Big Competition Calls for a Dynamic Game Day Arena

Big Competition Calls for a Dynamic Game Day Arena

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Following the cancellation of the March 2020 NCAA Tournament with the spread of COVID-19, college basketball is gearing up for an exciting 2021 Tournament, albeit with less in-person fanfare.  In a recent February 19th statement released by the NCAA, a 25% capacity limit is set for 2021 March Madness, accommodating “all participants, essential staff and family members of each participating team’s student-athletes and coaches and a reduced number of fans.”  The NCAA is working hard to maintain the safety of all through several rounds of tournament play and the Final Four of the 2021 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.  All attendees must wear face coverings and physically distance, and all venues will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.  This year’s tournament is already looking to be a once-in-a-lifetime event with all 67 tournament games staged in Indiana, mostly in Indianapolis.

Though arenas will not be roaring with sell-out crowds quite yet, we would be wrong if we said our designers were not dreaming of the day when collegiate arenas are packed once again for the sporting events that bond campuses together in joy and unity.  In the absence of large-scale collegiate sporting events, our experts have been reflecting on the transformational design features of collegiate arenas and how they can better enhance the student and fan experience and contribute to campus spirit at large.  How can arenas serve an athletic hub for sold-out crowds, limited capacity events, and every size function in between?  Creatively designed, such a facility can be used to strengthen a university’s brand and draw local, regional, and national attention to campus.  A successful arena design considers the varied uses of the facility: game day action, daily athletic hub, special event area, and flexible community space.

  • Game Day Action: First and foremost, collegiate athletic programs rely on their arenas to be an energetic game day venue that inspires students, alumnae, and visitors alike.  Upgraded technology is an essential aspect of the game day experience; large screens, state-of-the-art sound systems, fast wi-fi, and high-density mobile coverage are expected.  Distinct branding and graphics can add personalized touches.  The Idaho Central Credit Union Arena at the University of Idaho, on track to be completed within a year, encompasses elements that make the game day experience truly unforgettable.  The Arena’s mass timber construction pays homage to Idaho’s timber industry and will serve as an inviting front door for fans of all ages.  Technology is thoughtfully integrated to enhance any event, from basketball games to concerts.  Custom branding is especially effective in the Arena’s dedicated lounge and suite spaces, adding an elevated look and feel to spaces that will be enjoyed by the University’s biggest supporters.
  • Daily Athletic Hub: Once lingering fans disappear from the stands after the big game, arenas serve as a daily destination for student athletes.  Fitness centers, strength and conditioning facilities, and sports medicine suites are just some of the many amenities universities have incorporated for the betterment of their student athletes.  More and more, arenas are housing nutrition centers, academic support hubs, and the like, aimed to better support the overall health and well-being of those balancing their roles as elite athletes and college students.  The Alaska Airlines Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage features many of these features.  In addition to offering more general training and wellness facilities available to all athletes, the Center is also the hub for the Seawolves’ volleyball, gymnastics, and basketball teams and supports the skiing and ice hockey teams with specialized training centers.
  • Special Event Area: It is no question that arenas are commonly used as special event spaces for commencement, notable speakers, larger concerts, and more.  The Suncoast Credit Union Arena at Florida Southwestern State College (FSW) is outfitted with hospitality and luxury suites, concession stands, a large catering kitchen, and a second-floor outdoor event space to accommodate nearly any special event.  FSW utilizes the Suncoast Credit Union Arena to host concerts, and local, regional, and national events, serving as a perfect complement to the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Center, which hosts musicals, symphonies, and other performing arts-related events on campus.  Since 2018, FSW has hosted the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off, a college basketball tournament that draws a four-team field of the nation’s top college basketball talent for two days of competition.  The new state-of-the-art arena made this event possible.  For the FSW community and beyond, the Arena is viewed as a cultural hub that both reenergizes the campus and draws exceptional events to the Fort Myers community.
  • Flexible Community Space: Not only are sporting arenas valuable assets for a collegiate campus, but they are also important resources for communities at large.  The University of Dayton Arena at the University of Dayton became known as the birthplace of March Madness and now hosts the NCAA First Four.  The Arena boasts the impressive accolade of hosting more men’s NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament games than any other venue.  However, when the Arena is not booked for Flyer men’s and women’s basketball and March Madness games, the facility is used for a variety of community events including the Winter Guard International World Championships, entertainment events, and large-scale educational seminars.  Many times throughout the year, the Arena serves as a staging area for community projects.  The Arena is a valuable resource for the greater Dayton community contributing an economic impact of upwards of $10 million a year.

To learn more about how you can harness the power of your arena to enhance a campus community, contact Erik Kocher at ekocher@hcarchitects.com or (314) 529-4004.