Saturday, February 10, 2024

Steve Ballmer's Hoops Cathedral


Bloomberg - "Basketball, Basketball, Basketball: Inside Steve Ballmer’s New $2 Billion Arena"

"Intuit is designed so fans in every section walk down to their seats, rather than making those in the nosebleeds turn away from the court to go up, a concept the Clippers borrowed from European soccer stadiums. “Even if you’re sitting in the very last row, you’re walking toward what you are here for,” explains the day’s tour guide, Gillian Zucker, the Clippers’ president of business operations, as she navigates the construction debris and takes a spot in what will be one of the back rows.


Take, for instance, the Wall, an uninterrupted bank of 4,500 seats in 51 rows from floor to ceiling behind one of the baskets. “It’s built for people to channel their inner Steve Ballmer,” says Zucker. To fill the section with those who share in Ballmer’s mania, the Clippers plan to restrict access through a loyalty program. Fans will be required to complete a handful of actions, such as sharing photos of themselves in Clippers gear on social media or answering trivia questions, to earn a “Chuckmark”—named for the team’s mascot, Chuck the Condor—before they can buy tickets for seats in the Wall. “It’s about bringing fans closer,” Ballmer says, “but it’s also to say, ‘Hey … you got a purpose here. Your job is not just to enjoy [clap, clap]. You’re here to contribute. You gotta [clap, clap] help our team out.”

While the Wall, modeled after the stands at San Diego State University’s Viejas Arena, may help re-create the atmosphere of a college field house, it leaves less room for corporate suites. Intuit has only 46 of them around its bowl, compared with 178 at And even these premium spaces are engineered for maximum intensity, with the top row of seating for each suite set near the ceiling, so fans won’t have a view of the court from the dining areas. They’ll have to go back out to their seats.


Ballmer knows his gonzo style isn’t for everybody. Some people want to eat, drink, lounge and, especially in LA, be part of a scene. But there’s already an NBA team in town for those people: the “Showtime” Lakers. The Clippers, as Ballmer sees it, need to cultivate an alternative identity—in the model of their owner—as the team for hoops purists. "

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