This past holiday weekend, my wife and I decided to take the family out to the Memphis Hustle game. The season has been going on for a little while now and I had found myself not having attended one game, either as media or as a fan. I had seen and heard people talking about the atmosphere for families, kids, and just hanging out. The only thing to do was to take the family out to see for ourselves.
A little backstory on our family - my wife is amazing. She has a full time job taking care of our kids because I am out of town a lot for work, but she does it with a smile on her face and never complains about anything. My kids, Jaxon and Rylee, are still pretty young. Jaxon is seven years old and Rylee is about to turn three. In our family, I am pretty much the only one who cares about sports. My wife cares about the Grizzlies only because I talk to her about them all the time so she doesn’t really have a choice there.
As much as I would love for Jaxon to be into sports and love going to Grizzlies games, that just really isn’t his thing. He loves building computers and making YouTube videos, and that’s about it. Rylee has trouble staying still in any environment because well, she’s three. For us, the Hustle game was more about, could this be a sustainable family activity for us, given the fact that the kids are not super into basketball and they have a hard staying in one place for four quarters of anything?
We got to the Hustle game about 30 minutes before tipoff and we may have been among a hundred people in the building including the players. We sat for a minute until Jaxon noticed these giant inflatable slides across the venue from where we were sitting. The immediate reaction was, we have to play there. I also noticed that there was a small Hustle gear section right next to it. This looked like a no brainer, my wife and I got to look at Hustle gear (and take a break from the kids) and the kids could go play at these bouncy slides. They had a giant slide inflatable, one where you could shoot hoops, and a third one that you could bounce on and shoot mini hoops.
I fully expected to pay for this and I was fine with that, but there wasn’t any charge; we just had to sign a waiver for the kids to play. This took up all the time for pregame, the time we would normally be sitting in the seats trying to look for something for the kids to pass the time until the game started.
After we went back up to the seats and enjoyed the game, but not without asking for more time on the inflatables. We promised that as soon as it was halftime, we would go back down. In the meantime, we got food and drinks, and I must say that giant cookie that we had, was amazing. As you expect any venue for any Memphis sporting event, there were BBQ Nachos ready to go as well. Jaxon got a giant pretzel and of course we all got our souvenir cups. The prices were fine, nothing outrageous, but along the lines of anything you would see at a minor league sporting event.
They also created this really cool bar area on the opposite side of the floor from where the kids were playing. It was like an open bar, but there was bar seating and corn hole. Kids were not allowed in this area for good reason, but this would have been where we spent most of our game if this had been a date night.
By the end of the third quarter, after we had spent the entire halftime and third quarter down on the floor letting the kids play with the inflatables, the kids were begging us to stay at the game longer. The mix of basketball, the ability to go wherever you want in the arena, the inflatables, and the bar area, created an atmosphere that had a little of everything for everyone. The Memphis Hustle know what they are selling, minor league basketball. That can be a tough sell for a new team in an area that’s not technically in Memphis, but is close enough to get to easily.
The team went into it knowing that there needs to be something else besides just basketball to get people there and keep them coming back, and that’s exactly what they did. I was generally amazed that we could pretty much go anywhere in the arena, with our ten dollar tickets. We stood on the floor and watched the game for a long time while the kids played, and it was awesome. At times, it did not feel like we were even a minor league game. It was different, it was more relaxed.
At the end of the night Jaxon, the YouTube maker and computer gamer, was counting how many more home games (that were in red on his program) we would be able to attend. Rylee had waved her pom poms entirely too much and danced every minute she could that night. Even though the Hustle lost, it was a success in our book.