Lee Zeidman has a cooler job than anyone you know.
Then again, Lee Zeidman most likely works harder than anyone you know.
As the Senior Vice President/General Manager of STAPLES Center, Zeidman has presided over everything from the Democratic National Convention, championship boxing matches and the Grammys to the Harlem Globetrotters and Disney on Ice. Every home game for the Kings, Lakers, Clippers, Avengers and Sparks all happen on Zeidman's watch.
While the list of events at STAPLES Center is beyond impressive, so are Zeidman's responsibilities. Since opening in 1999, over 21 million people have passed through STAPLES Center's doors and Zeidman has been accountable to every one of them. The Detroit-native is in charge of almost everything that goes on in the arena, from ice maintenance to concessions, from security to housekeeping.
"I'm responsible for all aspects of managing STAPLES Center, from top to bottom," Zeidman said. "Each day and each event always brings something new and challenging, so there are no standard days.
"Everything from making sure that it's clean to making sure that its set properly for the event, for the patrons coming in. And making sure that it operates properly during our events and that all the equipment functions."
A graduate of California State University of Northridge (CSUN), it was in college that Zeidman began leaning towards event management. The longtime resident of Southern California earned both a BS in Psychology and a BA in Commercial Recreation.
"The BS helps me as I deal with a tremendous amount of people each day," Zeidman explained "The BA opened my mind to the recreation business."
Serving as an Event Coordinator at CSUN, Zeidman eventually migrated south, where he spent more than five years as the Project and Events Manager for the Associated Students of UCLA. Another brief stint at the University of California, Santa Barbara ultimately led to Zeidman being hired as the Director of Operations at the old home of the Kings, the Great Western Forum.
"I've been with AEG for eight-plus years," Zeidman said. "Working at the Great Western Forum at the time, I was the first person hired by Tim Leiweke specifically for STAPLES Center in February of 1998."
Overlooking L.A's famed Figueroa Street, Zeidman's office is a perfect symbol of the yin-and-yang duality the GM brings to his job. The room blends both Zeidman's staunch professionalism with a child-like exuberance, splashing both qualities on its walls.
Oversized jugs of lollipops and Tootsie Rolls greet any and all visitors to Zeidman's lair. One wall is almost entirely covered with grip-and-grin photos of Shaquille O'Neal, Tiger Woods, Elton John and seemingly every other celebrity in Western civilization. Meanwhile a drafting board protrudes from an adjacent wall, layered with sketches and instructions for current and future projects.
"I'm doing exactly what I want to do, when I want to do it and where I wanted to do it," Zeidman said. "I've been very fortunate and I understand that. But, you know, it is exciting and its a lot of fun but its also a lot of work. And there is a lot of stress involved in making sure that everything is right for not only the teams and the various tenants but those 20,000 people that come in on a nightly basis."
Since moving into STAPLES Center, Zeidman has seen and heard it all, including a memorable night in September of 2002. Following the Kings first pre-season game, a post-game "resurface race" went horribly wrong.
"We allowed the Kings to race a Zamboni made from a Chevy against our (regular) Zamboni," Zeidman recalls. "The modified one got stuck and burned through the ice and reached the concrete below."
Understandably sensitive to the subject, ice management is a large part of Zeidman's job. Keeping a top-notch ice surface while also playing host to two professional basketball teams can be tricky at times.
When asked about the toughest aspect of being GM of STAPLES Center, Zeidman quickly cited ice maintenance.
"(The hardest part is) explaining why our ice is not as good as another building with less tenants or in a colder climate yet reminding them that we have the best ice for arena's with two NBA teams ... of course, we are the only arena with two NBA teams," Zeidman joked.
"Some (players) like the ice harder and the building cooler. We check with the players after each game for feedback, so we can continue to improve."
So does STAPLES Center's head-cheese have any advise for aspiring Kings employees?
"In order to get into this business, I think the best thing to do is to go on various informational interviews to figure out what part of the business you want to get into because their are so many different parts," Zeidman said. "I mean, there is marketing, event management and operations. There is also the business side and that is just for facilities. There is also the team side. So there are a lot of different branches that you can go into.
"I try to tell everybody that is trying to get into this business to start out: Do as many informational interviews and as many internships as you possibly can. And once you get into a company, you suck up as much information as possible and become a sponge. That will allow you to fit in wherever a job may open up."
According to Zeidman, flooding the market with resumes is also an important step.
"Nobody I ever knew got a job without sending a resume out when they are first starting out in the business."