Across the world, the sports and entertainment industry is facing up to the unprecedented challenges of Covid restrictions. While many venues have sadly lain empty waiting for a vaccine breakthrough, others have had the opportunity to diversify, utilising their arena space for other uses such as testing stations or temporary film-sets.

John Rhodes

John Rhodes

Operators, teams and owners have also had time in the relentless event calendar to consider how these venue assets can be improved, enhanced and refurbished.

Many arenas are now maturing to the natural building age when they are due a facelift. When done right, adapting existing buildings for reuse is a more sustainable approach than demolishing a structure and constructing a completely new facility.

People tend to have an emotional attachment to their home venue, which can take many years to repair when creating a completely new home, further strengthening the case for investing in existing venues.

There are certain trends that we are seeing across these refurbishments, from the creation of more capacity on the event floor for standing events, to the integration of new sponsorship and branding opportunities and inventory. In some cases, bowl capacity suites have been reduced to make space for new products and amenities.

Aerial View jf

The economic impact of the pandemic remains to be seen, but from history we know that during recessions people typically go out less, but spend more on each occasion. Arena venues will need to adapt to this trend and ensure they create the mix of product and entertainment to optimise spend opportunities when they occur.

The trend for introducing new uses is also manifesting in new venues such as the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi (pictured), which HOK designed and opened in January. The new arena has a unique focus on delivering MICE (meeting, incentives, conference and exhibition) content, with a view to attracting commerce tourism. This is also part of the approach at the Gateshead Quays regeneration project, where the arena integrates a conference and exhibition centre.

John Rhodes is design principal at HOK’s London Studio