Looking back 40 years, it seems that Astronaut Alan Shepard opened Pandora’s ”sports” Box when NASA cameras caught him hitting golf balls with his six iron on the Moon in 1971.
Americans have since become fascinated with the idea of playing sports in alternative venues. With an assist from new technology to solve any logistics issues and corporate sponsors to help with budget concerns, large-scale ”transformative events” are becoming more popular to draw the interest of viewers from all walks of life to a specific sporting event.
As we count down to the 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic, the first ever college basketball game played aboard a US aircraft carrier, let’s look at a list of recent sporting events played at unique venues:
- Cold War – Michigan State University vs. University of Michigan (10-6-2001)
In 2001, the college ice hockey game between MSU and U of M set a world record for the largest crowd at a hockey game when 74,544 fans braved the frigid elements at Spartan Stadium to view this epic rivalry. While Spartan Stadium is usually home to MSU football games, this outdoor hockey game set off a wave of outdoor NCAA hockey games and was televised internationally.
- Tennis on the Burj – Andre Agassi vs. Roger Federer (2-22-2005)
On a warm February morning in Dubai, tennis champions Andre Agassi and Roger Federer helped promote the Dubai Open by playing a friendly match of tennis 692 feet above ground on the helipad of the 7-star Burj al Arab hotel. The hotel’s grass helipad (which is 415 square meters) was converted into a open air tennis court to provide “an absolutely amazing experience,” according to Andre Agassi.
- Bowling in Cowboys Stadium – United States Women’s Open (6-30-2011)
The stage was set for five women to break the bowling attendance record at Cowboys Stadium in June earlier this year. Nonetheless, the hype surpassed the attendance as the miniscule 6,000 fans barely filled a few sections of Cowboys Stadium (which has a maximum capacity of over 110,000). The record attendance for a bowling event remains at 7,212, set by Motor City bowling fanatics at Joe Louis Arena in 1995 to watch the Men’s Open tournament.
- Squash Tournament of Champions – Grand Central Terminal (1-28-2010)
New York City tourists and local commuters were greeted by an immense squash court in the middle of the city’s Grand Central Terminal last year as J.P. Morgan sponsored the 13th annual Tournament of Champions Squash Event. You don’t have to be a squash enthusiast to realize that this game is not usually played in a train station. Nonetheless, the fact that this game was played in a train station keeps the name of corporate sponsor J.P. Morgan (and the game of squash) fresh in the memory of novice fans for much longer than a typical tournament would.
- The Basket Bowl – MSU Spartans vs. University of Kentucky Wildcats (12-13-2003)
In the first huge NCAA basketball game to take place at Ford Field, the MSU Spartans took on the Kentucky Wildcats in the 2003 Basket Bowl. At the time, the 78,129 fans at Ford Field set a verified attendance record for most fans at a basketball game in history. The Spartans will have the chance to avenge that loss (74 to 79) on the national stage as the 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic shines the spotlight on the MSU basketball program once again on Veterans Day.
For another look at how a unique venue for a sporting event enhances the fan experience, provides the opportunity of a lifetime for athletes, and raises a company’s brand awareness, tune in to the 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic. Celebrate Veterans Day and view basketball played on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier for the first time in history!