Photo: Kelly Gavin / Texas Rangers
lighting and sound requirements, current and future trends in rigging methods and preferences, and the importance of rapid transitions be- tween successive events. Venues that opened as recently as 10 to 15 years ago were often con - ceived with designated rigging grids concentrated over the center and end stages only, with capacities of 100,000 to 120,000 lbs. Those grids are now proving inadequate, as today’s heaviest arena shows—includ- ing Kanye West, Drake, and Game of Thrones—can exceed 250,000 lbs. with loads distributed widely across the entire venue roof structure. Many venues are now looking to increase their rigging grid capacity and coverage through detailed structural analysis, the addition of rig- ging beams, and—if necessary—strengthening of their primary roof structures. In planning a new facility, owners should consider propor- tioning their rigging grid to extend across the entire event floor, be configured for optimum speed and accessibility, and provide far more capacity than they think they’ll need. The construction costs associated with additional capacity and coverage are nominal, making it much wiser to build it now than to retrofit later. Distinct Bowl Design Multi-purpose venues must also be strategically planned and propor- tioned for a variety of uses, with a focus on alternative or uncon- ventional seating bowl configurations, premium amenities that reflect local demand and target demographics, and the flexibility to accom - modate future modifications that reflect changing fan preferences. Often this means new venues that are smaller in terms of capacity, but much more diverse in the types of premium and ancillary spaces surrounding the action. Seating bowl structures and concourses, for example, must be designed with the understanding that any section at any level may be converted in the future to something entirely new. Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, which opened in 2020, is a 40,000-seat Major League Baseball Park and home to the Texas Rang- ers. The seven-tier seating bowl provides distinctive front row experi- ences for each respective tier.
Photo: © Richard Ebbers, Design by Gensler in partnership with RINKA
The first row of the seating bowl at the field level is seven feet closer to the field, the second tier is 14 feet closer, and the upper bowl seating tier is 23 feet closer compared to the Rangers’ old ballpark. In order to keep fans in the seating bowl comfortable, a retractable ethylene tetrafluoroethylene roof provides a climate-controlled ballpark during inclement weather but also the ability for an open-air atmosphere dur- ing pleasant weather. The Next Generation For the next generation of fans, the ultimate game day experience is about social connection, and the challenge for sports franchises and venue designers is to constantly reinvent that experience and provide a connection to the event that cannot be matched at home. Opened in 2018, Fiserv Forum, home of the National Basketball As- sociation’s Milwaukee Bucks is a prime example of the enhanced gameday experience—even when the team is not playing at their iconic home. During the 2021 NBA Finals, the 30-acre Deer District which surrounds Fiserv Forum, was the epicenter for away-game viewing parties for Bucks fans. Attendance in the Deer District peaked when on July 20, 2021, nearly 65,000 people gathered to watch the Bucks win the NBA Championship—generating close to $6 million in revenue for Deer District businesses on a single day and over $70 million total during the Bucks’ 2021 playoff season. The trend to create unique and authentic experiences will only continue as venues conceive new strategies for attracting fans and accommo- dating a wider variety of events. Perhaps the greatest challenge for designers over the next several years is to find that balance between flexibility and authenticity—between conceiving a facility that can easily accommodate any event, but also provide a custom-designed, event-specific all-day experience for every fan that is centered around entertainment and mixed-use development.
BART MILLER is the National Sports Market Leader and a senior principal at Walter P Moore. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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