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AV in Sport special: How Washington’s Capital One Arena has created an unparalleled experience for fans

AV was at the heart of a $40 million full-sweep refurbishment programme of the multi-team, multi-sport venue 

Housed in the heart of Washington DC’s popular Chinatown district, is one of America’s leading sports and entertainment indoor venues, the Capital One Arena.

With 20,000 seats, the popular venue has hosted more than 47 million people since its opening in 2007 (three million visitors in 2018), with ice hockey, basketball, and a long list of major concerts making up the 230 plus live events that take place under its roof each year.

AV technology, of course, plays a crucial role in all events – be it inside the main arena itself (court/rink/stage facing), but also in the concourse and its lucrative hospitality areas.

Keeping fans entertained and inside the arena before, during and after is important, both financially (more food, drink and merchandise sales), but also in maintaining a fun and memorable experience for all.

Maintaining this is key, with the venue needing to ensure it remains on top and meeting and exceeding fan expectations – especialy when compared to other comparable venues.

Last year (2018) the arena’s owner’s Monumental Sports & Entertainment, embarked on a major $40 million full-sweep refurbishment programme of the venue, with a heavy emphasis placed on upgrading its AV capabilities.

Recently completed, AVTE spoke to David Touhey, president of venues for Monumental Sports & Entertainment to learn more…

What was the motivation behind the substantial refurbishment programme? 

Monumental Sports & Entertainment formally unveiled a completely new and upgraded venue and dining experience in early October as part of Capital One Arena’s recent $40 million renovation project over the summer which included more comfortable seats, a modern, cutting-edge sound system, two new destination lounges, innovative fan engagement, newly-designed concessions, culinary partnerships, a reimagined PwC Club, clearer digital displays and wayfinding signage and a retail store open year-round presented by Fanatics.

Tell us about the AV upgrade.

AV played an important role and was a fair portion of the renovation. Our entirely new, state-of-the-art sound system is designed to deliver the sharpest, clearest game and concert sound throughout the arena. No matter where in the arena you’re sitting, you’ll always hear clean, powerful sound. We also added 250 fifty-five or ninety-eight inch televisions, installed 23 new LED boards with more than 2,400 square feet of new digital space, and introduced projection mapping for Wizards and Capitals games.

What roles does high-quality AV play in the overall fan experience attending sporting events at the arena and how (if at all) has this evolved?

High-quality AV is essential to enhancing the fan experience and important as we continue to compete with other entertainment options including the one at home through HD television.

What were the key areas of focus for the AV upgrade at the Capital One Arena? 

In addition to the audio component I mentioned earlier, Capital One Arena transitioned the concourses and VIP spaces to a fully digital experience. This helps allow our busy building to truly have specific event feeling on a given night. For example, through our digital signage networks, we can make a Capitals game feel unique through both our owned assets as well as sponsor specific content. Also, in the evolving landscape of partner marketing, sponsors are looking to have content be more experiential, measurable and targeted. By switching our building to a fully digital experience, partners can now market directly to specific types of fans, with targeted content and in rotation with property content that makes the time in our digital rotations even more valuable.

Projection mapping is arguably the standout feature. Tell us about the motivation behind this and what it provides fans? 

Fan engagement was at the top of our list as we headed into the 2018 playoff season for the Capitals and Wizards. We engaged Quince Imaging to create the ultimate fan experience, and using Christie technology, Quince Imaging installed a dual-sport projection system that rallied fans and our teams alike with a stunning projection mapping show, all the way through a memorable Stanley Cup championship for the Capitals.

How about AV deployed away from the playing area. 

In conjunction with our partners at Aramark, all concession stands throughout the 100 and 400 levels of the arena were renovated and modernised featuring favourite arena fare along with new dining concepts to enhance the fan experience. Re-design elements included outfitting all stands with digital menu boards to make it easier to order and installing state-of-the-art amenities to further engage fans and innovate their food and beverage experience.  At the new Federal Favorites Express grab-and-go location, two Artificial Intelligent check out scanners were installed to allow fans to quickly and easily complete their transactions.

At the Over the Top stand, a 21-tap self-serve beer wall has been installed to allow guests the ability to pour their own beer from a wide selection of brews. And, self-ordering kiosks were installed at select locations, allowing fans to fully customise and pay for their order using touch screen technology.

We also added new digital displays in each quadrant of our concourses as well as upgraded internal wayfinding signage to make the arena even easier to navigate.