Meet Hap Hopper, GCU’s Chairman of the Boards
By Zane Ewton
Basketball fans know Hap Hopper by his work.
“If you’ve seen the boards at the US Airways Center during a Suns game, you’ve seen Hap,” says Cathey Moses, vice president of event planning and marketing at GCU.
As GCU’s new digital systems director, Hopper is the one responsible for everything Antelopes fans will see on the high-definition video screens in GCU Arena. The screens were created and installed by Atlanta-based Innovation Sports Marketing.
Hopper moved to Phoenix in 1994 with a desire to work in pro sports. His background in marketing and public relations led to a part-time role with the Phoenix Suns.
He went full time with the Suns in 1997, and up until this past summer he produced and directed all of the digital and electronic elements of games for the Suns, Phoenix Mercury, Arizona Rattlers and Arizona Sandsharks indoor soccer team. This included the scoreboards, stats, graphics and more — everything you would see on the big screen(s) during a game.
“At the end of the day, I got paid to watch sports,” he jokes.
He makes it might sound like a lazy Sunday afternoon of watching the game, but producing a pro basketball game requires more than an interest in player stats. Each game requires hours of preparation. This includes everything from creating custom graphics to coordinating with the game operations department on timeouts and contests to running through a script.
“We know all of the elements involved in a game,” he says. “Then we build the show.”
Hopper estimates he will need at least six people working in the control room during a GCU game. That number does not include camera operators or any other event staff.
During the game, Hopper will sit in the director’s chair. He will be calling all camera shots, replays, videos and more. It’s up to him to direct the traffic.
It’s also up to him to keep up with the changing technology. It is hard to call the giant 15-by-35-foot screen in GCU Arena a “scoreboard,” but that’s certainly one of its functions, and the technology evolves quickly.
“I was part of the US Airways Center remodel in 2004,” Hopper says. “Everything was brand-new and the learning curve is very steep.”
Hopper describes the control-room technology when he started in 1997 as “a glorified Lite-Brite.” The director had to manipulate each pixel individually to create the whole picture.
The move to digital technology has made the process less cumbersome. Of all the screens in the control room, the fascia is one that’s used extensively. The screen houses all of the pre-produced elements — game prompts, reactions, player-specific graphics — and makes them available for quick use.
It’s not a Lite-Brite, but it does require keeping fresh on the technology.
Hopper finds himself riding the learning curve again with a room full of equipment — and little time to adjust. After he signed on with the University, he was presenting his first events in the Arena in less than a month.
“There is a lot of pressure, but also a lot of excitement,” he says. “Each event presents unique challenges, but the events during Welcome Week were a great trial run.”
Hopper spent the better part of the past few months pre-producing elements that will be staples at GCU home games. He built a library of videos, graphics and prompts certain to get fans on their feet.
According to Moses, he has a knack for creating memorable game elements.
“Hap brings creativity,” Moses says. “He will breathe life into all the digital boards in the Arena.”
Major events scheduled for GCU Arena in its opening weeks include:
- Casting Crowns, Sept. 23
- David Crowder Band, Oct. 6
- Switchfoot, Oct. 21
- GCU vs. Arizona State University, men’s basketball, Nov. 5
- Holiday ice show featuring Brian Boitano and Mannheim Steamroller, Nov. 12
- Lady Antebellum, Nov. 17
- Third Day, Nov. 20
For more information, go to www.gcuarena.com.
Contact Zane Ewton at 639.7086 or [email protected].