October 17, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Kings can’t wait to show off new in-game experience

Wanton Davis lived within walking distance of the Forum during his childhood in Inglewood. He was at Dodger Stadium the night of Kirk Gibson’s famous 1988 World Series home run. He was raised with a passion for L.A. sports that, he said, “has been ingrained in me for my entire life.”

And now, as the Kings’ new executive producer of live events, Davis is leaning on that background to reimagine the atmosphere of hockey games at Staples Center.

“I want to drive an experience where, when you come to a Kings game, not only are you going to see amazing hockey,” he said, “but you’re going to get a top-notch entertainment experience.”

An accomplished creative director in the music and entertainment sector who previously worked with MTV and NBC Sports and helped launch Sean Combs’ Revolt TV, Davis jumped at the opportunity to head up the Kings’ in-arena game presentation team, officially joining the club last month.

It will be a while before the team can put his plans into action, with spectators still prohibited from home games because of the coronavirus pandemic. But whenever the world does return to normal, he already has a broad vision for what Kings fans should expect.

“I am responsible for creating the live experience, everything from entry to exit point,” he said. “So essentially, as you’re walking up and as you’re entering the Staples Center, what do you see? What do you hear? How does it make you feel? As you navigate your way through the arena, I want various touch points to just really connect you back to the Kings’ brand.”

Davis’ approach is reflective of a growing recognition in sports about the value of in-game entertainment. In a culture dominated by smartphones and defined by shortening attention spans, simple scoreboard hype videos and musical intermission playlists no longer cut it. Teams are increasingly looking for creative, engaging offerings.

“The sports industry has pivoted and really realized that it’s not just a sporting event,” Davis said. “It should be an all-encompassing, immersive experience.”

The trend has been particularly pronounced in the NHL, where the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion franchise received instant acclaim for its innovative presentation, including theatrical on-ice pregame performances and a castle-shaped stage in the upper deck of its arena.

The Kings have been making inventive efforts of their own in recent seasons, combining traditional fan favorites like an organist with such modern elements as an in-house disc jockey and drumline. Davis’ addition is the latest step, the result of a months-long hiring process to fill the organization’s newlycreated executive leadership position.

Wanton Davis is the Kings’ newly hired executive producer of live events.

(Los Angeles Kings)

“The influence of game entertainment and the fan experience has grown exponentially over the last few years, especially with Vegas raising the bar,” said Mike Altieri, the Kings’ senior vice president of marketing, communications and content who was one of several team executives to interview Davis. “We feel he’s going to bring some really unique and different ways of storytelling to the L.A. Kings fans that we haven’t had.”

Davis’ professional background added to his appeal with the Kings. While brainstorming, he said he’s drawn inspiration from WWE events and Cirque du Soleil shows, considering any aspect that might give Kings games a uniquely Los Angeles feel.

A few early examples he’s already excited about: The use of technologies such as social media filters to integrate fans’ digital connection at games, and a revamped audio strategy he hopes will build momentum in the crowd during breaks in the action.

“I essentially want to take you on a sonic journey,” he said. “How I’ve kind of thought about it is, similar to a Broadway musical or a movie with an amazing strong soundtrack, I would love for the audio to sort of guide you through the event.”

Davis emphasized that the hockey itself will always come first. But he also knows that because many people only go “about a minute before checking their phones” it takes a greater effort to keep most modern fans engaged.

“People now, when they attend something live, they’re looking for social moments, they’re looking for takeaways,” he said. “We need to take that into consideration as far as how we program the event, how we program the game.”

With Staples Center likely to remain empty for the foreseeable future, Davis is treating this season as a test run for some of his specific ideas. “I plan on throwing a lot of stuff out there and we’ll see what sticks,” he said.

But just a month into the job, his big-picture goals are already clear.

“The Kings organization really wants to give the fans a show, and they really want to reward the fans for attending and for being supportive and for being behind them,” Davis said. “We do have some of the best fans in hockey. So they deserve a complete immersive experience.”