SVP of Operations and Guest Experience | Washington Commanders / FedExField
Trista Langdon has become an expert in the rebranding of arenas and stadiums.
Over her 18-year career in facility management, Langdon has played a key role for transitioning between brand identities for the Charlotte Hornets, and most recently, the Washington Commanders.
“I might have found my niche,” said Langdon, the NFL team’s senior vice president of operations and guest experience for FedEx Field.
Growing up, Langdon thought her niche would be on the coaching side, coming from a family of hoopsters.
Her brother, Trajan Langdon, known as the “Alaskan Assassin,” a nod to their upbringing in Anchorage, Alaska, played for Duke University before spending 12 years in the professional ranks, including three NBA seasons. He’s now general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans.
“I was a gym rat, following my brother around and to North Carolina in general,” she said.
In the early 2000s, Trista took a slight detour after playing NCAA Division I basketball at Nevada-Reno, serving an internship in graduate school with the old Charlotte Bobcats through Virginia Commonwealth University’s sports management leadership program.
At the time, she was a graduate assistant at VCU under Jeff Capel III, the school’s head coach in men’s basketball. Capel’s father, Jeff II, was an assistant coach with the Bobcats, an NBA expansion team that began play in 2004 at the old Charlotte Coliseum.
The Capel family tree helped Langdon land the internship with the Bobcats, one year before they moved to their new arena, now Spectrum Center, in 2005. She eventually got hired full time by Barry Silberman, the Bobcats’ executive vice president in charge of arena development.
Initially, Langdon filled a role as executive assistant project manager, planning the relocation of Bobcats’ business and office locations from trailers at the Coliseum and their practice facility in Fort Mill, South Carolina, to the new arena in uptown Charlotte.
“I was walking around with a hardhat, and thought, maybe basketball isn’t the only thing; maybe I can do venue management and have a little bit of both worlds with sports and entertainment,” Langdon said.
Her vision came to fruition. All told, Landon spent close to 17 years in Charlotte, and ultimately became vice president of arena and event operations. Over that period, Langdon worked the NBA All-Star Game, NCAA and CIAA basketball tournaments, the 2012 Democratic National Convention and the 2020 Republican National Convention, before it was canceled a few months before the presidential election due to the pandemic.
Running 200 overall events a year in Charlotte, including those high-profile bookings that became much bigger citywide events, helped prepare Langdon for operating a much bigger facility in the NFL.
“I was always used to a hectic pace; now, it’s just a bigger scale,” she said. “The All-Star Game and the NCAA tournaments we hosted involved more planning and operating than just within our physical footprint. It involves all the different city support services and organizing committees, which is comparable to a stadium event and the big operation we put on here during football season.”
Ten years ago, the Bobcats began rebranding to the Hornets, a throwback to the original NBA Charlotte Hornets. Langdon was in the midst of that transition from an arena perspective. The Commanders took notice, considering they shared the same concessionaire Levy, with the Hornets, among other building partners, Langdon said.
The NFL team hired her in December 2021. Washington had eliminated the old Redskins name and was temporarily renamed the Washington Football Team, before officially becoming the Commanders in 2022.
“My first charge was to help with the rebrand and with the overall guest experience,” Langdon said. “It isn’t always just about the staff, but the overall feel of the building. My responsibility was ‘let’s step back a little bit to the basics and build a really good (operations) team.”
Josh Harris led a new ownership group that purchased the Commanders in July from Dan Snyder, whose tenure was marked by scandal and thousands of diehard fans turning their backs on their beloved team.
Now, things have changed for the better. Under the direction of Langdon, FedEx Field is in the midst of a multiyear renovation to bring the 27-year-old stadium up to par with other NFL venues.
“There’s a lot of people that care and want the stadium to be a great place,” she said. “We have to make sure we’re providing quality and value to our fans and flush out some of the negativity we were hearing about FedEx Field.” — Don Muret