X Games Live: L.A. Live, Staples Center Get Exclusive
This week, the notoriously traffic-ridden streets of Downtown Los Angeles have once again been invaded by ESPN for its annual display of high-flying, trick-landing excellence – the Summer X Games. While previous X Games have been held partially at the L.A. Live-Staples Center complex, this marks the first year that every single event will take place at the Downtown L.A. mecca. In fact, ESPN is not only holding X Games 17 exclusively in downtown, the network is also racing Rally Cars through the same city streets normally fraught with congestion.
“There are very few events that would be willing to give up this type of footprint,” says ESPN VP of Event Production Jamie Reynolds. “In consolidating all the events into one local, it makes if feel like a full extravaganza – both here and on television.”
In past years, X Games events have been split up between L.A. Live and either Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum or the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.
“In the past when we were separated between multiple [venues], I don’t know if we ever really had the ability to make it look like a huge event on the air,” adds Reynolds. “But now, with all the events going on at once in the middle of this bustling city, it makes the entire event feel bigger.”
All events take place concurrently at four separate venues – the Staples Center, the Nokia Theater, the Street & Park Event Deck, and Lot 7. ESPN believes that this multi-layered concoction of activity will come across on air, creating a more streamlined, high-energy telecast.
“Having everything in one place allows us to create more action packed shows because we’re not worried about where people are and crowd flow,” says X Games and ESPN 3D Coordinating Producer Phil Orlins. “Ultimately, our success is predicated upon us putting high-impact action on the screen and having all the events close together helps us put kind of constant action on the screen.”
Orlins points to the opening night of X Games on Thursday as a perfect example of this high-octane coverage. Beginning at 4 p.m. ET, ESPN provided an hour of coverage of the Moto X Step Up Final, then came directly out of a commercial to the Skateboard Park event. During a delay between the first round and final, the network switched to a 15-minute segment of the Moto X Best Whip Final, and then right back to the Skateboard Park for the final. The night ended with 45 minutes of the Moto X Best Trick Final and then an hour of the VMX Freestyle Big Air Final.
When we were at the Coliseum or Home Depot, we had to create a multi-hour event from one show,” says Orlins. “But here, it’s different because we can whip around and always have live action occurring on screen.”
While this compacted set-up has made for fireworks on screen, it also made for a few growing pains behind the scenes.
“Coming downtown it’s more challenging to find space,” says ESPN Operations Manger Severn Sandt. “We have to support a huge number of people who are working in trucks, office trailers, and out of broadcast center.”
Sandt and company were forced to utilize every square inch of space to fit in the massive crew and facilities necessary to run the X Games, even utilizing the steps of the adjacent Los Angeles Convention Center to build ESPN’s broadcast center tent.
“We’re basically built on the steps of the convention center because it was the only space we could find,” she says. “Finding the space has been challenging and working within the constraints of this area has been an interesting challenge as well. On the flip side, it’s great to be in this lively area. We definitely prefer it to Home Depot, where you were basically on an island away from the city.”
From a connectivity and cabling standpoint, the dense L.A. Live location is actually more difficult to navigate than two wholly separate locations, according to coordinating technical manager Steve Raymond.
“Logistically, having everything in one place simplifies things. But from a technical standpoint, it has actually added to the complexity,” he says. “In terms of the amount of signals that we route from site to site, when you are separated there are certain obvious limitations that prevent you from having all the connectivity that you would like to have. Now that we’re all in one site and all the venues are live every day, we have the ability to connect. But it also to means that the infrastructure must grow drastically”
Check out more of SVG’s comprehensive live X Games 17 coverage from Los Angeles by CLICKING HERE.