Dexter’s Conga Line – How It All Started
Dexter’s Conga Line has arguably become the biggest activation in the Chemist Warehouse WNBL. For the last four years, the Deakin Melbourne Boomers have allowed those of all ages to run onto the court at three-quarter time during home games and to passionately follow the Club’s mascot Dexter the Dragon.
For hundreds of fans it is their favourite event within an event. They rush to stand courtside in a snaking line back through the corridors outside the entrance to the court at the State Basketball Centre.
Eagerly standing behind Dexter, they wait for the sound of the three-quarter time buzzer to ring loudly. Often you will hear them counting down the final seconds of play in anticipation of their chance to enter the arena.
But how did it all start? Where did it come from? Boomers GM Justin Nelson explains the true story behind the making of Dexter’s Conga Line.
“Believe it or not the making of the popular activation started in Austin, Texas,” said Nelson.
“Just before I started at the Boomers I attended a game of basketball over there to watch the University of Texas Longhorns. It was a full stadium and a good contest, but it was what they did during a time-out that caught my eye.
“In America they run longer time-outs, it helps with broadcast requirements, but it’s also based around delivering great activations to entertain the fans. They do it very well in the United States.
“During a time-out in the game, I sat there fascinated when all the fans were invited onto the court to boot-scoot,” explained Nelson, adding “I guess while you’re in Texas you have to do what the Texans do. When the fans surged onto the court I watched in amazement and my mind started racing.
“The fans streamed from the stands all around me out onto the sacred space usually reserved only for the athletes, and started dancing to the music and having a great time. I was blown away and instantly loved the notion of the fans being able to step on court while the players have a break.
“It was fan engagement that was pure, it was fun and it was real.”
From this, the plan to do something similar at Boomers games was hatched.
He saw an opportunity with the Club’s new mascot, Dexter, who had joined the Boomers along with new naming right’s partner, Deakin University.
“After the fun I saw people having at the Longhorns game, I thought about the best way to get Boomers fans, in particular the kids, onto the court during games.
“And that’s where Dexter’s conga line comes from,” said Nelson.
However, as Nelson explains, the concept was nearly dismissed before it even got started.
“I remember coming back home and explaining the idea, and some thought it sounded ridiculous. Maybe because it was a bit new and different, I don’t know, but for a moment it did make me think twice about the idea.”
Despite the reaction, Nelson followed through with the plans to introduce the on-court activation that allowed fans to run within the same space their heroes played on. He believed in what he had observed in Texas and saw something special in it.
“Dexter’s conga line started at our next home game and it instantly became a hit. The kids loved it.”
So, four years on, how does the Boomers GM feel when he sees Dexter enter the court with hundreds of fans?
“I pinch myself every time, seeing the kids and the adults smiling and laughing as they chase Dexter around is a lot of fun. And it’s still growing. We’ve gone past five hundred people on court at some games.
“There are times we even ask the refs to take an extra sip of water and to be patient while the fans enjoy themselves.
“And to think it all started from watching people boot-scooting on a basketball court in Texas!”