Lynx guard Monica Wright saw Thursdays game coming weeks ago. She knows what to expect every time Camp Day is on the schedule, and this years 11th annual event was no exception.
Camp Day, she described two weeks ago, is like a Justin Bieber concert. Youd be hard-pressed to argue after spending Thursday afternoon with 15,318 fansaround 11,000 of them kidsas the Lynx faced the Tulsa Shock.
I actually heard them when they played the Bieber song. The place went crazy, Wright joked after the game. I couldnt hear anything Coach was saying, and I was like, Why did they play that right now? Wait until halftime.
Thats the type of unique atmosphere Camp Day at Target Center presents each season. Though other teams around the league participate in similar eventsthe Lynx played in Camp Days on the road in previous weekscoach Cheryl Reeve admits no one around the league compares to the decibels reached in Minneapolis.
Fans travel from across the regionincluding towns from Minnesota and Wisconsinto take part in the event. Fan groups wearing brightly color coordinated t-shirts fill up the lower bowl of Target Center like a bowl of Skittles, and the sound streaming from the arena rivals any jet engine youve sat next to in your lifetime.
And the energy? The Lynx are the first to admit they feed off that.
They give us energy but they also take away from the other team, Wright said.
Whether the fans had anything to do with Minnesotas 89-74 win over the Shock on Thursday is up for debate, though Wright said it certainly didnt hurt. With every Lynx made basket, every rebound and every fast break, Target Center exploded with applause and cheers.
On the baseline near the Lynx bench, many of those cheers came from Elk Rivers Club Summer groupa platoon 400 strong wearing bright orange and spanning multiple sections.
Jen Johnson and Stacy Tenold were two of the groups chaperones for the trip. Tenold, who has worked for 10 years with Elk Rivers Club Summer, said shes been coming to camp day with this group for at least the past seven years.
The club made basketball its theme during the week, teaching the kids the game during gym leading up -to the trip to Minneapolis. Then, the kids got to watch the defending WNBA champions first handsome of whom had never been to a WNBA game before.
Weve done it so many times, its manageable, Tenold said. Its fun to see the kids do it, and its worth it.
Hailing from Forest Lake, Kim Johnson was a chaperone for a group of 77 kids making the trip. She took 30 of those kids picked through a random drawing down into the Huberts tunnel during halftime to watch the players come in and out of the locker room.
Its the second year Forest Lake participated in Camp Day, she said, and her group was made up of fourth through seventh graders. The group comes down and eats on Target Plaza before the game, then enjoys the festivities within the arena.
Its awesome; they have a great time here, Johnson said. Its so upbeat and fun for them.
Once inside, the kids not only get to see top-notch WNBA basketball, but they have fun with one another during the in-game festivities. The crowd sang at the top of its lungs during some of the current Top 40 hits, completed a successful Wave multiple times around the arena bowl and interacted with in-game host B-Wright.
Reeve said a lot of credit needs to be handed to the Lynx game day staff for running the show.
Our business staff does an unbelievable job, she said. The number of kids we have in here [Thursday]. Weve been part of a few camp days in the last couple weeks, but none of them will be able to hold a candle to what well do here.
The end result was a long-lasting impression from a unique day at Target Center, both for the kids and for the players.
Not to mention a little reminder of the day each person likely took home with them.
Im still feeling rings in my ear, Wright said, laughing. I dont know what thats from. Might be from screams from all corners of the arena.
Now in its 11th season, the Lynx's annual Camp Day game fills Target Center and brings the arena's noise to a new level. This year's game against Tulsa on Thursday was no exception, allowing kids across the region to enjoy a day of WNBA basketball.
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