On the Hardwood: Golden State Warriors Connect Team, Chase Center to Fans at Home Through Dub Hub Experience
Digital platform provides unique camera angles, live video chat room
The doldrums of 2020 may be in the past, but 2021 is still presenting challenges to in-venue production teams. Now out of the Orlando bubble, NBA organizations are hosting games in their home arenas and navigating the continuing difficulties of the pandemic. Like SVG’s At the Ballpark and On the Gridiron series, On the Hardwood will take a look the hardships, creative ideas, and teamwork of NBA franchises.
When people flipped on the TV and watched games being played in the NBA bubble last summer, virtual spectators on an LED screen became less an eyesore and more a part of the overall viewing experience. The Golden State Warriors are adding the same fixture inside Chase Center, the league’s newest venue, to bring fans together through a multilayered digital platform called the Dub Hub.
“The idea came from the NBA bubble,” notes Jen Millet, SVP, marketing, Golden State Warriors. “The great thing about the league and teams is that best practices are shared and encouraged. We saw what the NBA did there, and, while we hoped to have fans in our building [for the start of the season], we said that we would consider doing this if we couldn’t welcome fans back to Chase Center.”
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- Sacramento Kings Improve In-Venue, At-Home Experience With Intel True View at Golden 1 Center
- Philadelphia 76ers Continue Treasured Traditions at Wells Fargo Center
- Charlotte Hornets Redesign Mobile App To Bring Spectrum Center Content to the Home
- Despite Limited Fans, Cleveland Cavaliers Keep the Energy Up at Renovated Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
- Houston Rockets Work With League, RSNs To Produce Away Radio Broadcasts in Toyota Center
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- How Kyle Campbell Balanced Productions for the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, NFL’s Saints
- Portland Trail Blazers Manage LED Displays at Moda Center To Educate, Entertain Fans on League Pass
- Chicago Bulls Use Year-Old Videoboard, Mobile Predictive Gaming To Draw Up Production Plan
- With Empty AT&T Center and Reduced Game-Day Staff, Spurs Add ‘Digital Arena’ to Mobile App
- Denver Nuggets Repurpose RSN Broadcast With Some In-Venue Flavor
In the Splash Zone: Four Exclusive Camera Angles, VIP Tunnel Access, Digital Prompts
From the beginning of the bubble, the Warriors gained inspiration from its operation at the Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. Through a partnership with the league and its teams, playoff-bound franchises could spice up the neutral setting with team-centric content and virtual fans watching from home. With California’s strict protocols that disallow gatherings of large groups, the organization decided to take a stab at this technology, using the bubble as a reference and leveraging a relationship with The Famous Group.
“We could put our full attention to what was actually happening from an entertainment and execution perspective [in the bubble],” says Millet. “As the pandemic progressed, we talked about what functionality we would want within the experience and put a lot of emphasis on three key things: maintaining our connection with the fans by giving them access, establishing a home-court advantage for our players, and creating value for our corporate partners and integrating their brand with our platform.”
With technological backing by The Famous Group, the Warriors developed a digital-first environment with plenty of amenities for supporters of all ages. A selected group of 120 fans (season-ticket holders, important groups in the Bay Area, etc.) are able to enter the virtual gathering an hour before tipoff. When camera and microphone capabilities are checked, fans are able to watch pregame warmups, chat with other members in real time, and listen to an exclusive game-day mix from team DJ Derrick “DJ D-Sharp” Robinson.
During the game, users are able to toggle among four unique viewing options: the linear broadcast on NBC Sports Bay Area, a bird’s-eye shot of the Dub Hub videoboard in Chase Center, POV cameras behind each basket, and a “quad view” that brings together each available angle as well as a screen with statistics on both teams. Fans awarded VIP access receive an additional perk as the players run to the court.
“Along with the courtside screen, we also created an experience in the player tunnel,” Millet explains. “Fans are lined up on screens in the player tunnel, and they’re able to have two-way interactions with the players as they take the court. We’ve seen the players embrace that and become more accustomed to it during our homestands.”
Fan participation and the physical screen provide a backdrop for local telecasts and for national games played on ESPN and TNT. The goal is to allow fans to show their support with various digital reactions that flash across their designated box in the mosaic. The selections include a wavy “Warriors” banner, a three-point hand signal after a made attempt, Warriors-themed thunder sticks, a traditional “D #” graphic when the players are in the defensive end of the floor, and a cable-car bell symbolizing San Francisco’s history and the new pregame tradition at Chase Center. Since the operation is two-way, the fans get to interact with favorite players like Stephen Curry and rookie James Wiseman through microphones in the tunnel and have their chants heard in the venue via speakers behind the bench. Periodically, in-arena host Franco Finn joins the video chat to fuel the high energy.
The biggest driver of this project was to unite the community for its common love and passion for the Warriors. Whether it’s with friends or complete strangers, the platform has given fans a chance to enjoy basketball in a new way.
