SoFi Stadium, One Year Later: Los Angeles Chargers, Rams Shine in NFL’s West Coast Palace
Fans are experiencing their first full season at the Inglewood, CA, venue
When renderings of SoFi Stadium and the surrounding Hollywood Park were first released, fans of the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers knew how grand this venue and complex was going to be. Now that it’s built and patrons are finally able to experience games in person after the 2020-21 season was played without fans, production crews for both franchises are hitting their stride.
Jolt of Electricity: Chargers Leverage ‘Energy Stage’ for New, Traditional Prompts
In a control room housing the latest production infrastructure, the Chargers are developing an experience centered on the fans in the stands. Centerpiece of the show is the LED behemoth overhead. Also known as the Infinity Screen, it stretches the entire length of the playing field. The 70,000-sq.-ft. 4K dual-sided centerhung is difficult to miss, but its most impressive feature is the versatility it gives the production team.
“It’s the crown jewel of this stadium,” says Sean Tabler, director, game presentation, Los Angeles Chargers. “It allows unlimited creativity. We have our game-in-progress look, but we’re also breaking away for takeover messages. We’ve noticed that integrating live shots and syncing our ribbon boards with the Infinity Screen is having the biggest impact on our fans.”
On a less massive scale, the team deploys a physical set on the lower-concourse level as its hub for activations. On the “Energy Stage,” in-game host Danny Hoyt and local radio personality/PA announcer Louie G control the pace and flow of pregame festivities, but, during the game, the stage welcomes other personalities as well. Not only are celebrity guests brought onto the stage, but fans also get a chance to be a part of the show.
One example is the firing of the Chargers’ Cannon, a tradition that dates to the 1960s. For the matchup vs. the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Nov. 14, NFL Network’s Kay Adams and Ocean View High School running back Isis Salazar (the second female to score a touchdown in Orange County high school football history) fired the cannon.
“Fans love to see who’s amongst them at the game,” says Tabler. “For the Minnesota game, Bad Bunny and Alex Rodriguez were some of the stars in the building. Over the course of the season, we’ve had Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Jamie Foxx, Julianne Hough, Nina Dobrev, Mario Lopez, Sterling K. Brown, and Sean White. But what makes our presentation unique is that these celebrities want to be part of the show because they’re fans. That’s why the ‘Energy Stage’ is so cool.”
Throughout the game, fans star on the stage for a new element when the defense is on the field for third down.
“We always played a thunder sound effect mixed with an air-raid siren to get the fans fired up and let them know it’s time to get loud,” Tabler explains. “This year, we evolved that into a physical prop. Instead of only watching the show, it’s a touchpoint for our influencers, celebrities, and season-ticket members to come to the stage and crank the siren on camera.”
On the field, the hype continues with a handful of notable features. The players walk the locker-room corridor through what looks like a lightning storm while a slickly produced hype video runs on the Infinity Screen to a modern version of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.” Tabler’s team deftly intersperses live shots of the players with the video and, at the edge of the entrance tunnel, the players touch a ball of electricity before sprinting out for introductions.
Appearances by the Thunderbolts (the team’s in-house drumline) and eclectic halftime performances ranging from the popular Corgi races to the Arcadia High School marching band — a fixture at the annual Tournament of Roses Parade in nearby Pasadena — mark the game presentation.
Despite early success, however, Tabler and his team refuse to rest on their laurels. “We have so many exciting ideas that we still want to fit into game day,” he says. “I think fans know that they’re going to have fun when they come to a Chargers game, and we want them to have an absolute blast. The best part is, we’re merely scratching the surface of where all this technology can take us.”
Entertainment Capital: Rams Tap Hollywood Creatives, Talent for Flashy Show
When it’s the Rams’ turn to be at home, the production crew targets the 70,000 screaming fans in the stands, deploying the technology at their disposal and adding local star power to generate buzz. On the creative front, the Rams recruited Academy Award-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister (who worked on projects like the Christian Bale–driven Batman trilogy and Inception) and two-time Academy Award-winning composer Atticus Ross to develop the breathtaking intro video played on the gargantuan centerhung.
“We ended up calling this our Kickoff Film because it stood for so much more than just that moment before the team runs out of the tunnel,” says Sarah Schuler, senior director, game presentation and brand experience, Los Angeles Rams. “With those two powerhouse Hollywood legends working together on behalf of a Rams game day, we hope that it was a signal to the entire city that we mean business. I’ve probably seen it 40 times, but, every time that video rolls in the control room, I get chills. We’re extremely proud of that project.”
With an extremely attractive opening and a beautiful venue, celebrities are flocking en masse to see what a Rams game at SoFi Stadium is all about. A segment titled “Who’s in the Rams’ House?” is a prime example, with names like Paris Hilton, Dr Dre, and Larry David popping up. On the field, Schuler and her team are producing heavy-hitting musical performances both before the game and at halftime.
“Since Los Angeles is the Entertainment Capital of the World, the musical talent that exists in this town is boundless,” she points out. “For our home opener, we had One Republic perform the halftime show, and L.A.’s own Ty Dolla $ign was under the lights of Sunday Night Football [on Nov. 7 vs. the Tennessee Titans] to give an incredible seven-minute performance with six different tracks and tons of theatrics.”
Like the Chargers, the Rams get fans involved in the show with a mix of new and traditional activations. The newest is Rampede, a fan-generated idea that unifies the crowd and energizes them right before kickoff. It involves guitarist Nita Strauss and uses graphics and other visuals shown on the videoboard. A more familiar sound, the “Whose House?” chant, also is heard at SoFi Stadium.
These weekly staples are pillars of the franchise’s in-venue productions, but, to match the vision of owner Stan Kroenke, the production crew strives to constantly innovate and not allow content to become stagnant.
“Mr. Kroenke’s vision was not only to create an architectural wonder of the world but that the collective experience is second to none,” says Schuler. “One of the best parts about our brand is that we’re always evolving. We’re going to continue to deliver special moments for our fans and approach every single game day like it’s once in a lifetime.”
Busy, Bright Future: Teams Eye Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium
From the Rolling Stones to K-pop sensation BTS, SoFi Stadium hosts myriad concerts and events. The biggest professional football game on the planet, Super Bowl LVI, will grace the grass of SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13. Featuring a halftime show that will feature California-based artists Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar as well as Eminem and Mary J. Blige, the final game of the NFL schedule will most certainly be a party. From Schuler’s perspective, it will be the first of many marquee occasions at 1001 Stadium Drive.
“Super Bowl I was played in Los Angeles, so SoFi Stadium couldn’t be a more suitable fit for the world’s greatest sporting experience,” she says. “We’re getting a ton of practice this year by working very closely with the NFL, so it’s going to be special, and we can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Tabler echoes the excitement of hosting a Super Bowl, but, well beyond it, he expects the in-venue technology on display at this state-of-the-art stadium to influence future builds.
“The uniqueness of this centerhung is meshing some of the best things of [large] stadiums and arenas because fans don’t have to turn their head to look at it,” he points out. “Since the audio is built into the screen, it’s coming right at you instead of behind or way up high. Those technological aspects are going to give people takeaways to use for future stadiums in the next couple of decades.”
The Los Angeles Chargers will host the Pittsburgh Steelers at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 21 on NBC at 8:20 p.m. ET. After a bye week and a road trip to play the Green Bay Packers, the Los Angeles Rams will return home to face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Dec. 5 on CBS at 4:25 p.m. ET.