SBJ/Nov. 18-24, 2013/In Depth

The Building Managers: Brenda Tinnen

Senior vice president and general manager, Sprint Center/AEG Kansas City

Brenda Tinnen still gets goosebumps thinking about the events at Staples Center after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Los Angeles Kings had two hockey scouts die on American Airlines Flight 11, one of two planes that struck the World Trade Center. The team had a special ceremony honoring them during a preseason game a few days after the attacks.

At the time, Tinnen was the arena’s senior vice president of event and guest services. She was concerned about Staples Center’s 700 game-day employees and whether they felt safe enough to go back to work so soon when people were “still talking about terrorists in the parking lots.”

“When they played the national anthem, it was eerily quiet but people were singing it,” Tinnen said. “I get very emotional about it, but I am so proud of the Kings for going on in terrible circumstances and our staff for showing up under trying times.”

It was both the worst day and the best day of her professional life, captured in one heartwrenching moment, according to Tinnen.

Tinnen’s nearly five decades of facility management experience cover five major league arenas in Kansas City,
Photo by: Staples Center
Minneapolis, Houston, Phoenix and Los Angeles. She will be the first to tell you it is not the “sexy, glamorous, glitzy” life people outside of the industry think it is.

“A lot of people fantasize that they would like to be a general manager because you get to see all the shows,” Tinnen said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not me hanging out with the teams or the artists. It’s making sure you’re responsible for keeping everybody safe.”

Tinnen was born into the sports industry in Kansas City. Her mother, Alma Baker, was the ticket manager for the old Kansas City Athletics. Tinnen’s grandfather, James Loos, worked security in the team’s clubhouse at Municipal Stadium.

“I literally grew up at the ballpark every summer,” Tinnen said. “I would hang out with my mom in the box office. As a young child, she was always trying to keep me busy with the tasks of [organizing] tickets and labeling envelopes.”

Mom and daughter both worked for the Kansas City Royals as well before moving to new Kemper Arena in 1974 to work for the Kansas City Scouts, an NHL expansion team. By that time, Tinnen already had several years of ticketing experience.

During her 14-year tenure at Kemper, Tinnen met a young Tim Leiweke, who at the time worked for the Kansas City Comets, an indoor soccer team. Later, after Leiweke moved on to bigger things, he convinced Tinnen to help open two new arenas: Target Center and Staples Center.

“I was married with three children,” she said. “It was unique at the time for the wife to be the one that moved the family. I did it, and we had great support.”

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