Renovated concourses, new non-purple seats and expanded concession offerings aren’t the only changes coming to Capital One Arena as part of the venue’s $40 million facelift this offseason. The in-game entertainment experience at Capitals and Wizards games has been reimagined, too.
In addition to a new state-of-the-art sound system, a DJ stage built into a corner of the lower bowl and a permanent 3-D projection system that will make fans “feel as though they are in the middle of the pregame action,” both teams will introduce co-ed entertainment squads. In perhaps the most exciting aspect of the overhaul, the Wizards will also debut a seniors-only dance team called — wait for it — Wizdom.
“We asked ourselves how we could make it a more engaging customer experience in the building,” Monumental Sports and Entertainment President of Business Operations Jim Van Stone said in a phone interview. “We did a complete audit of all the interactive experiences that our guests would have at a game. We want to make sure we’re new, we’re fresh, and we just felt like it was a really good opportunity to do an extensive overhaul of that experience. We looked at everything.”
On the basketball side, the co-ed “Wizards Dancers” will replace the previously all-female “Wizards Girls,” who entertained fans during halftime and timeouts at every home game. Auditions for the new squad will be held on Aug. 11. A new entertainment team called “Wizards Power Pack” will perform stunts and tumbling routines, while the Wiz Kids dance team, Secret Service Dunkers and mascot G-Wiz will all return for the 2018-19 season. For the Capitals, the to-be-named co-ed spirit squad will replace the Red Rockers, while mascot Slapshot will return.
The Wizards are the latest NBA team to introduce a co-ed dance team. In May, amid a series of high-profile complaints and lawsuits involving NFL cheerleaders, the San Antonio Spurs announced that they were disbanding their all-female Silver Dancers spirit squad after 26 years and replacing it with a 35-member “family-friendly” and co-ed hype team. Earlier this month, the Toronto Raptors held tryouts for a co-ed dance team.
“We have a lot of opportunities to do a lot of things from a game entertainment standpoint,” Van Stone said. “I think across the board, whether it’s the senior team, whether it’s the co-ed team, or the spirit squad on the hockey side, we want to be inclusive of everything, and try new things and do things differently.”
Wizdom certainly fits the bill. The Nets became the first NBA team to feature a seniors dance team in 2006. The NETSationals were featured in the 2008 independent film “Gotta Dance” and are the subject of a new musical called “Half Time.” The New Orleans Pelicans have also featured a senior dance team in recent years. Van Stone said the team experimented with the concept by dressing a senior dancer as an usher during the playoffs last season and putting her on the video board. “The arena erupted,” said Van Stone, who added that the Wizards have yet to determine how often Wizdom and the team’s other entertainment squads will perform.
Among the other in-game enhancements announced Wednesday are digital signage throughout the concourses that can be tailored to specific teams and games, and a permanent 3-D projection system for the ice and court. Monumental Sports and Entertainment experimented with the technology during this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. The Capitals will also introduce an Olympia ice resurfacer “bus,” which will offer groups of fans rides before the game and during intermission. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Minnesota Wild have used similar vehicles in recent years.
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