The Golden State Warriors have claimed a first for the NBA by introducing a virtual fan attendance venture to Chase Center, while the Washington Wizards have launched a virtual gameday experience and the Phoenix Suns have unveiled new hospitality offerings.

The Warriors have launched a multidimensional plan for a connected and interactive fan, player, and partner experience at games this season. Enhanced in-game elements include the Dub Hub, an interactive opportunity for fans to appear live on virtual LED boards surrounding the court and in the player tunnel.

“I’m proud of how we’ve turned a difficult challenge into a unique opportunity during this unusual time,” said Warriors president and chief operating officer Rick Welts. “This innovative and reimagined entertainment strategy will enable us to stay connected with our fans and partners via, among other elements, virtual fan engagement opportunities, additional partner signage spaces and an enhanced audio plan. It’s exciting.”

The NBA’s 2020-21 season commenced yesterday (Tuesday) after a plan was agreed by the league last month. Beginning with the Warriors’ home opener on January 1 versus the Portland Trail Blazers, 120 fans will have the opportunity to appear live in the Dub Hub through virtual LED boards surrounding the court.

These fans will also have the opportunity to interact with each other during the game, create custom signs to display in their fan box, and change their broadcast angle of the game through a touch of a button.

Additionally, in collaboration with The Famous Group, the Warriors have placed a virtual LED board in the players tunnel, allowing for two-way fan interaction with the players before they take to the court for the game. At this point, the Warriors claim they are the only NBA team to activate virtual fan attendees, and to offer fans a behind-the-scenes virtual look at the player tunnel. 

Additionally, while the Warriors are currently in a fan-less scenario at Chase Center, the team is enhancing the fan experience, and the player environment in the bowl by replicating crowd noise throughout the game.

Four speaker clusters positioned around the court will provide enhanced audio for both game play and game breaks. Warriors DJ, D Sharp, will layer into the audio options pregame and in-game, with pre-recorded crowd noise reactions mixed into the audio soundscape, audible in the arena and on broadcasts.

To enhance partner visibility at the game, the Warriors have positioned additional LED signage on the baseline of the court, visible during select games throughout the 2020-21 season. Additionally, six LED modules will be placed on both baselines, and on the TV-visible sideline, for enhanced partner visibility and fan connection opportunities.

Meanwhile, Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE), the ownership group for the Wizards, has teamed up with video technology company Kiswe to launch ‘Virtual Gameday, presented by NBC Sports Washington,’ a second screen option for an enhanced viewing experience on fans’ mobile and other electronic devices.

Virtual Gameday allows the Wizards to bring the in-venue experience at Capital One Arena to fans within their own homes for all home games. Along with access to the traditional in-game elements such as dancers, DJs, in-arena hosts, rally cries, national anthem performances, traditions and entertainment performances, Virtual Gameday provides a platform to bring sponsor activations and in-game features to life as part of the re-imagined game day experience.

“As the Washington Wizards usher in the start of a non-traditional 2020-21 season without fans in the arena, we wanted to replicate some of the excitement and content we would normally deliver at Capital One Arena,” said Hunter Lochmann, chief marketing officer at MSE.

“We found a great partner in Kiswe to create this Virtual Gameday – a first-of-its-kind second screen experience for fans that delivers great content on a fun and interactive platform. At the same time, it also allows our loyal corporate partners to bring their in-game promotions to life during this non-traditional season. We think this will be a great viewing companion with the broadcast of our games on NBC Sports Washington.”

In Phoenix, the Suns have unveiled new hospitality offerings as part of their ongoing arena renovation project. Through a new partnership extension with Hensley Beverage Company, fans will have a variety of new venue offerings featuring Hensley’s portfolio of drinks brands including Anheuser-Busch, craft beer from Arizona and regional breweries, ciders and seltzers when visiting the reimagined Phoenix Suns Arena.

Flanking the west length of the basketball court sitting underneath the stands will be Hensley’s new Ultra Club, one of two new courtside properties. Fans entering the 4,000 square foot Ultra Club, just a few steps from their seats, will be offered all-inclusive food from chef-attended stations, hand-crafted cocktails and made-to-order pizza.

Ultra Club ticketholders will also have private access to a personal retail shop within the courtside club to purchase merchandise, and a grab and go cooler with pre-packaged refreshments before watching the game.

Commenting on the Hensley deal, Dan Costello, Phoenix Suns chief revenue officer and senior vice-president of business innovation, said: “A Valley staple committed to first-rate service, we couldn’t imagine a better partner to share with our amazing fans. Anchored by Ultra Club, this new relationship will bring new amenities and elevated offerings for every guest who steps into our reimagined arena.” 

Phoenix Suns Arena will have other new additions. Located on the main concourse, the Drink in AZ Bar will offer fans a new space to enjoy beverages from local breweries or craft cocktails. Enlisting Hensley’s namesake, the initiative is designed to collaborate with local communities and partners.

Finally, stocked with snacks, drinks and pre-packaged goods available for quick purchase, the Bud Light Seltzer Grab & Go on the main concourse will be another new offering for 2020-21. The Suns open their season today against the Dallas Mavericks, but the arena will initially be without fans due to the increased transmission of COVID-19 in Arizona.

Images: Golden State Warriors/MSE/Phoenix Suns