On October 6th, Richmond Virginia saw the return of the NBA for the first time in around a decade and anyone who found themselves traveling along Broad street outside the Stuart C. Siegel center would have been very aware a great event was in progress. The demand to see the first NBA exhibition game at the new Verizon Wireless Arena inside the Stuart C. Siegel Center was so high that tickets sold out by 10:00 am the day of the game and the thousand or so fans trying to buy a late ticket were turned away. Thanks to the diligence of the students at the Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Sport Leadership, the capacity crowd of 7,500 plus was treated to a competitive preseason opener between the home team Washington Wizards and Allen Iverson’s visiting Memphis Grizzlies.
The journey for the class started a month prior to tip-off when four members of the Sport Event and Entertainment Development (SEED) class were appointed to take charge of the game’s marketing and operations efforts. As point people, the group of four looked to encompass the talents and expertise of the different students in the class which led to the majority of the 35 members finding they were heavily involved in the planning and execution of the marquee event. The dedication of the class was clear, and their influence stretched over many disciplines including marketing, game-day operations, ticketing, hospitality, research and assisting the Wizards coaching staff with their preseason camp which was held at VCU a week prior to the game. It would not be doing the class justice if they were not considered an integral part of the event’s lasting success.
As, the 7pm tip-off approached it was time for the class to see the fruits of their labor over the last month, they would not be disappointed. Both teams fielded full strength line-ups with former all-stars Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas seeing extensive minutes in both halves. The level of play was high for a preseason game with both teams shooting well and never seeing more than a 9 point lead for the game’s entirety. On a great night for the fans, the top-level athletes and intense play were complimented well with a full Wizards game night promotion which was supported by VCU’s own pep band and dance team. Each break in play was filled with inspiring music from the band, silky moves from the dancers and plenty of laughs from the Wizards mascot ‘G-Whizz’. However, the Wizards dunk team stole the show with their high flying acrobatic dunks which left the sell-out crowd in awe and the kids in the audience wanting more and more. The jam-packed Stuart C. Siegel Center was truly exposed to the full NBA experience.
After the game, as the arena emptied and many happy fans returned home after a night to remember, a very weary group of SEED class members took to the floor to assess the culmination of an extremely busy four weeks. It was clear to see, the unspoken words, smiles and body language of all the parties involved pointed to the event being a complete success. Tim Lampe, instructor of the SEED class and Director of Facilities described the event as “one of the most memorable in Siegel Center history” and “great insight into event planning for all the members of my class”. Tommy Sheppard, Washington Wizards VP of Basketball Operations said, “Camp was a tremendous success, topped off by a sellout and nice effort last night. We cannot thank everyone enough for all their time and effort.” All involved gained invaluable experience and a knowledge that will serve them well into the semester when the SEED class present further events such as the Richmond Symphony Orchestra’s ‘come and play’ concert on November 22nd, 2009.