Meet the man behind many of our city’s most exciting sporting events.
Name any local sports team, and chances are homegrown entrepreneur Pat Walker has worked with them. For more than a decade, this UW alum has produced a multitude of sporting events, from lacrosse matches to women’s basketball games. His latest venture is 3 Point Productions (3PT), a company he co-founded with two longtime associates, Todd Albright and Matt Heuer, in January 2012.
I recently met up with Pat at the extensive sports memorabilia museum that is his company’s SoDo office.
Growing up, who were your favorite teams?
I split time growing up between the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. But through and through, it was Seattle teams. Sonics were always number one on my list, followed closely by Huskies, Seahawks and Mariners.
How did you first get involved with sports production?
I studied business marketing at UW. Right out of college, I got an internship with US West in the event sponsorship side of things, and it immediately piqued my interest in sports production. About a year after that, I got a job with the Sonics as a game operations assistant.
You also worked with the Storm, as well?
I worked my first Storm game in July 2001, before I ever worked a Sonics game. Eleven years later, I’ve remained involved as a consultant. It’s a great organization. Storm fans are very loyal and very energetic. And in 2004, I directed the championship series. Making the call for confetti was a really special moment that I’ll never forget.
Any memorable encounters with local athletes during your time with these teams?
Our interaction with the athletes, especially on the game presentation side of things, is always very professional. But I’ve had some very unique opportunities. One of the highlights was when the Sonics celebrated their 40th anniversary season. We were part of an entire summer tour of bringing back stars from the past. That opening weekend, we hosted several events and games that recognized those guys. It was a unique opportunity to work with guys like Jack Sikma, Gus Williams and Freddie Brown, who are idols for a lot of people.
Sort of like the ultimate fan fantasy?
Yes, but when you’re working on the business/production side of it, you’re not looking at them as athletes and stars. You’re looking at them as talent within the presentation you’re putting on. You’re not talking basketball; you’re talking timing, cues and locations.
What did you do when the Sonics left town?
Leading into their final season, I decided to launch into the entrepreneurial side of things and start a solo venture called Pat Walker Productions. Almost exactly four years later, we started 3PT.
What was your experience producing the 2010 NBA All-Star Game, which set a world record for attendance (108,713 people)?
That was by far the most complicated, intense and biggest event I’ve ever been a part of. We spent the entire week at Cowboy Stadium rehearsing every element of it. You get used to the venue, and the massive size of the building – but when you’re rehearsing, that building is empty. The first time I stepped out and looked at the full house, there were a few butterflies.
How long have you known 3PT co-founders Matt Heuer and Todd Albright?
I’ve known both Matt and Todd for eight or nine years, dating back to our days in the Events & Entertainment department at the Sonics.
Since all three of you are veterans of the sports production industry, what did each of you bring to the table?
We have a great balance of skill sets and specialties between the three of us. On the business side of things, Todd is our VP of Strategic Operations and specializes in financial oversight, pre-production and talent management. He’s the left-brain of our company and ensures we’ve ‘dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s.’ Matt is our Creative Director and excels in entertainment programming, creative consulting and music/audio operations. He’s extremely skilled at coming up with the ‘next great idea’ and then making it a reality. My primary focus is on business development, managing the sales cycle and client relations.
When it comes to running events, we all possess the ability to step into any role at any time, but our core structure is with me directing the show, Matt running the music and Todd leading the stage management.
When you put three die-hard sports fans in one office, how bad does the taunting get?
We have great sports debates in the office every day. First off, Matt’s a Raider fan (he got that from his dad, who is from the Bay Area), and Todd and I are lifelong Seahawks fans; there are dueling helmets on one of our walls, Monday Night Football style. For Todd and I, we have a good English football (soccer) rivalry. He supports Liverpool and West Ham United for me. I took a beating on this the past year after West Ham was relegated, but they’re back on level terms now. And then there’s the most fiery debate of Sonics and if it’s okay to still root for the Thunder. Todd spent two very successful years getting the franchise off the ground operationally in OKC, so we allowed him to hang a few Durant and Westbrook pics in the office.
3PT represents the Washington Stealth, Seattle’s championship-winning lacrosse team. What can you tell us about this little-known squad?
From a fan’s perspective, it’s one of the most exciting game experiences. Their rules for when and how you can play music and incite the crowd are very loose. In the National Lacrosse League (NLL), they encourage rock ‘n’ roll music throughout. Guys go down for possessions, and you got ‘Enter Sandman’ or ‘Back in Black’ playing in the background.
What are some of the challenges of producing international sporting events?
It really depends on the location. One of the biggest challenges is the equipment, especially electronic equipment like scoreboards or shot clock buzzers. But even when you go to Canada, there are challenges of everyday communication. In this industry, updates happen very frequently – but they have to be routed through email when you’re international. On the flipside, the experience of working internationally has made me a stronger producer and director on games here in the States, because I appreciate the elements I took for granted before.
In your opinion, who are the greatest athletes that Seattle has produced.
The two names that come to mind are Gary Payton and Steve Largent. GP, alongside Shawn Kemp, put the Sonics at the peak of the NBA. You look at the impact that Gary continues to have – his appearance at the Sonics arena rally was phenomenal. And Largent is my favorite Seahawk of all time. He went out there with no gloves, just his jersey, pants and skinny facemask, and he got it done. When he retired, he led the NFL in receptions, total receiving yards and touchdowns – and he had the best hit on Mike Harden of all time.
How would you characterize Seattle sports fans?
They’re really passionate. Like any other city, they’re more engaged when their team is playing well. But Husky Stadium has long been known as a very difficult venue to play in. Sounders fans don’t sit down from the time they go to games. KeyArena was long known as one of the toughest NBA venues, and is still the toughest WNBA venue. Then you’ve got the 12th Man. There’s no coincidence that all of those take place in the same city.
What are your thoughts on the return of the Sonics and/or the arrival of a new NHL franchise?
It can only be a positive for us. To have that prospect out there, I’m in full support of the new arena. I think the group that’s putting together the proposal has done a very good job with their talking points and strategy leading up to it. I hope it gets done.
If you could pick one song to permanently retire from sporting events, what would it be?
Well, a song that I’ve heard way too many times – but, honestly, I still get a little geeked up for is ‘Zombie Nation’. That one has probably played itself out, but quite honestly I still enjoy it.
3PT is currently working with UW to enhance their fan experience across all Husky sports, specifically football and basketball. The debut event will take place Friday, Aug. 24, when your UW Husky volleyball squad hosts the Boise State Broncos at Alaska Airlines Arena. Visit 3PT on their official website for information about all upcoming events and promotions; the company is also active on Twitter and Facebook. In addition, you can listen to Pat via podcast once a month, when he raps about the sports production industry with Jon Cudo, the editor of GameOps.com.