Every sports season brings a new set of hopes for fans. While many are optimistic their team will make the playoffs or win a championship, others in some areas are looking forward to gaining a new team or venue in their town.
From a fan experience perspective, outdoor viewing parties near stadiums have become popular in recent years, and arenas are continuing to progress much further than one could have ever expected. With promises of holograms and gondolas, let’s take a look at the current pulse of sports venue modernizations.
Seattle’s “new” KeyArena
I’ve followed the Seattle arena news for a while, from discussions of renovations through to the $660 million deal signed to proceed with the upgrades. Since then, the NHL has announced that Seattle will be home to the league’s 32nd team, rounding out the 16-team Western Conference. Original projections saw the arena re-opening in 2020, but this date has been pushed to spring 2021.
Seattle news channel KING-TV recently looked at the work being done. Project executive Shaun Mason shared that the project was “not a renovation” from the arena that started operations in 1995. Current plans for the arena include digging down 15 feet, and “down and out in four directions.” This will help preserve the building’s iconic roof, but double the size of the current arena.
The arena’s cost has grown to $850 million, as its design continues to evolve. Seattle executives plan to keep the public updated with frequent presentations on its status — the next one will take place in April.
Gondolas to the ballgame? It may happen in Oakland. (Image credit: Bjarke Ingels Group/Dezeen)
Oakland’s proposed baseball stadium
With its proximity to Silicon Valley, it’s not surprising that the Oakland Athletics’ proposed new stadium is getting quite the flurry of technological advances. The new stadium is planned along a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) line, near Howard Terminal in Jack London Square. This is where plans get a little futuristic.
Last month, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) unveiled a possible cable-car system that will transport fans from the Oakland city center to the new ballpark. Outdoor stations could anchor wire cables to carry the gondolas, moving 6,000 people per hour, directly to the ballpark. Given that Oakland’s roads are already congested, this will help alleviate traffic on game days.
Updates for the stadium itself include a better view of the nearby waterfront, a grassy park on the roof, and standing room for 10,000 fans — to name a few highlights. Oakland A’s president Dave Kaval says the project intends to create “broader economic, environmental, and community benefits for the people of Oakland.” For a team that was almost bankrupt, the future looks bright.
The new Tottenham Hotspur stadium will also host at least two NFL games per season. (Image credit: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Getty Images)
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Opening on April 3 after more than six months of delays, Tottenham’s new stadium rings in at a whopping $1.4 billion, and is without a doubt the most innovative sports venue currently in existence. It will feature heated seats with built-in USB ports, but that’s not all. A “sky walk” will allow fans to walk across the roof of the stadium while taking in the soccer (or American football) match below.
Those who appreciate fine dining will be excited to hear that the stadium will house a Michelin-starred restaurant, a fromagerie, and a microbrewery that can pour 10,000 pints per minute.
CTV News notes that on a global scale, teams are in an “arms race” to create a unique yet technology-influenced experience for fans. They note that millennials might not be attending as many sporting events as their parents, but for a demographic that values experiences, these high-tech stadiums could be a way to get them through the gates.
For every team that gains a new team and/or stadium, there are many more that remain trapped in development phases, or are turned away. Currently, there are two Canadian markets that are in a holding pattern.
For Calgary, a replacement or the upgrading of the Scotiabank Saddledome, home of the NHL’s Calgary Flames, has long been a political issue, as the team and the city have been unable to agree on which party should fund the project. It also figured heavily in the 2017 mayoral election, and it appears that a decision has yet to be made.
City councilors are hoping for transparency in the process, and have stated that the arena cannot come to fruition overnight. Additionally, CBC News recently announced that arena talks are not expected to start any time soon, although city council recently approved a negotiating strategy for a possible funding deal. Lots of “maybes” continue to haunt the project.
Ottawa Senators fans have been through a four-year process, hoping for a new arena at LeBreton Flats to come to fruition. Earlier this month, the plans fell through, with the declaration that instead of creating a new district, chunks of land would be sold off individually for development.
Within days, those plans changed, with the Ottawa Board of Trade asking the National Capital Commission to partner with Devcore Canderel DLS in order to develop the LeBreton Flats project with a “grand vision.” With reports changing daily on the project, and Senators owner Eugene Melnyk unable to reach an agreement, time will tell if an arrangement will eventually be reached.
Technology has certainly allowed developers to expand their offerings with modern building design. Going forward, the fan experience will be more important than ever before.
As teams look to create experiences beyond the watching of games, stadiums and arenas will be forced to continue to adapt. For Seattle, Oakland, and North London, this is only the beginning. As more arenas find themselves in a position to renovate or re-build, these futuristic advances may seem quite simple — we’ve yet to discover all of the possibilities.