Creating a crowd out of thin air: the Winnipeg Jets’ arena ‘sweetener’

Click to play video: 'The Winnipeg Jets get creative to fill arena with crowd sounds during coronavirus' The Winnipeg Jets get creative to fill arena with crowd sounds during coronavirus
When the Winnipeg Jets play at Bell MTS Place during COVID-19 they may not have any fans in the building, but Priya Plested is working hard to make sure it sounds and feels like any other season – Jan 27, 2021

When the Winnipeg Jets won at home on Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers, Bell MTS Place may not have had any fans in the building, but the team’s staff were working hard to make it sound and feel like any other season.

The only person allowed to cheer on the Jets from inside the rink is Priya Plested, a True North staffer who works in a newly created position called the sweetener — pumping crowd sounds into the empty arena.

“It’s so cool,” Plested told Global News. “It feels like I’m kind of speaking for the tens of thousands of fans that are watching from home. It’s pretty great.”

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Plested spends nearly three hours every game day behind a rainbow-coloured soundboard, pumping up fans watching at home as well as the players inside the building.

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“I try to always study the games after game day, just re-watching what I did, if I can improve… if there’s any areas that aren’t great, always trying to make sure that we’re the best in the league,” she said.

“There’s nothing worse than having a late sound especially when you hear it back on the broadcast. I try to be right on the ball, very focused on the game, paying attention to everything.”

Plested’s gig handling the cheers, boos, drum sounds and more came after she worked for the team last season planning in-game activities.

“After watching Priya train during the two weeks and the passion she had for wanting to do a great job, I knew we made the right call right away,” said Kyle Balharry, the Jets’ senior director of game presentation.

“There was a mandate from the league that all teams use the sweetener position. We had equipment come in from the NHL and there was an extensive training program. We found the right person for the job, it was an internal person that really loves hockey.”

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