Venue Technology Summit: The Renovation Revolution Targets Fan Expectations

After two decades of seemingly universal sports-venue construction, teams looking to enhance the fan experience are opting to renovate existing facilities instead of building new ones.

At SVG’s Venue Technology Summit this week in Minneapolis, one panel examined the renovation revolution, from expanding the size and scope of video boards and digital signage to adding luxury suites.

“The world of sport is so much different now than it was five or 10 years ago that the facilities have to react,” said Bob Jordan, managing partner, Venue Research and Design. “Fans are different, what they expect is different, and the interface between facility and fan is very different from what it was [even] two years ago. The brands have to change to move along with the expectations of the fans.”

Jordan highlighted the NFL as leading the renovation revolution, with Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Buffalo, and Cleveland recently renovating their stadiums and Carolina initiating a year-long study in preparation for its own overhaul.

Where the NFL’s previous collective-bargaining agreement provided assistance for clubs looking to build new facilities, the new CBA reflects the shift to renovation. For every dollar that the club funds for renovation, the league will contribute 50¢, up to 1.5% of the NFL’s gross football-related revenue.

Although the funds are not specifically designated for renovations alone (they can be applied to new-building construction), they provide the funding necessary to significantly change the operations of a venue.

“[The NFL] recognizes the need for these other facilities to be brought up to speed,” said Jordan, “and [provides] a financial formula that allows the clubs to tap into those dollars.”

The college space is seeing a significant uptick in renovations, sparked in part by conference realignment and regional sports networks’ needing certain technology in place to broadcast games. For the most part, however, renovations amount to one guiding principle.

“It all kind of comes back to one thing,” said Jordan. “Guest services, which is a code word for revenue.”

Designs Meet Confines
An obvious concern during the renovation process, however big or small the project, is the need to design within space constraints.

“When you go into new construction and you start laying out, [you] have a nice, clean slate,” said Jordan. “What renovations do is say, ‘No, you have a wall here. You can’t go past that.’ It forces you to rethink how you look at [the project].”

Josh Beaudoin, director of large venue and public assembly projects for WJHW, offered another perspective on the space issue.

“In the olden days, when we [designed a control room for] video replays, we always did it in a place where you could see the stadium [and] the scoreboard,” he pointed out. “Nowadays, no one lets us have that premium space because that’s a suite.”

Another issue in play is the need to maintain the historical or design integrity of the building and, in some instances, renovate around designated historical landmarks.

Citing his company’s current project, Jordan discussed Moscow’s Dynamo Stadium. Design consultants had to work around a historical wall from the original Dynamo Stadium built in 1910. Because the wall could not be touched, a six-story building was built down into the ground, and the seating bowl was built atop the wall.

Build With an Eye on the Future
Both Jordan and Beaudoin, after detailing the issues surrounding venue renovation, offered suggestions to those teams opting to build new facilities.

Although designating space for future use is impossible (“Someone will find out,” the panelists quipped), consultants must remain aware that technology will evolve and that infrastructure must be designed accordingly to allow for future renovations.

“What you see is an evolution of space,” explained Jordan. “If you try to set something aside, you’re saying that you know what the future is going to be. It’s more that you change things as you go.”

Click here for SVG’s comprehensive coverage of the Venue Technology Summit!