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Volume 21 No. 13
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Tech helps Stanford tell its athletes’ stories

The Learfield Directors’ Cup, which Stanford has won 23 years in a row, is displayed at the entrance to the Home of Champions.
All photos by: ADVENT
Stanford University will unveil its new Home of Champions this week, an 18,000-square-foot interactive tribute to the Cardinal’s scholar athletes and their achievements.

Working with Nashville-based design firm Advent, Stanford retrofitted an old, unused gymnasium into the new Home of Champions, with an emphasis on former athletes like Steven Smith who have compelling stories to tell. Smith won two NCAA championships with the Cardinal water polo team before becoming an astronaut.

Until now, Stanford hasn’t had a place to showcase its treasure trove of championships and unique memorabilia. So the school charged Advent with creating a place to show off its history, both its teams and individuals.

What Stanford got was a facility that highlights the athletes, like Smith, through high-tech interactive displays that will keep the space updated with new and evolving content.

Advent retrofitted a gymnasium to house the facility.
Panels tell the story of recent championship teams.
Planning for the facility began in 2014 and Stanford’s Araceli Ortiz, assistant athletic director for marketing, served as the project manager. The private school did not release the project’s cost.

“What Stanford really wanted was to tell the story of these athletes and how they became champions,” said John Roberson, Advent’s chief executive.

With that in mind, Advent created 12 life-size video displays that feature 21 student athletes. At first, the video display appears to show a still image of the athlete. Then, the athlete blinks or subtly shifts weight from one foot to another, a way to attract the attention of the visitor.

When the visitor engages with the touch screens, the athletes begin telling their stories about their time at Stanford. The athlete interviews are exclusively for the Home of Champions, not content that has been repurposed, and can be updated. In addition to Smith, Olympian Ogonna Nnamani and up-and-coming golfer Maverick McNealy are featured, as well as others.

“Based on some of the preview visits, the videos are going to blow people away,” said Bob Wilmot, the Home of Champions manager. “Plus, it’s content that we can add on to.”

In addition, every letterman athlete is acknowledged through interactive digital books. Ten books represent each decade of Stanford athletics. Within each book is the name and, in some cases, biography of the letterwinner. Close to 15,000 names are recorded in the books going back to 1891.

When the book is placed on the digital tabletop, the names float to the surface with videos, highlights and photos.

“We work with a lot of schools that struggle with how to present their lettermen,” Roberson said. “Well, we’ve named them all at Stanford; we remember every one of them. They are a part of this new showcase of Stanford athletics. That’s going to be powerful when those athletes come back.”

In another space called the Story Room, visitors sit in front of a camera and monitor and tell their favorite stories about the school in 90 seconds. Stanford will send them a copy and also keep a copy to create its own archive.

The Women of Stanford display honors athletes dating back to the 1896 women’s basketball team.
The names of nearly 15,000 athletes are in books that can be activated by interactive tabletops.
The Story Room will be dedicated to Bob Murphy, the legendary Stanford broadcaster who died last month.

“We haven’t seen anything like the Story Room anywhere else,” Wilmot said. “That’s going to be a big part of the user experience.”

Stanford isn’t looking to generate revenue from the facility. There’s no admission fee, and the school hasn’t planned any banquet functions. The Home of Champions, which is inside the main athletics office building and next to Maples Pavilion, instead will be a place to tell the story of Stanford athletics.

In addition to the interactive displays, there will be traditional memorabilia as well. One case includes items from the 1962 USA-USSR dual track meet at the original Stanford Stadium, dubbed the “Greatest Track Meet of All Time.”

“What’s going to be really cool,” Wilmot said, “is that we’re going to have visitors come through who see what we’ve got here and say, ‘I’ve got something you should see.’ We’re going to be able to keep telling the story of Stanford athletics and it’s going to evolve.”