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Current Trends in NBA and NHL Arena Renovations

State Farm Arena videoboard rendering

Distinct trends in arena renovations have emerged in recent years, the result of numerous projects within the NBA and NHL. They span a range from concession upgrades to the addition of new gathering spaces, providing examples of a changing arena-going experience.

The NBA and NHL has seen several major arena projects in recent years, including several that were completed prior to the 2018-19 season. Individually, the renovations were impressive, but collectively they reflect a few trends that are taking shape in arena upgrades. While gathering spaces are providing a more social atmosphere, technology upgrades are improving areas such as video, audio, and Wi-Fi, and concessions are offering more localized fare. To take a closer look at those developments, we profile three current trends in NBA and NHL arena renovations.

New Gathering Spaces

There has been a trend across major sports of adding more gathering spaces to facilities. That has particularly held true around the NBA and NHL, thanks to renovations that have made them a focal point of their projects.

Some cases, such as what the St. Louis Blues (NHL) did at Enterprise Center prior to this season, stress creating gathering spaces that benefit all fans. The Atlanta Hawks (NBA) took a similar approach to their work at State Farm Arena, but some of the premium areas are what stand out, including Courtside Club—an upscale space that includes the first courtside bar in the NBA.

Those are two particularly unique aspects of recent renovations, but they are hardly the only examples. The ongoing renovation to Quicken Loans Arena will see the Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA) add numerous gathering spaces when it is completed next year, while Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center debuted new open-air lounges on its mezzanine level this year. There have also been examples of previously unopen spaces being converted into club areas, including Washington’s Capital One Arena—where a former Wizards (NBA) practice court is now a lounge.

Technology Upgrades

In order to help connect fans while providing the latest in audio and video production, several arenas have received technology upgrades. Many renovations have resulted in new videoboards and new audio systems, with upgraded Wi-Fi often factoring in as well, but a few in particular have stood out.

Capital One Arena added new digital signage, as well as a new sound system and 3D digital projection system. In Nashville, the Predators (NHL) continued their Bridgestone Arena upgrades by installing additional LED lighting, a new sound system, LED signage, and an upgraded control room. Perhaps the biggest highlight for 2018, however, was in Atlanta, where State Farm Arena received the first continuous 360-degree video screen in the NBA.

Although in a different vein, one trend that could be emerging is technology as it relates to sports betting. The New Jersey Devils (NHL) recently introduced a lounge at Prudential Center sponsored by sports book maker William Hill US, featuring numerous monitors. In-person cash bets are not accepted in the lounge, but fans stop into the space to track their bets. That particular trend is a little limited for now but could grow if more states follow the lead of New Jersey and others in legalizing sports betting.

Localized Concessions

Upgrading physical stands and incorporating technology in some form, such as self-serve kiosks or mobile ordering, are fairly commonplace in renovation projects. An increasing trend is also seeing teams emphasize local food offerings in their revamped concessions, giving event goers a taste of the city.

That was the case for the Hawks in their renovation of State Farm Arena, and the Utah Jazz (NBA) made a particular emphasis on local fare when they upgraded concessions as part of last year’s Vivint Smart Home Arena renovation. Another strong example comes from the Minnesota Timberwolves, who brought in several area restaurants as part of their renovations to Target Center.

Given that local fare is also a staple for new or planned arenas—including Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum and San Francisco’s upcoming Chase Center—it is certainly not a trend that shows any signs of slowing down.

One other movement that should be noted as it relates to concessions is the spaces themselves. Unique themes and designs are being incorporated into new food and drink areas, including Target Center’s upcoming Cargo Food Authority—a ship-yard themed dining concept that includes graffiti done by local artists.

Rendering courtesy Atlanta Hawks. 

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