Wed, May 18, 2016 - Page 18 News List

NBA seeks to connect with new, old fans at Rio venue

AP, RIO DE JANEIRO

Recently renovated warehouses line the waterfront at the renovated port area in Rio de Janeiro on April 4.

Photo: AP

For those fans who do not have Olympic tickets, or are around downtown Rio de Janeiro and do not want to trudge out to the Olympic Park in suburban Rio, the NBA is providing an alternative.

The league is setting up its NBA House hospitality venue in a warehouse in Rio’s renovated port area, alongside the just-completed Praca Maua and the new Museum of Tomorrow built by futurist Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

“We are looking to see people come in who are not that familiar with NBA basketball,” NBA Brazil managing director Arnon de Mello told reporters. “We are also expecting the hardcore fans.”

Admission is to be free, although there could be long lines when the venue opens on Aug. 12 and closes on Aug. 21, the last day of the Olympics.

De Mello said that the venue can hold only 500 people, and he expects 50,000 to pass through over the 10 days.

“We are anticipating huge traffic in that area, so we’ll do our best to get as many in as possible,” he said.

The venue is to contain a basketball court, video games, mascots, NBA merchandise and the Larry O’Brien trophy, which goes to each year’s championship team.

Famous players might also make an appearance, because the US men’s and women’s teams are staying on a cruise ship in the harbor, right next to the NBA House.

“If they come, they will come in their spare time, but they are not going to be working there,” De Mello said.

De Mello declined to reveal the cost of the project, but said it was an important way to engage fans.

“This is the center point of the NBA and our fans,” De Mello said.

“Besides the final, I cannot think of another time during this year where the NBA is so focused on one activity,” he added.

The only drawback might be the location.

The port area is far from the basketball venues at the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca and the northern cluster in Deodoro, where some women’s games are to be played. Travel could be treacherous, particularly since the new metro extension is to be open only for people with Olympic tickets or credentials.

The metro line links downtown, Copacabana beach and the Ipanema beach area to the Olympic Park in the western suburb of Barra da Tijuca. The extension is expected to open four days before the Olympics start on Aug. 5.

“I do anticipate that we’ll have thousands of people there walking around, especially people who don’t have ticket to games,” De Mello said.

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