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Sports arenas: How to put a multimedia twist on traditional coverage

The sports section is often the most popular, yet most homogeneous, part of most online news sites. Most online sports coverage is an unenthusiastic mishmash of stats, photos and blogs, with the occasional podcast thrown in. Online sports fans demand more sophisticated coverage and news organizations can provide it by covering the fans’ home base: the sports arena.

Ballena Technologies takes advantage of online technology by offering virtual tours of a variety of American sports arenas — from basketball to hockey and everything in between — including one for the Oakland Coliseum, home of the Oakland As baseball team (pictured below). In each Flash-based tour, users can hover over a seat and find out the price for that section or click to check out the view from that seat.

The New York Times has taken the idea of a virtual tour and pumped some adrenaline into it with its tour of the Hahnenkamm downhill ski course. The two minute-long computer-animated simulation is narrated by champion skier Doug Lewis and brings some insight into what otherwise is an indescribable experience.

Obviously these web projects take time and money to create, but documenting a sports arena can still be done on a smaller (and less expensive) scale.

Earlier this year, the Sacramento Bee produced a Flash-based interactive guide to the city’s public courses. Sports photographer Kari Kuuka snapped some eye-popping panoramic images of the Beijing Olympics, as did the New York Times.

Similar panoramas can be created using a digital camera and stitching software or a specially built panoramic cameras like those available from Gigapan (More on panoramas here).

And of course sports coverage and maps go hand in hand. TennisMaps is an online searchable database of US tennis courts. Some of the world’s motor racing circuits are viewable on a map created by Grand Prix Live. And college football fans can find nearby eateries, hotels and more at MapGameDay.com.

Providing a lasting resource to sports fans doesn’t have to be a time-consuming endeavor. To demonstrate this, I have built a handy interactive map of the home arenas of every NFL (American football), MLB (baseball) and NBA (basketball) team. The entire process took about a day, but could theoretically last forever. Click the small version below to view the full map.

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