NBA All-Star Game Requires Quick Turnaround From Grammy Awards

What happens when music’s biggest night and basketball’s biggest weekend occur on the same turf within less than a week of each other? A lot, if you’re part of the two small armies that have to share prep time at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

The 53rd Grammy Awards have the facility for load-in and rehearsals from Feb. 4, leading up to the broadcast on the night of Sunday Feb. 13. The NBA’s All-Star Weekend takes the venue on Feb. 19 for the Haier Shooting Stars and Taco Bell Skills Challenge competitions, followed the next night by the NBA All Star Game.

“We have four days to turn these two major entertainment/sporting events around,” says Steve Thrap, VP of broadcast services for AEG’s Staples Center  & Nokia Theatre. “It’s a ton of coordination to work through, as we’ll be building both TV compounds simultaneously while everyone tries to stay out of everyone else’s way. It’s a massive undertaking.”

While the Grammy Awards load in and run through their paces, the NBA will be setting up an entire broadcast compound across the street on the Event Deck of the west garage at L.A. LIVE, where 14 mobile units from Denali and NEP, 11 Gelco trailers, and as many as five uplinks will jockey for space starting Feb. 10. They will be linked to Staples Center via as many as 216 single-mode fiber-optic cables and between 48 and 96 multimode fiber cables. All of this fiber is part of the extensive infrastructure that links the Staples Center, Nokia Theatre, and L.A. LIVE campus and provides connectivity for broadcasts that originate anywhere on the campus.

Bexel Broadcast Services will provide the optical/copper conversion needs for TNT, NBA-TV, the 3D broadcast, and all of the associated hardware between the truck farm and Staples Center, as well as for the Magenta Carpet Arrivals area on the Nokia Plaza at L.A. LIVE. Bexel Broadcast Services will station an optical-distribution trailer at Staples Center and on the Event Deck across the street to do the D/A-A/D conversions at each end.

Thrap expects that the All Star broadcast setup with be more than 85% complete by the time the Grammy Awards go to air.

Once the music’s over, it will take the Grammy Awards show a day to dismantle and depart, which means the NBA All Star crew cannot get into Staples Center until about 3 p.m. on Monday. Thrap estimates that it will take a full day to connect external fiber cabling to the Staples Center broadcast-cable infrastructure and to the Bexel optical trailers on both ends.

“If it all goes according to plan, we can start plugging in sound and picture and start hearing and seeing on Wednesday,” he predicts. Rehearsal for the NBA All Star Halftime Show will begin on Thursday.

The process will be helped by some clever anticipatory strategies. For instance, Kish Rigging has been hired by both production companies to consolidate and coordinate the massive amount of rigging for both shows and has designed the entire rigging plan with both shows in mind. When the Grammy Awards are finished with it, parts of the rigging will be struck, but the main outlines will remain flying, with a few extra spars added for the NBA shows.

“There’s a lot of coordination going on from top to bottom between Staples Center, the NBA, [Grammy Awards show producer] Cossette Productions, and National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences,” says Thrap. “Each group is focusing on its own show, but each also understands that the success of both shows hinges on give and take all the way around.”

It’s not the first time these two showbiz and sports comets have come close to colliding. Thrap recalls that, in 2004, both shows were held in the same chronological proximity.

“We’re lucky that we’re doing this in L.A., where we have the resources to pull this off,” he says. “Both shows have A crews and top-notch technical managers and mobile-unit engineers. A lot of the Grammy Awards crew will walk out of Staples Center and head over to the Kodak Theater to start working on the Oscars. This is the time of year when you earn your keep in this town.”