The Sacramento Kings NBA basketball franchise has claimed a first for a professional sports team with the launch of a new Discord server that will create a virtual arena experience for fans.

The Discord server will allow Kings fans to gather online to interact and expand access to exclusive experiences that usually take place in-person at the team’s Golden 1 Center home arena.

Discord is an instant messaging platform and focused on gaming when launching in 2012. It has since grown to cover areas such as music and sports and currently has over 100 million active users.

Through its partnership with Discord, the Kings will host a range of live Q&As directly with fans on the server, featuring access to Kings front office executives, players and broadcast personalities. General manager Monte McNair yesterday (Wednesday) hosted one of the first Q&As as part of the Kings’ NBA Virtual Draft Party.

The server will also feature merchandise updates, real-time game and topic discussions and other initiatives. The server can be accessed on the Discord desktop or mobile app or via Discord.gg/sacramentokings.

Kings chairman and owner Vivek Ranadive said: “We are excited to launch this digital arena as an innovative solution to bring the best fans in the world closer to the team and connect virtually during these unprecedented times.

“At the Kings we are always working to take advantage of new ways to engage and interact with our fans and we are pleased to partner with Discord, the industry leader in blending offline and online worlds on a frictionless and cohesive platform.”

Discord chief marketing officer Tesa Aragones added: “Everything we do at Discord is grounded in creating community, connection, and belonging. When it comes to those things, nothing levels the playing field like sport. We are excited to welcome the first official NBA team to Discord in the Sacramento Kings as they bring their passionate fans to a place to connect with the players – and one another – beyond the physical arena.”

The Kings have been at the forefront of technological innovation in recent years. Last season, the team claimed another first for world sport through a partnership with Zippin that resulted in the opening of a checkout-free convenience store at Golden 1 Center.

Earlier this year, the Kings teamed up with NINA to introduce an Internet of Things-powered smart pouring solution at Golden 1 Center. NINA’s bottle-mounted device and app allows fans to skip lines at the arena and the initiative is designed to provide a more personalised experience for supporters.

Other initiatives launched by the Kings include a blockchain-powered reward programme, and augmented reality experiences through a partnership with Imagination Park Technologies.

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