The Team Behind the Creation of Las Vegas 3on3

img_4788Get a glimpse of the inner workings of what came to be #Vegas3on3 with a quick interview from a few of our MGM Resort International partners: Paula Zappia, Steven Kawalkiewicz and Don Thrasher.

How did you first come to learn about Spokane Hoopfest?

“When I was hired in this position I was asked to look for new and exciting events to bring to this area,” explains Paula Zappia, Executive Director of Brand Activation and Events. “It was unlike anything we have ever done here before.” Paula cold-called the Hoopfest team, wanting to find more information, and heard back from Executive Director Matt Santangelo. With the help of her right hand man, Keith Dotson, the dynamic duo was able to learn more about what this tournament and festival was all about.

“I actually first heard about Spokane Hoopfest through ESPN,” smiles Steven Kawalkiewicz, the Event Production Supervisor at T-Mobile Arena, as he talk with us. “We have nothing like that in Vegas.” Having worked for T-Mobile since February of 2016, Steven has already made a huge mark not only on for T-Mobile, but especially with this tournament, having helped research and organize the operations and layout of the event – everything from bleachers to setting up the tents to sponsor involvement.

Describe your first Spokane Hoopfest experience.

“I was blown away,” says Paula. “It was one of the most…. I know nothing about basketball, but I learned so much from Bailee and Matt. It was the most professionally put together event I’ve had the pleasure seeing. And it was much bigger than I had anticipated. The welcoming of the team was tremendous and I knew right then and there I wanted to partner.”

Seeing courts on the bridges was what stuck out in Steven’s mind. “How do we get this effect and overall feel in Vegas?”

“When we came and saw the 3on3 tournament in Spokane and saw what had been built, we could see its potential,” says Don Thrasher, president of The Park.

Why Vegas?

“Not only with the entertainment but the ease of travel to this destination, it was a natural fit for here,” explains Don. “It was a great event that we could fit into our overall event schedule that would not only draw locals but some teams from LA and Washington, as well.”

And with 15 states and multiple countries already represented in this inaugural year, the tournament has already exceeded that exposure.

Where do you see #Vegas3on3 going?

GROWING was the unanimous word.

“Growing and growing and growing,” exclaims Paula. “I see this event in five years expanding throughout Vegas – bigger than the plaza, bigger than the arena. The support from everyone and the positive feedback from not only the players, but the spectators, volunteers and everyone, I just see it growing. We just need to continue to get the word out there.”

“I can only see it growing,” chimes in Steven. “Hopefully picking up more local teams. With a great blue print, our whole team can now see what is possible.”

“I see it growing from here as we continue to make some improvements and take it to the next level,” concludes Don.

What did you love most about your time with this event?

“This has been a total team effort,” explains Paula. “This event would have not been successful without MGM Resorts International giving the green light; the many meetings with our extensive teams; the faith in us to do it.”

“Watching it grow organically – from a slab of cement, and seeing all the puzzle pieces come into play,” Steven describes. “Going from nothing to having a full map – lots of energy and an emcee now. It’s always challenging and rewarding doing festivals.”

What really struck Don was the ‘hometown feel’ of the event. “It’s something you don’t really expect on the Las Vegas Strip. You think of glitzy and glamorous, but what we see here is sweat and hard work from all the teams. The level of activity is incredible.”

“When Paula Zappia from MGM first approached Hoopfest, roughly 18 months ago, about the Las Vegas 3on3 we were absolutely thrilled!” explains Matt. “The opportunity to partner with a global brand doesn’t happen everyday and especially a brand and organization that upholds the highest standard for world class events and brand integrity. Since that first conversation, MGM and Hoopfest have developed a strong partnership and friendship. The venue at “The Park,” Toshiba Plaza and T-Mobile Arena and 3on3 basketball are a perfect match. We are excited for the future of Las Vegas 3on3 and the partnership with MGM.”

We look forward to working with the team at MGM again next year!

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