Q & A

ESPN's Amanda Wells on Moving Tonight's Espy Awards Taping Downtown

By Shilpa Gopinath July 16, 2008, 4:12 PM EDT

The red carpet at last year's awards

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

The Espy awards will tape tonight at the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live (and will air Sunday). Overseeing the event is Amanda Wells, associate director of special events for ESPN, who handles all West Coast events for the company. In addition to the awards, Wells oversees the X Games, Monday Night Football on the West Coast, and the Rose Bowl. We asked her what went into this year's show.

Why did you move this year's event from the Kodak Theatre to Nokia Theatre?
It really was time for us to move downtown, and AEG built this theater that technically and logistically works for the Espys. The entire property was planned by event and show producers, so from the logistics of the lighting and the screens and power drops and distribution, it really is an all-in-one experience. It’s been wonderful for us and the show.

We are really happy in Los Angeles and our relationship with AEG and L.A. Live. It’s such an exciting project; we are building an ESPN Zone there.

Does a downtown show propose any new logistical challenges?
We are fortunate that we work in the downtown area for the X Games at Staples Center, so our logistics guru is well versed in what works and what doesn’t work. It’s actually easier for us to close down the roads between Staples and Nokia—that’s how they built that property—rather than shutting down Hollywood, which really impacts a lot of traffic. You would think it’s more complicated, but it is logistically easier for us.

This year's host is Justin Timberlake. Why?

Aside from being a talented singer and actor, Justin is actually a huge sports fan. He’s so committed to his craft and what he does that we felt like he was a great representative of the men and women that are also being honored for the Espys. He will be constantly entertaining. [There are] some musical secrets and things I can’t talk about—he will be a great performer during the show.

Tell us about the pre- and post-show events.

We have style suites at the Standard Downtown, which is where we are housing the athletes. We will have a red-carpet event in the courtyard of L.A. Live, and we are proud to say that it is going to be a green event this year. The pre-party is completely devoted to being green, from organic food to recycled materials, and the food that we don’t use will go into compost—we’re working with the city on that. We are not using any power for that event; we have people riding bicycles who will be powering blenders. The Miller Lite post-party is pretty unprecedented for us—40,000 square feet on top of the Nokia event deck.

Moving downtown, we are giving a nod to the urban environment, what we call “streetmosphere.” We’re building an actual skate park inside of the [Miller] event. We have skaters, BMXers, and flatlanders demonstrating throughout the night. We have live graffiti and dancers; Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys will be spinning. This event is not completely green, but we have made efforts to be conscious about that.

Is being green new for this year?

For the Espys, yes, for other events, no. We have a team of people at ESPN who are conscious about that, who are really great about education for our company and our events. There is a team just for the Espys. It has been a big undertaking but is definitely worthwhile for all of us.

Do you think the atmosphere amid the crowd will suffer, given that L.A.’s Lakers came up short of the championship title?
The show is really about the world’s best athletes and best performances. The crowd that’s going to be at the Nokia Theatre is largely not from Los Angeles—we cover the country, we cover the world. For me personally, yes, it’s a little bit rough.

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