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The 2021 Heisman Trophy Ceremony On ESPN Is All That Jazz At Lincoln Center

A nearly 10-foot tall trophy replica, a huge LED display and 84 portraits of previous winners are just a few highlights of the set with a Broadway-inspired feel. Here's a preview

Here’s a look at a rendering of the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room, home of the 2021 Heisman Trophy Ceremony set. (David Korins)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, were announced Monday as the finalists for the Heisman Trophy.

ESPN’s presentation of the Heisman Trophy Ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 11 (8 p.m. ET) will feature a new venue, a stunning scenic view of New York City, and a nine-foot replica of the most famous statue in sports.

In the end, what we kept coming back to was the elegance and beauty of Jazz at Lincoln Center. – Kate Jackson, ESPN coordinating producer, regarding the new Heisman Trophy Ceremony venue

Four years ago, ESPN’s Heisman production team, led by coordinating producer Kate Jackson and creative director Dan Cunningham, began the process of reinventing the telecast as they searched for a new venue to host this signature event. While working with the Heisman Trust, ESPN leaders toured more than a dozen spaces in New York before ultimately determining the ideal destination: Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room.

“In the end, what we kept coming back to was the elegance and beauty of Jazz at Lincoln Center,” said Jackson, who was drawn to the room’s three-story glass window overlooking Manhattan.

The new venue – its debut delayed a year due to COVID – will also have a Broadway-inspired feel thanks to award-winning stage designer David Korins, whose many credits include “Hamilton” (yes, that “Hamilton”), as well as “Beetlejuice,” “Grease Live,” “Dear Evan Hanson” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” which just made its debut.

I was convinced that David – who is also a diehard sports fan – was the visionary to bring all of our expectations to life.
Dan Cunningham, ESPN creative director, regarding working with award-winning stage designer David Korins on the Heisman Ceremony’s look

“We wanted to bring the power of visual storytelling so often the trademark of great Broadway stages to the Heisman Trophy presentation,” said Cunningham, who approached Korins in 2020 about designing a stage for the presentation. “I was convinced that David – who is also a diehard sports fan – was the visionary to bring all of our expectations to life.”

Cunningham and team also enlisted the help of famed lighting designer David Grill, who has overseen several Super Bowl Halftime shows, as well as the scenic fabrication company Mystic Scenic, which has worked on numerous ESPN projects, including the SportsCenter and Outside the Lines studios in Bristol, and the First Take studio at Pier 17 in New York.

All these changes will bring a new level of excitement to the most iconic award in sports.

“This is not a change that happened overnight. We’ve been very strategic and very thoughtful,” said Jackson. “We wanted to honor the prestige of the award, and we want this to be a classy and timeless presentation.”

2021 HEISMAN TROPHY CEREMONY NOTES
    Award-winning stage designer David Korins – who counts “Hamilton” among his many credits – is working with ESPN on the Heisman Ceremony. (David Korins)
  • The 9.5-foot tall trophy sculpture is a sign foam structure with a steel skeleton that was hand-carved by Mystic Scenic’s artist and painter Rebecca Ward.
  • This is the first time that all 84 Heisman portraits will be hung in the theater.
  • The stage has a large horizontal LED display that will be automated to raise and lower during the one-hour production.
  • There are two stages for the production. The main stage in the Appel Room and an interview set located in the event reception room just adjacent to the main stage.
  • The multi-level stage was designed to accommodate past winners standing on stage at the beginning and end of the show.
  • Working with The Heisman Trust, ESPN leaders considered more than a dozen venues before choosing Jazz at Lincoln Center. (David Korins)
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