Quick visual study in arena conversions

Last weekend HP Pavilion scheduled one of its occasional day-night event doubleheaders. The Harlem Globetrotters were in town for a 1 PM matinee, followed up by a 7:30 PM Sharks-Blues matchup. The Sharks/SVSE took a time-lapse video of the changeover.

The Globetrotters don’t attract sellout crowds, yet they routinely play in some of the largest, most modern arenas. HP Pavilion’s main tenant is a hockey team, so any arena floor or seating changes have to be done with preserving the rink in mind. In the Globetrotters’ case, there’s no need to pull out the special basketball risers that would be used for a NCAA hoops regional or NBA game. Instead, they use a set of low-rise risers while the end seats at the hockey boards aren’t used. When the big hoops games come, the end seats are retracted and replaced by a different set of risers. The change seen above requires a little less labor, so no big deal. If you tried to sit along the hockey boards at the ends, your view of the court would be obstructed.

At American Airlines Center in Dallas, the end seats are in a dual-rise system which allows for maximum flexibility. The risers are well-pitched for hockey games, but they convert into a more gradual pitch for basketball. The chief benefit of this arrangement is that none of the end basketball seats are on the floor – except for the ones closest to the court. Just about every new dual-sport arena has something like this in place. This one in Dallas or Portland’s Rose Garden or the Verizon Center in DC are perhaps the most extreme.

For perhaps the worst example of how to do this, you don’t need to go much farther than everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Power Balance Pavilion ARCO Arena. There, the floor’s bizarrely unique configuration has its sideline seats retract to create extra floor space. By doing this, all ice shows or hockey games have to played on transversely mounted ice. Since a basketball team is the chief tenant, ice is not a permanent floor feature, so the ice brought in from containers in sheet form and mounted much the same way a floor would.

There may actually be a way to pull this off in a more modern arena with the right technology. Unfortunately, ARCO’s not getting any of that stuff.

32 thoughts on “Quick visual study in arena conversions

  1. I know there’s probably some technical reason why it won’t work (since I’m not an engineer or architect), but I wonder why arenas don’t copy the removable field concept of University of Phoenix Stadium. Have the ice sheet on a retractable platform that goes out underneath one end of the arena (usually there are large plazas or parking lots next to arenas so it could be in an underground chamber beneath that space). The basketball court and the extra seats would be underneath the ice surface when it is in place, and then revealed when it is removed. You just need to have a couple rows of seats that can be lowered revealing a track that the ice rink will roll in on. And then the ice surface will remain in better shape when there is a day and night event on the same day requiring a changeover. Heck, you could probably still use the ice (if that chamber had a high enough roof) for a pregame skate/practice.

  2. I don’t recall ever seeing one of those time lapse from ice to basketball, or tennis, surface. It’s always in the court surface to ice time lapse. Would be interesting to see how long it takes in contrast to the ARCO time lapse you posted. In that video it seems to takes twice as long as HP but for a different process.

  3. The Globetrotters were still signing autographs after 3 pm so this conversion had to be done quickly.

  4. Great stuff. The visuals really help.

  5. Poor Arco. The guy who designed that place must’ve been drunk the day he came up with the plans for it. What ever got them to conclude that was the best way to do a change over? I mean it’s not like the ice to basketball transition is a new thing, they’d been doing it for decades before Arco was built at place like the old Garden in Boston, etc…, etc…

  6. Dan. The ARCO Arena isn’t home to a hockey team. You could assume the lead designer was drunk or you could speculate that the project leaders/investors didn’t think it was a wise use of money to construct a floor more fit to accomodate events requiring an ice floor.

  7. I’m guessing that you can’t see the goal closest to you if you sit in the ends or perhaps even the corners of the upper deck at ARCO for a hockey game (similar to the problem they had in Phoenix when the Coyotes played at America West Arena or whatever that place is called now). I know the Sharks played a couple exhibition games there in their first few years in the league. The hockey capacity must’ve been about 14,000, with the non-obstructed capacity around 10,000.

  8. ARCO was not built for hockey. It would provide obstructed views for one end of the ice, similar to what used to be called America West Arena in Phoenix.

    • It’s worse than that. The transverse placement of the rink means there’s less floor space, so both ends would have obstructed view upper decks. The floor itself is barely large enough to hold a regulation rink with those seats retracted.

  9. Do anyone have a link to an Oakland Coliseum football/baseball conversion video?

  10. @Briggs – Couldn’t find a time lapse. I uploaded Brodie Brazil’s KICU video from a few years ago. Hopefully he won’t be too mad.

    @Ezra – It probably could work, but it would have to be done in a place where a 200×85 slab of ice sitting on concrete with a bunch of pipes and refrigerant running through it could be easily moved in and out. Most urban arenas don’t have such space.

