Cassandra Zebisch, communications manager for L.A. Live and corporate communications manager for AEG
Tucked underneath the intersections of the 110 and 10 freeways in downtown Los Angeles is a drab, cavernous building. There’s just nothing exciting about the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center — just a couple exhibition halls, some meeting rooms and a droopy, sad little food court.
But don’t underestimate its importance — this hall ties together the promise AEG Founder Phil Anschutz and CEO Tim Leiweke have made to downtown Los Angeles. The pair wants to demolish the hall and build a $1-billion stadium for a yet-to-be-named National Football League team in its place, restoring the dream of professional gridiron to the City of Angels.
It’s a historic time for L.A, and AEG, and few in the industry have a better seat to this grand moment than Cassandra Zebisch, who’s not only witnessing change, but also helping to tell the story. She’s shaping the way people think and dream about the possibilities for downtown Los Angeles while fulfilling her own dreams with one of the best jobs a person could get, right out of college.
Today, the 29-year-old is the communications manager for arguably the hottest property in the city — L.A. Live, as well as corporate communications manager for AEG and its global network of venues. Her job entails everything from coordinating a Lakers game for the vice president of China (with David Beckham, Magic Johnson and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in her crew), to coordinating press events for announcements about Farmers Field, the stadium scheduled to be completed by 2016 in downtown L.A. Since starting with AEG in 2008, she’s worked on two L.A. Lakers championship parades, the Stanley Cup Finals, Michael Jackson’s memorial service and the National Basketball Association All-Star Game … just to name a few.
It’s a ton of work — “I try to not to count the hours,” she joked on a Sunday in May when Staples Center was hosting a record-setting five playoff games over the weekend. “I drink a lot of Diet Coke. And I work for Michael Roth who is always going and going, and that keeps me going.”
Scott Kelley films AEG's Cassie Zebisch and Blair Bartlett on May 20 as they lip synch to Carly Rae Jepsen's “Call Me, Maybe” for a viral video celebrating the arena's five-game playoff weekend.
Her job on this particular weekend (dubbed The Most Entertaining Weekend in Sports by AEG) was to help execute the massive Amgen Tour of California — the biggest bicycle race in North America whose finish line sits just yards down Figueroa Avenue from the entrance of Staples Center. If that wasn’t enough, she hired a videographer to shoot a viral video of Staples Center staff lip-syncing to Carly Rae Jepsen’s new hit “Call Me Maybe.”
The best part of her job, she said, is witnessing people enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Zebisch also likes to make an impact on newbies and students trying to break into the industry. She remembers doing a research project for her Sport Management master’s degree through the University of San Francisco and calling dozens of sports professionals to interview for a school project. Only two or three ever called her back.
After that experience, Zebisch said she felt “like it’s my responsibility to help others. It’s very hard to get into this industry and not everyone is so lucky,” she said, recalling how after she graduated from San Diego State University, she, too, was unsure about what her future held.
After seeing an opening for an internship at AEG, she interviewed with Cara Vanderhook, now with Staples Center (and a 2011 Generation Next Award Winner) and got the internship. After six months working with Vanderhook and Roth, she went over to work a one-year-long paid internship with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Calif. When that ended, Vanderhook had taken a new gig at Staples Center and a new full-time position working for Michael Roth opened up. Zebisch has been there since and said she has no plans to leave any time soon.
“I’m in this for the long haul,” she said.
Others have taken notice too — Roth said that “since the nomination form [for the Generation Next Award] came out several weeks ago, no fewer than a dozen people approached me to suggest what a worthy candidate Cassie would be for this award.”
Many are impressed by the dozens of events she juggles, on top of her work promoting the hoped-for Farmers Field football stadium. Zebisch has also taken the lead in creating and overseeing publicity plans for L.A. Live’s annual Nike Basketball 3ON3 Tournament and the L.A. Film Festival.
“The level of success that each of these events has reached from day one hails from an aggressive and successful publicity schedule set by Cassie,” explained Roth.
“Her publicity and promotional skills have led to the same results for our new L.A. Food and Wine event which took place last October and will take place again in 2012,” he said.
When she’s not working, Zebisch likes to do spin classes and pilates. A native of Anaheim Hills in sunny Orange County, California, Zebisch said she gets inspiration from her mother Marianne and father Michael, who owns neighborhood hangout Mike’s Pub in North Hollywood.
“My parents taught me that hard work and determination pay off and I try to use that every day on the job,” she said.
The opening of Farmers Field would be icing on the cake for Zebisch, who has learned to navigate the political world to help AEG secure friendly state legislation and publish a massive 10,000-page environmental impact report outlining, in excruciating detail, every morsel of the $1-billion project.
“She didn’t hesitate to jump in feet first and work with the community to build support for Farmers Field. To make a project like that happen, you need a person like Cassie on your side,” Vanderhook said, noting that Zebisch also makes time to work on charity projects like supporting L.A.’s Tenth Street Elementary School, and working with A Better LA, founded by former Southern California football coach Pete Carroll.
“This isn’t just L.A. Live, these are people’s homes and we need to help take care of this community,” she said. “We’re able to work with our community affairs department and provide important support for our neighbors. We enjoy all aspects of giving back and making the surrounding areas better.”
Interviewed for this story: Cassandra Zebisch, (213) 763-7712; Michael Roth, (213) 742-7155; Cara Vanderhook, (213) 742-7273