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Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has big marketing plans for his new team

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Map of the Wizard training camp
Gene Thorp/The Washington Post

The Wizards learned from last season, when the Arenas gun incident forced the team to remove his banner from the Sixth Street NW side of Verizon Center, and another banner featuring Jamison and Butler was pulled after the two were traded.

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Winning the draft lottery provided a huge boost and allowed the team to rebuild around a young core of talented players with upside. But the Wizards have also taken extra steps to connect with fans, sending out Leonsis, Coach Flip Saunders and President Ernie Grunfeld to meet with season ticket holders throughout the offseason in a series of open houses.

Leonsis has already made some changes, both big and small, with the Wizards and the arena, such as painting the steps in the arena red, and painting the walls and support beams red and white in the Verizon Center parking garage. Grunfeld said last week that Leonsis plans to change the team colors back to the red, white and blue that the Bullets wore in their first 23 years in the Washington area. And, in his desire to connect with the fan base, Leonsis pushed to move training camp from Richmond, where it had been the past six seasons, to Northern Virginia, an important and coveted market.

Saunders provided a great opportunity to generate some buzz when he petitioned to have the Wizards' first practice at 12:01 a.m.

Plans for the pep rally followed, with the administration and staff at George Mason providing assistance. The Midnight Tip-off will be televised live on NBA TV.

"We're trying to create an event," Bibb said of the Midnight Tip-off, "that's symbolic of what we're going to try to do, on a smaller scale, 41 nights out of the year."

The Wizards will conclude training camp next Sunday with a Fan Fest that Bibb described as a "carnival." Bibb also said the Wizards would make some significant changes to game operations during the regular season by changing the lighting system and utilizing a new technology called CrowdWave.

CrowdWave is currently only used in Cleveland and measures crowd movements to allow fans to control what appears on the video scoreboard.

"We're going to work very hard to create an entire entertainment experience for our fans," Bibb said. "We as an organization are headed in the right direction. We are pleased with the results, but we have a long way to go."


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