The Grammy Awards, the 2000 Democratic National Convention, back to back NBA Championships with the Los Angeles Lakers as well as spending time in Houston when the Rockets were winning, has not numbed Brenda Tinnen to the defining moment which starts every event. “As many years as I’ve been in this business, when they play the Star Spangled Banner before every game, I still get goose bumps”, said Tinnen, the Vice President of Event and Guest Services for the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
The graduate of Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Missouri has been around the ticket sales and planning industry her whole life. “My mother was very specialized in tickets in Kansas City. She worked in baseball with the Athletics and Royals. I grew up in that box office.”
While some people are working hard day after day to get their place in the industry, the position Brenda Tinnen now holds is not something she made a conscious decision to get involved with. With her mother being in the business for over 40 years, it was something that just happened.
Brenda and her staff oversee the STAPLES Center’s day-to-day support for the tenants, clients and partners who include the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers of the NBA, the Kings of the NHL and the Avengers of the Arena Football League. STAPLES is also home to over 200 concerts and other special events.
The road to STAPLES which started in Kansas City as a child, has taken Brenda from the blustery north of Minnesota, through the flatlands of Texas and across the desert in Phoenix. Before accepting the position in California, Tinnen served as Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales with the Phoenix Coyotes. There, she directed all aspects of team marketing and ticket sales.
The guest experience is what Brenda would describe as the most challenging part of her job. “I always challenge myself, whether it is a hockey game, basketball game, concert or a family show, that everyone that steps into our building and spends time with us has a great time.”
Concerts, awards ceremonies and family shows are the events that have a tendency to go off without a hitch most of the time. Tinnen went into detail explaining why sporting events are the toughest. “The reason it’s challenging in terms of sports is, because you plan a great event with all the bells and whistles, and you can’t control the outcome of the games”, Tinnen said. “A lot of times, people come to the game and everything could have been perfect for them from the time they parked their car, picked up their tickets, walked into the building, the hot dogs were great, popcorn was great, the ushers were nice and helpful, then the team comes out on the ice or the court and their flat. It takes the air out of everything.”
Aside from her mother, another person who has had a great deal of influence in Brenda’s career is Tim Leiweke, whom she worked with in Kansas City, Minnesota, and still works with today in Los Angeles. Add Shawn Hunter, President and now partner in ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes to that list as well. “Shawn Hunter was an intern with Tim and I in Minnesota,” Tinnen said. “It was fun how he came into the industry as an intern, and 10 years later I was working for him and he was the president of an organization.”
The advice Brenda has for anyone looking to get a job in the business of sports is that, an understanding of what the job involves is most important. “People need to understand, this industry is more of a lifestyle than a career. This industry knows no holidays, no weekends, and it is certainly not a 9-5 job. If that is something you are looking for, I would urge people to look elsewhere”, she said.
If people are not sure about what they are looking to get into, this is where the importance of serving an internship comes into the picture. Using the success of Shawn Hunter as an example, Tinnen explained, “Young people coming out of college or school, wanting to get in the industry, should try to get in with a building or facility and do an internship.” She added, “internships will allow people to get around the organization and see which part fits best for them.”