With the Major League Season back on the track, the world champion Atlanta Braves are bringing the park to fans via the metaverse.
Last month, the Braves announced Truist Park would be MLB’s first venue to join the avatar-based virtual reality realm. Its surrounding entertainment district, The Battery Atlanta, will also have a virtual counterpart.
“It’s exciting to create a new way for our fans to connect with our team and their favorite ballpark,” said Atlanta Braves President and CEO Derek Schiller in a press release. “The digital version of Truist Park will offer limitless opportunities to create unique fan engagements in the metaverse and we are proud to be the first team to offer this immersive experience. We look forward to building enhancements along the way, which will continue to showcase the innovation of the Braves brand in the digital world.”
The digital venues are expected to come online in April, when opening day was supposed to occur. As negotiations between players and owners remain in slow motion, there’s no clear answer as to when the season’s first game will be thrown. In the meantime, look for pitches like the Braves’ move to keep fans engaged.
Here, we look at four reasons it makes sense for sports franchises to head to the metaverse.
Be Ahead of the Game
“We’re not even in the first inning” of the metaverse, says Ben Chodor, CEO of digital events and media company Notified. Companies looking to get ahead are jumping in, if for no other reason than to demonstrate forward thinking.
StarBase, an 8,000-sq.-ft. events venue behind Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, is among other facilities to hit the metaverse. High-end hotels reliant on corporate business are teaming with tech-savvy companies like RendezVerse to be part of the action.
The reality, Chodor notes, is tech outfits centered on avatar-based experiences have simply rebranded to capture interest since Facebook’s parent company adopted its meta nomenclature.
Being first out of the gate captures more headlines, and, theoretically, more interest. Advertisers and audiences will see the Braves as a leader off the field, as well as on it, which can only be a good thing.
Air of Exclusivity
From box seats to club levels, VIP experiences are part of the live events culture. Down the road, the metaverse may democratize some of the exclusive offerings. For now, though, Oculus and other headsets remain expensive and hardly universally adopted.
The first generation of the metaverse community will receive access to exclusive content like meet-and-greets, performances and virtual tours of the stadium and surrounding Battery. For lack of a better term, the “cool kids” will dig the options and perhaps be more forgiving of canceled regular season games because the Braves, in this case, are making an effort.
Stadiums and arenas are home to major sporting events we see on TV, but don’t remain dark on off days. Truist Park is hardly alone in hosting corporate groups and local organizations for meetings, to say nothing of concerts, faith-based gatherings and other events.
Metaverse technology appears to be a major breakthrough for planners requiring a virtual site visit. RendezVerse is built around the concept that meeting and event organizers may not have the time and resources to travel on-site during the site selection and planning processes.
“In the most simple terms, RendezVerse creates 3D models of real environments in which people, using VR headsets, can meet as avatars to walk, talk and explore the endless possibilities that can then be brought to life in the real world,” a company press release states.
Chodor, who typically prefers augmented reality and virtual reality offerings to wearing a headset for hours, agrees with the above assessment. “There's probably no better way for me to get a virtual tour,” he says. “Moving around a mouse doesn’t really do [the venue] justice.”
At least Truist Park will be open for business even if MLB isn’t this April.
We’ve come a long way from AOL chat rooms for like-minded individuals to connect. The Braves tout the metaverse option as a global forum to interact. Games and “Easter eggs” will be used to further unite the fans. Who knows, maybe there will be virtual tomahawk chop sessions?
Is the metaverse the future for sports tourism? Maybe. An informal Connect Sports poll shows many planners, CVBs and sports commissions are biding their time on the new technology. For some, though, the game is definitely afoot.
Photo courtest of The Atlanta Braves