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On the Hardwood: Philadelphia 76ers Continue Treasured Traditions at Wells Fargo Center

22/02/2021

On the Hardwood: Philadelphia 76ers Continue Treasured Traditions at Wells Fargo Center A blend of new and old elements maintains the energy inside of the venue By Kristian Hernandez, Associate Editor

Monday, February 22, 2021 - 3:35 pm

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The doldrums of 2020 may be in the past, but 2021 is still presenting challenges to in-venue production teams. Now out of the Orlando bubble, NBA organizations are hosting games in their home arenas and navigating the continuing difficulties of the pandemic. Like SVG's At the Ballpark and On the Gridiron series, On the Hardwood will take a look at the hardships, creative ideas, and teamwork of NBA franchises.

The Philadelphia 76ers, currently the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, are playing their best basketball inside of the Wells Fargo Center. The team's stellar play is a result of a talented and stacked roster, but also the in-venue production team's role of maintaining a familiar environment without fans.

The biggest thing we're trying to do is keep that home-court atmosphere for the players, says Derrick Hayes, director, game presentation, Philadelphia 76ers. We're keeping the traditions that our fans and our organization love.

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Longtime Staples: Ringing the Bell, Frosty Freeze-Out Remain at Wells Fargo Center Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons ring the bell prior to tip-off.

In a city that owns a steep, historical lineage that goes back to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia knows a lot about honoring the past. Despite the team playing in front of seats that are mostly empty, the production crew is staying true to what gives character and flavor to games at the Wells Fargo Center. One element harkens back to the city's foundation and one of its most famous icons, the ceremonial ringing of the Liberty Bell.

We worked with President [of Business Operations] Chris Heck and Head Coach Doc Rivers to get this done, says Hayes. We ended up creating a rotation where the players ring the bell.

Sponsorship integrations has been one of the harder boxes to check off this season. Normally, fans would digest a litany of in-game content that is attached with a participating sponsor. For example, Frosty Freeze-Out, a time where fans make a lot of noise to distract an opposing player shooting two free throws, is one of the more notable activation. This is still occurring during a game, but with the help of security, team staffers, and others that are allowed into the building.

We hand out props to our executive team and staff, so they're holding up thunder sticks, rally towels, and signs, he continues. On Media Day, we shot footage of Dwight Howard with a Frosty Freeze-Out sign and he was so amped up that he actually broke it, so the players are into it. It's funny because you'll sometimes see [the players] pump up the crowd from the bench.

Staffers hold up signs for the Frosty Freeze-Out.

In addition to these activations, pyrotechnics are still being infused during player introductions like they have been for 15 years. Along with these classics, new additions are being put into the rotation. Drip Cam is leveraging the fashion of the players prior to getting onto the court and even the select few sitting in the stands.

We're taking photos of them when they enter the arena, and when they're in the huddle, they'll peek up at the video to see if their outfits made it up there, adds Hayes. We're also highlighting staff and media, so one game, we highlighted GM Elton Brand and he showed off his blazer and sweater.

The Philly Faithful: Fake Crowd Noise Replicates Passion of the Fans Known for their deep-rooted passion, sports fans in the metropolitan area are invested in everything related to the Sixers. Over the years, these fans have become the heartbeat and soundtrack of games in South Philadelphia. While they're away, the production staff is poised with generating that same sound through fake crowd noise.

My DJs and my crew are operating the equipment because it's important to know the energy of our fans, says Hayes. When the officials make a questionable call, we know that our fans would be vocal, so we make sure that the crowd noise is loud.

In-game entertainment is still heavily involved at Wells Fargo Center.

Noise and chants used during a game are mostly generated from NBA 2K, but to add additional authenticity, the Sixers are re-using sounds from other seasons where the seats were packed. For instance against the Boston Celtics, Hayes and company are tapping into the archive to rile up their Eastern
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