“When we host a community or corporate group, they all know each other, and they’re able to watch the game together,” adds Millet. “When we bring average fans together that don’t know each other, the thing that we’ve been most excited about is how there’s still a ton of interaction.”
Test Run: Dubs Draft Room Prepares Staff for Fanless Games
Although the players’ running onto the floor is an added wrinkle, Dub Hub productions aren’t the in-venue team’s first foray into the virtual world. During the 2020 NBA Draft in November, the franchise gave fans a chance to see familiar faces on-air and hear expert analysis about the picks during Dubs Draft Room. Another endeavor engineered by The Famous Group, it served as a primer for Millet and the rest of the team during the current regular season.
“I think it got us comfortable with using technology as the interactive platform between us and the fans,” she says. “We understood our capabilities, but, if we were going to continue to try to create these experiences, we wanted to make them as close as possible to a live experience.”
These reps not only were important to the crew’s performance but also allow the team to venture down other avenues of content when fans return to the stands, including enhanced digital offerings for those who can’t make it to games at Chase Center.
“These offerings could have a shelf life beyond [the pandemic],” notes Millet. “There’s no reason we couldn’t have a player tunnel with screens when fans come back. It has been a big learning experience for us to push beyond what we’re comfortable doing to find new ways to get them into the fold.”
Health and Safety: Franchise Creates Committee To Keep Chase Center Clean
This virtual production has been high on the club’s priority list, but the well-being of the players and employees entering the building is also important. In an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19 and remain proactive, the Warriors have created a task force that is concentrating on the cleanliness of the venue. A leader on this crew, Jackie Ventura, director, facility health and hygiene, Golden State Warriors, says the staff implemented these protocols prior to the pandemic’s arrival in the U.S.
“The work for us started technically before we went into shelter-in-place,” she explains. “We were already hearing the news coming out of China. We were hearing the news coming from some other countries about this new virus. We started tweaking some of the things we were doing as early as the end of January and early February: [for instance,] making sure there was an abundance of hand sanitizer available. We started bringing in the cleaning crew dedicated to wiping down surfaces so that there was an active presence, especially during those peak-traffic times when folks were getting to the building. [We aimed] to mitigate as much as we could, seeing that there was something coming potentially our way.
“That laid a great foundation for when we ultimately went into shelter-in-place,” she continues. “It already proved that it worked, because we were able to go without any infection at the arena while we were still hosting events, February and well into March, as this thing was beginning to surge around us.”
Preparation and an impulse to respond quickly to the situation helped put the Warriors ahead of the curve, but Ventura’s acumen and job history gave the franchise a bit of an advantage. Before heading to the Bay Area in May 2020, she held a number of positions during her 18 years with the Miami Heat, an area known for natural catastrophes, such as hurricanes, and medical emergencies, such as the swine flu in 2009 and Zika in the late 2010s.
“We’ve come at [the pandemic] in the same way we would have treated a hurricane or one of those smaller outbreaks in Miami,” she says. “We made sure to align very quickly with our partners at [University of California, San Francisco] and Kaiser Permanente to make sure that we were up-to-date on the medical guidance, the science behind the virus, and how to prevent infection.”
At Chase Center, Ventura and her staff implemented four main actions to keep the venue as safe as possible: decrease, disinfect, distance, and educate. The plan includes shrinking the possibility of infection, constant cleaning of surface areas and common touch points, enforcing social distancing and increasing the space between work areas, and informing colleagues on how to pitch in and do their part.
“We built this platform around town halls with our staff and medical professionals,” she notes. “We wanted to put the message out there and be transparent with everyone. We started small and have continued to make improvements to these practices.”
The effective plan gained extra legitimacy with the support of Chase Center GM Kim Stone, who also had spent time in South Florida, as GM of AmericanAirlines Arena for 12 years.
“Our VP, Government and Community Relations, Yoyo Chan is making sure that we’re in compliance with public-health officials and local regulatory agencies,” notes Ventura. “On my team, [Manager, Facility Health & Hygiene,] Mario Duran has been hyper-focused on making sure that everyone is trained safely, disinfecting correctly, and making sure all of the surfaces are clean.”
The Ones Who Get It Done: Notable Names of Warriors’ Production Team
Multiple departments have come together for the sake of the franchise and its fans around the Bay Area and the nation. The sturdy — and sanitized — foundation built by Ventura and her internal team allows Millet and other production professionals, such as Executive Producer, Event Presentation, Shawn Bennett, to entertain Dub Nation during these extremely tough times.
“Shawn has done a tremendous job building out our Draft experience and getting folks on board to understand the value of the Dub Hub,” says Millet. “Our group-sales team is also making sure that we have a full virtual fan section and working with different stakeholders across the business to get our season-ticket members, corporate partners, and community groups in there. It’s no small feat to bring this to life every night.”
The Golden State Warriors will host back-to-back games vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves in Chase Center at 10 p.m. ET on Monday, Jan. 25 and Wednesday, Jan. 27.