148th Westminster Dog Show: FOX Sports Calls USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Home for Second Straight Year

Ops team handles day change on dock diving competition, MLB-filled Saturday

Between the NBA’s Knicks and the NHL’s Rangers, New York City is buzzing with passion and energy, and sports fans heading to the metropolis this weekend can add another destination to their must-see list: the 148th Westminster Dog Show. FOX Sports has returned to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY, for the second consecutive year, and the broadcaster is relying on lessons learned in 2023 and on collaboration with the venue and the Westminster Kennel Club (WKC).

Operations Managers Judy Lawless, Jennifer Freund, Pam Chvotkin, Tech Producer Taihe Miller, Contreras, Lynch, and Tech Producer Anil Letherwala at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“We’ve worked with [the Westminster Kennel Club] for so many years that they know what we want for these shows,” says Francisco “Paco” Contreras, director, field operations, FOX Sports. “Since coming to this facility, the USTA have also been phenomenal to work with.”

Canines in Queens: Crew Takes Advantage of Familiar Setting

Over the past four years, the Westminster Dog Show has been something of a traveling circus. Traditionally held at Madison Square Garden, the event moved outdoors to Lyndhurst mansion in Tarrytown, NY, in 2021 and 2022 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the WKC headed 28 miles south to its current location. Producing this show from the front bench is difficult, but, from an operational perspective, having to toss a blueprint to create a plan for a whole new venue makes it even harder. This year, with assistance from the U.S. Tennis Association and lessons from last year — not to mention its own experience covering multiple events — the broadcaster was in a good spot early this week.

“By lunchtime on Wednesday,” says Tom Lynch, lead technical producer, FOX Sports, “we had infrastructure ready to go and trucks parked for the first day. We’re much further ahead [than we were last year], but we’re able to do that by having the right team onsite that knows how this event works and has a basic understanding of the lay of the land.”

The 2023 production came with a fair share of creative freedoms, such as free rein over the Spidercam aerial system without the obstruction of the centerhung videoboard at Madison Square Garden, but implementing similar technologies in familiar positions on the show floor and backstage at the Arthur Ashe Stadium has given Contreras and his team extra breathing room.

“It has been a lot smoother during the planning process,” Contreras says. “We know what we’re getting ourselves into. It has just been great. Again, Tommy and I’ve been planning this for a while and came in here, and things just started going. It was great.”

FOX Sports will broadcast all events from Arthur Ashe Stadium this weekend

As for the rundown of competitions, the only real change is shifting Dock Diving — in its second year, an event that measures how far dogs can dive into a swimming pool stationed in the outdoor concourse — from Sunday to Saturday. Despite this alteration, constant communication between FOX Sports and the WKC has allowed the event to be produced with minimal hitches and a laid-back atmosphere.

“This isn’t an event where someone walks by without saying hello but one where someone gives you a hug because we’ve become a family with the WKC,” says Lynch. “They’ve been very cooperative with us and want to help make this show the best it can be.”

Tech Toys for Good Boys: Workflows Handle Masters Agility Championship, Best in Show

Starting Saturday morning, the four-day production will be filled with furry friends competing in two main events: the Masters Agility Championship and the coveted Best in Show. Both come with a trophy, prestige, and a year’s worth of bragging rights, but, compared side by side, they are two drastically different activities.

Masters Agility is synonymous with speed, frenetic pace, and the need to follow dogs of various sizes running through a complex course of obstacles. To track their movements, the production will rely heavily on five hard cameras around the course, the Spidercam above, and numerous POVs configured into certain elements, such as the tunnel, A-frame, and teeter. To showcase each dog’s speed, two of the hard cameras will be in super-slo-mo.

The onsite crew is using space reserved for the US Open to produce the Masters Agility Championship and Best in Show

Best in Show highlights a dog’s elegance, trot, the beauty of its coat, mannerisms, and other details that require a close look. With more space to maneuver, the broadcast will deploy two RF handhelds, a MōVI rig, and a handful of cameras placed inside containers to not be a distraction to the dogs.

Offsite, FOX Sports’ facility in Los Angeles will be tapped for remote graphics and replay via EVS. In addition, SMT’s data-driven scoring and timing system will enable display of graphical clocks and full-screen scoreboards.

SMT will also provide other pertinent workflows for the event: competitor entry management and result calculation through the administration system and vital in-venue information, including dog name, breed, time to beat, and faults on four LED displays on the agility course and the permanent LEDs in the venue.

In the broadcast compound, FOX Sports is producing the broadcasts from Game Creek Video Encore A, B, and C units. CP Communications is handling RF needs from its onsite mobile unit.

Inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, the tools will help enhance the storytelling and coverage of the on-air talent. Longtime broadcaster Chris Meyers will be joined in the booth by veteran judge Jason Hoke and a new addition: all-breed professional handler and two-time Best in Show-winner Valerie Nunes Atkinson. Jenny Taft will host FS1’s primetime coverage of group judging as well as Best in Show, alongside reporter Jamie Little. FOX Sports play-by-play announcer John Strong is on the call for the weekend’s agility competition, alongside analyst Terry Simons and reporter Allison Williams. Strong and Williams also contribute to coverage of daytime breed judging with analysts Dr. Johan Becerra-Hernandez and Kim Meredith.

Big Apple Balancing Act: MLB on FOX Doubleheader, Braves–Mets at Citi Field

Besides the Westminster Dog Show, FOX Sports is in charge of a hefty slate of Major League Baseball. This Saturday, the network will broadcast a simultaneous doubleheader at 7:15 p.m. ET on FOX: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Milwaukee Brewers from American Family Field and Cincinnati Reds vs. San Francisco Giants from Oracle Park. Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets will be broadcast from Citi Field at 4:10 p.m. on FS1.

The NL East matchup will be done via a world-feed model, but, stationed a stone’s throw away, Contreras is making sure that all things are in order at the baseball venue. “I realized that I needed not only to put my best crew at the Westminster Dog Show but also have amazing crews for all of those baseball games. I’m bouncing around [both venues] to see that everything is going smoothly.”

With a busy summer ahead, this weekend will be great practice for FOX Sports’ operations team. The slate includes an onsite production of St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Francisco Giants for MLB at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, AL, on Thursday, June 20 at 7:15 p.m. on FOX and the 2024 MLB All-Star Game at Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX, on Tuesday, July 16 on FOX. The reps will come in handy also on an action-packed June 8 on FOX, which will feature the MLB London Series with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets from London Stadium at 1:10 p.m. ET; the 2024 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, NY, in the early evening; and a highly anticipated Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Yankees contest at 7:35 p.m.

Says Lynch, “We’re getting used to multitasking a lot of events at once.”

Coverage of the 148th Westminster Dog Show begins with preliminary competition of the Masters Agility Championship 8:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 11 on the FOX Sports App. Agility competition concludes at 2:00–4:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 12 on FOX. The action continues with breed judging at 1:00–4:00 p.m. on FS2, with primetime coverage at 7:30–11 p.m. on FS1 on Monday, May 13. The main event, Best in Show, will air 7:30–11 p.m. on FS1 on Tuesday, May 14.

Password must contain the following:

A lowercase letter

A capital (uppercase) letter

A number

Minimum 8 characters