Reproduced courtesy of PanStadia & Arena Management: "www.PSAM.uk.com”
Partho Dutta, Director of Design for International Sports Projects at HKS Architects, highlights how arena design has evolved and why functional flexibility is key to their successful long term operation.
Without the facility of television and video our predecessors assembled same time, same place to watch artistic and sporting performances: there was no recording, instant replay, or simultaneous broadcasting of events in progress. Emerging generic architectures included the Greek and Roman circus, hippodrome and amphitheatre. These were the antecedents of the modern stadium and arena – typologies that have themselves further evolved in the last two centuries into many sub-sets that satisfy the essential requirements of a variety of contemporary sports – from the oval arrangement of Australian football and international cricket to orthogonal configurations that suit the soccer and rugby games played around the world today.
In terms of influence on modern arenas, Montreal’s Victoria Skating Rink was seminal. The earliest Canadian building to be ‘electrified’, it hosted the first-ever indoor ice hockey match and set dimensions for all future North American ice hockey rinks. Opened in 1862 it was used during winter seasons for pleasure skating and ice sports and in summer for various non-sporting events including concerts and horticultural shows. In appreciating the importance of enhancing revenues by creating a building capable of hosting non-sporting events, architects Lawford & Nelson were a century ahead of their time.
Today’s operators increasingly require arena buildings to serve equally well for sports and musical events. This places great demands on functional flexibility: seating must be capable of rapid re-configuration during change over between ice-hockey, basketball, and musical performances and a wide variety of audience sizes and complex acoustical requirements generate many design challenges.
But whilst the flexibility and efficiency of the modern arena has enabled event calendars to accommodate over 200 performance days per year, their economic sustainability has become ever more dependent on non-sports entertainment. It is however somewhat perverse that, despite such an evolutionary process, sporting bowl geometries have continued to dominate planning with inevitable compromises for the quality of audience experience during non-sporting events.
This is all set to change: the savvy operator recognises the importance of matching, within his arenas, the standards of seating and bowl found in modern theatres and concert halls. The Operator will demand informal and innovative arena stage and bowl arrangements that not only meet, but transcend, such standards.
Increasingly, the selection of future venues for performances by Dylan or Lady Gaga, a boxing match or ice-hockey, will be made against the quality, sophistication and flexibility of bowl design. Game on…