd (Radio/TV Personality), and Eric Shanks (President, COO, and Executive Producer).

All three men made sure to talk about their organizational culture of being risk-takers, confident, entrepreneurial and talent-friendly individuals. They were all very intricate and open with their answers to our questions. This was definitely one of the highlights of the day, as we were able to meet and pick the brains of such powerful people in the sport industry.

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Finally, to wrap up our time at Fox, we were taken on a tour of the Fox Sports two sets. The first set was mainly used for pregame/postgame football show, along with other sports. The second set was used for all of the different sports talk shows. These include “Undisputed with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe,” and “The Herd with Colin Cowherd.” This was a really cool way to end our time at Fox, a time that none of us will forget.

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Our final meeting of the day was with Mr. Nez Balelo. Nez Balelo heads the baseball agency at Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Mr. Balelo also works with a few MMA fighters. We were greeted by his assistant Nadia, she brought us into a theater where we were introduced to Harrison Avigdor.

Harrison is an SU student currently completing his capstone with CAA. Harrison went on the LA immersion trip 2 years ago, which got him interested in working in LA. When someone asked him what his advice to us on getting internships and capstones was, he said that we should reach out to Syracuse University alumni.

Nadia then showed us a video about CAA and some of the clients they represent. The video showed a lot of well-known sports players, coaches, musicians, comedians, actors, and actresses. I knew CAA was a big company, but I was shocked by a number of people they represent. After that video, we were introduced to Nez Balelo.

Mr. Balelo started the meeting by having us introduce ourselves. Every person said who they are, where they are from, what major they are in, and an interesting thing about them. Mr. Balelo then introduced himself and told us some very interesting stories of how his dad was a fisherman and how he used to go on fishing treks with his father.

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He then opened the floor to us for Q&A. A lot of great questions were asked in the two-and-a-half-hour time period that we were at CAA. Someone asked Mr. Balelo about the culture of CAA. He responding by saying that is a very friendly culture with great chemistry between the several departments of CAA. Someone then asked how do you work with other departments in CAA. He responded by saying that we can connect clients with the sports industry to their favorite musicians, and vice-versa because CAA is so diverse.

At 6:30 P.M. we left CAA to go to Santa Monica Pier and we were there for two hours. In that time span, many people went to the beach and had dinner in the surrounding stores.

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