The success of themed “museums” aimed at the Instagram crowd has led brands in multiple industries to execute their own versions, and professional basketball is the latest to hop on the trend. The Golden State Warriors partnered with one of the biggest names in social media-friendly pop-ups to launch their own experience designed to take fans on the career journey of a Warrior.
The San Francisco team worked with the creators of Candytopia—the traveling candy-themed art exhibition and playground—to open Hooptopia in Thrive City, the new sports and entertainment development anchored by the Chase Center, which became the Warriors’ home arena in September. The team had played their home games at the Oracle Arena (now the Oakland Arena) since 1972.
Rick Welts, president and COO of the Warriors, said the decision to open the temporary interactive fan exhibit—which marks a first for an NBA team—was sparked by multiple factors, including the growth of Instagram attractions and finding a willing partner in John Goodman, CEO of Candytopia, who Welts said is a Warriors fan and a regular at home games.
The other factor was the opening of the $1.6 billion Chase Center complex, which will eventually be home to numerous restaurants and retailers, as well as a hotel and condos. Welts noted that Hooptopia is part of a larger plan to market the first privately financed modern sports arena as an entertainment destination. The team has full ownership of the arena and the surrounding development.
“I think the project is being looked at as valuable [lesson], in terms of our industry moving forward and creating sports facilities of the future,” he said. “A standalone stadium or arena doesn’t make sense.”
According to Welts, the complex had an area initially intended for a permanent retail space. The Warriors decided to repurpose the area for temporary projects, beginning with Hooptopia.
“We’re transitioning from a sports team that rented an arena to play its basketball games, to a sports and entertainment company that owns and operates one of the premier venues in the world,” he said. “We want to create an intellectual property that can have more value beyond just our appearance at the Chase Center.”
After developing the concept of Hooptopia, Welts said the team worked with fabricators at Candytopia to design and build stations that include a zone where fans are strapped into a harness and lifted into the air to dunk a ball, and a room where fans can have their own champagne celebration. The experience also has a space for body measurements, vertical testing and agility drills, along with a replica of the team’s private jet.
“We developed this concept of wanting to trace the career of an NBA player, from their [recruitment] all the way to winning a championship,” he said. “We identified what would be part of that journey, and Candytopia had the resources to build the things we envisioned.”
However, to include certain elements like a giant Steph Curry bobblehead, a cutout of Adam Silver and a simulation of the Warriors’ draft day war room—which includes audio of phone calls from real past drafts—the team had to get permission to use intellectual property controlled by the NBA.
Welts said after multiple meetings with the league to discuss the concept and get permission, the NBA approved of how the experience would present the league and engage with fans in a different way.
Hooptopia is open daily now through Dec. 31; tickets are $36 for adults and $27 for youths, and attendees must reserve a time slot. While Welts couldn’t share exact attendance numbers so far, he noted the goal is about 1,500 visitors per day.