As a guy who travels for his day job, I spend a lot of after work time at sporting events, and have had the fortune of going to all but a handful of NBA arenas. Without qualification, I can tell you that the Verizon Center game night experience is among the absolute worst. Period.
While games should be about... well... the game, reality is this is an entertainment business and people expect a certain level of excitement for their entertainment dollar. A dollar that, in this economy, doesn't stretch nearly as far as it used to, yet has more options than ever for how it's spent. When you're in the midst of a rebuild and not a consistent winner yet, it goes without saying that the in-arena experience needs to be a draw. And in my vaguely scientific analysis, Verizon Center's game night experience needs to greatly improve. For the casual fan (which I'm not, BTW), it simply isn't very engaging, or not nearly as engaging many other NBA arenas I've visited.
Here's a few suggestions on how Monumental Sports can to do that. Add yours in the comments.
1. Fix The Lighting- The lower bowl is entirely too bright. The focus isn't on the action. Not when my friends and I can play Straight Cash Honey: NBA Edition and point out random NFL throwback (yes, really) jerseys all the way across the arena. While it's rather clear we'll never, ever get the cool theater-style lighting the Lakers and Knicks have, it's pretty easy to hit the dimmer switch. This will also make the hundreds of empty seats (especially at tip-off) in the 100 section much less noticeable on TV. Added bonus!
2. Ditch The Cams - Kiss Cam. Dance Cam. Smile Cam. Yes, everyone loves mugging for the camera. And guess what, it's boring, repetitive, lame, and unimaginative. There are lots of other, far more creative ways to give fans in expensive seats 2-3 seconds on the JumboTron. Figure some of them out.
3. The Problem With Big Tigger- Big Tigger is a great radio personality. As a DJ, he is simply atrocious. Like, "Michael Ruffin shooting free throws" atrocious. If I had a dollar for every time he played a hip-hop record made prior to 2010, I'd be rich enough to sit on the Acela Club level. I'm not even sure who the "roving reporter girl" was that replaced Autria this past season, but Big Tigger would be much better doing her job. He's engaging, personable, and funny. Give him a mic and just let him walk around the arena with a camera following him. Then hire an actual skilled DJ to handle the DJ-ing stuff.
4. SuperFan Section- I'm still somewhat amazed that this hasn't happened yet. Nearly every other arena I've been to has some "SuperFans" section where people get free tickets to every game in exchange for coming to the game and acting like total and complete lunatics. They cheer the entire 48, they have pre-planned chants, they beat drums and sometimes even blow those annoying World Cup horns (whatever they're called). Given the aforementioned surplus of empty seats, why not give away 50 of them and liven up the otherwise dismal environment? Who knows, paying fans might actually cheer as a result.
5. Leverage Your Players/Personalities More - With a sport that markets players as opposed to teams, it has always baffled me that this organization took the exact opposite approach. The past couple of years, they've done a better job with the "Name that tune", "locker room cam", "best dressed", and "when I was 17" video features that often play during timeouts. The audio is usually too low to understand, but it's a nice step in the right direction. They should continue this and create little vignettes about the players off court lives, etc. to play during breaks (instead of yet another Kiss Cam). If you want a fanbase to embrace your (losing) team, you might wanna give them some "personal interest" angle to cling to.
6. Drumline/Band/ChantSquad/Terrance/AnythingOtherThanCannedChants- The pre-recorded "DE-FENSE" chants just have to go. Period. And while I know a lot of people find Terrance Briscoe incredibly annoying, at least he's enthusiastic. Far more than "The Wizards Girls", who spend more time looking at themselves on the JumboTron than actually "cheering".
7. Hustle Stats- Those outdated stats boards waaay up on the 400 level are too hard to see, and only show points, rebounds, and assists. Why not have a running tally of blocks, steals, forced turnovers, team rebounds, etc. somewhere prominently displayed. The John Wall "dime wall" is a nifty idea, why not expand this? Yes, this could all be remedied if cell/wifi reception in the area was better (so I could get the stats on my own!) but if the key word is "engagement" give us more stats!!!
8. Pregame Beer-Merchandise Specials/Actual Halftime Entertainment/Postgame Concerts - Again, the key word here is "engagement". Think of practical ways to get people to the game on time, keep them in their seats at halftime, and to stay until the end of the game. Cheaper beers until tip-off, anything other than 12 year old AAU games at the half, and a return to those concerts they used to do after games would be smart options.
These are just a few of my admittedly half-baked ideas. But seriously, Verizon Center is like a library some nights. When the team starts winning this stuff won't be nearly as important, but it's still important nonetheless.
Keeping fans engaged in the game night experience, even when the game itself isn't very pretty, is something Momumental Sports really needs to improve upon.