On the Hardwood: Despite Limited Fans, Cleveland Cavaliers Keep the Energy Up at Renovated Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

Activations include team mascot and drummers

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 at the hardships, creative ideas, and teamwork of NBA franchises.

In 2019, the Cleveland Cavaliers made major renovations to their downtown arena and re-opened the doors to the new Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse with throngs of fans in attendance. Fast forward nearly two years later and the franchise are playing games at limited capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For those in the seats, the in-venue production team is providing elements of entertainment to go along with the action on the court.

“We started off the season with 300 fans and recently have increased to 2,000 fans,” says Nicole Faucheux, game presentation coordinator, Cleveland Cavaliers. “It’s been a big jump [in attendance], but it’s been really great. Fake crowd noise has also helped keep the atmosphere in the whole building.”


Fans in the House: Videoboard Mixes Traditional and New Content

Faucheux directs Crump and team mascot Sir C.C. during a home game

As one of the few teams that are currently hosting fans, the Cavaliers are tasked with providing various forms of stimuli during breaks in play and intermissions. It’s an assorted bag at the FieldHouse with content coming from more familiar avenues and others being created in new ways in 2021. Along with ideas that have been created in-house, it’s also coming from other places that have close ties to the organization.

“It’s been an extremely collaborative effort this year with our visual team,” says Adam Hines, director, game presentation, Cleveland Cavaliers. “We’ve also worked with our partner, Fox Sports Ohio, to fill in those timeouts with content. We’re looking to improve upon how our fans can still be a part of the game, so we brought our shuffle game, which gets everyone in the seats involved.”

Inside of a newly developed building, the crew is leveraging their new surroundings whenever they get the chance. On days where the team has an off day or is playing a game on the road, Hines and his production team are utilizing this time to develop vignettes and features with entertainers, like the 216 Stix drumline and mascots Moondog and Sir C.C., that could be used during any game.

“We’re doing pre-recorded pieces with our entertainers,” he adds. “On dark days in the FieldHouse, we’ll have them come in and shoot In the newly renovated areas. When we shoot pieces on the court, we realize how much we miss being down there during timeouts because it’s a staple of what we do.”

Rock and Roll Roots: Theme Nights Highlight City Edition Jerseys and City’s Ties to the Genre

216 Stix perform in the upper level of the venue.

Like all NBA teams, the Cavaliers unveiled their 2020-21 City Edition uniforms and court prior to the start of the regular season. Since one of the world’s greatest music institutions is only a mile walk from the venue, the team partnered with the renowned Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to produce a theme that honors the city’s roots with the genre. To take the idea one step further, 12 theme nights have been arranged throughout the course of the schedule. It’s a strategy that started coming together before the beginning of the pandemic.

“It’s actually a plan that’s been over a year in the making,” says Josh Sabo, senior coordinator, game presentation, Cleveland Cavaliers. “When the season shut down in March, we went back to where we left off and started connecting with the Hall of Fame on a bunch of different elements that we could do to emphasize this relationship.”

During each of these theme nights, the in-game entertainment and content is geared towards a specific era of rock & roll. In addition, these games shed light on the genre’s influence on other kinds of music that is still listened to today.

“We did a Motown night when the Detroit Pistons were in town, and we have a Women Who Rock night coming up that features a lot of the female inductees,” adds Sabo. “A lot of people has this misconception that Cleveland is all about rock and roll, but rock and roll music is more than just guitar and drums. It’s also about how music started here in Cleveland with the Moondog Coronation Ball and Alan Freed as well as a lot of hip-hop, which is definitely something that we see through our content.”

Localized and Real-Time Trivia: Mobile App Gives Fans Chances to Win

Sabo is leading the charge on the production of fake crowd noise.

Along with the linear telecast, the Cavs mobile app is another place where at-home and in-venue fans can flock for additional content. As a companion piece to their videoboard show, fans in attendance are tapping into two new features this season: Cavs Pick ‘Em, a free-to-play prediction game, and GameDay+, an element facilitated by Sparx Technology and was used by the Orlando Magic in the NBA bubble.

“We have apps that we internally created and we’re looking to bring [GameDay+] in-game during halftime for fans that are sitting in their seats,” says Hines. “What’s really cool about Sparx Technology is that you can do [exclusive] trivia for everyone that’s in the FieldHouse.

Other amenities inside of the app include live and interactive statistics, live streaming through Fox Sports Ohio, radio broadcasts in English and Spanish for those living near the arena, and enhanced replay options.

The Ones Who Get It Done: Notable Names of Cavaliers’ Production Team

With fans in attendance, the abnormalities of a season played during the COVID-19 pandemic aren’t as glaring as it would be if the seats were empty. The atmosphere inside of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse helps ease the senses, and that is all credit to the production team. Whether it’s Senior Manager of Dance and Entertainment Katie Gibbons, Coordinator of Marketing Operations Nick Miller, Coordinator of Marketing Marlin Pickens, Manager of Marketing Promotions Ian Fontenot, In-Game Host Ahmaad Crump, or the trio of Hines, Faucheux, and Sabo, the energy inside of the building feels as authentic as it can possibly be.

After a four-game road trip, the Cleveland Cavaliers return to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse to host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. ET.

Password must contain the following:

A lowercase letter

A capital (uppercase) letter

A number

Minimum 8 characters