  11. $250,000 each time they change over the Coliseum. And that was several years ago. Yikes!

  12. It’s possible that if the Coliseum weren’t such a crummy place for baseball, the attending fanbase wouldn’t be so diminished and there would’ve been more fan momentum behind building a new Oakland ballpark long ago. Of course there’s no way of knowing that, but wow– how about that irony?

  13. If the Raider’s didn’t come back and there was some improvement at the Coli for baseball, it would of been nice for us fans from what we got now, but ownership would still bitch about not filling it up, not in a good area, Pacbell is so much nicer, lack of corporate support, etc…They need a new yard in a better area, and VC should be the place.
    BTW, there was a lot of fan momentum for Uptown back in 2002, but an uninterested mayor and owner killed that deal.

  14. The “What if” game is fun. How’s this– if the Senators (either one) moved to Oakland instead of the Athletics we’d be… uhm, Senators fans? Or this– if the A’s hadn’t bailed on KC, we’d be Giants fans and hopefully not as bitter.

  15. Sorry, my post from earlier should have read that the Sharks played a couple regular-season games in ARCO back in the day, not just exhibition.

  16. If the Silicon chip wasn’t invented in 1961, San Jose would still be at around 100k people, there would be no Sharks, no Newballpark.org site, along with no Internet and PC’s. And Lew Wolff would just be in LA. I only wish the last sentence true.

  17. Correction: before ML slaps me, SJ was at 200k population in 1960.

  18. Ooh, I wanna play:

    What if the Giants had moved to Toronto in ’76?
    What if MLB hadn’t forced Lurie to sell to the lower bidder (Magowan) in ’92?
    What if people remembered the regular crowds of <10,000 that the Giants drew in the late '90's?
    What if Piccinni had been allowed to buy the A's in the late '90's?
    What if Barry Bonds had never touched steroids and would have opened AT&T just another star winding down his career?
    What if the early '00's recession had happened in '98-'99 rather than '00-'01 and jeopardized Giants' PSL and suite sales?
    What if the Giants had built next to Great America in the late '90's?
    What if Candlestick had been domed as was suggested sometime in the Feinstein administration?
    What if the design of AT&T hadn't been rotated 90 degrees making it just as windy as Candlestick?
    What if the A's win one of those first round Game 5's and get to/win a WS?
    What if the A's last WS was not overshadowed by an earthquake and the Giants losing?
    What if free agency wasn't instituted during our '70's dynasty?
    What if Camden Yards was never built, making every stadium built previously (save a select few) obsolete?
    What if the luxury box was never invented?

    By the same token,
    What if Oakland had favored the Raiders over the A's by letting the A's out of their lease to move to Denver and using the buyout money to build Al Davis luxury boxes in 1980?
    What if Charlie O. had moved from Oakland to New Orleans/Seattle/Louisville/Denver/any other of the places he threatened to move to on one occasion or another?
    What if the A's hadn't hit the young starting pitcher jackpot at the turn of the millenium?
    The what-if-steroids-didn't-exist what-if can be used more pointedly on us in multiple eras.
    What if Billy Martin hadn't been fired by the Yankees for the second time in '79, making him available to give the A's some value and save them for Oakland?

  19. Speaking of football/baseball field conversion, Bay Area fans have had the privilege(?) of having two of the more unique dual-sport stadiums in the country. Say what you will about the “cookie cutters,” but being able to roll the field-level seats between a perpendicular and parallel configuration meant for some better sight-lines—EXCEPT for Fulton County Stadium and the Alameda County Coliseum which both have/had static field-level seats. Incidentally, these are the stadiums I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of being my baseball home.

  20. re: Lew Wolff would just be in LA.

    Sounds like somebody is still waiting for a Knight in Shining Armor who’s going to give Oakland a free ballpark. It’s been about two months since the Victory Court site unveiling. So when is this knight going to arrive?

  21. If the Silicon chip wasn’t invented in 1961, there would be no internet, no personal computers, and we would be stalled in the industrial age full of pollution, odd labor jobs, and calling each other with rotary phones. It’s narrow minded thinking like this that will seal the fate of Oakland….

  22. Multi-purposes football/baseball stadium do not work for the simple reason the end result is a closed stadium 360 degrees around.

    Baseball and even football stadiums now a days want an open view on two sides (football) and one side for baseball.

    Multi-purpose arenas still make sense for basketball/hockey because if done correctly the seating configuration can work for both tenants and the city only needs to up keep 1 facility and not two. Hence why all major markets share (NY, LA, CHI, Denver, Dallas, New Jersey, Boston, Toronto, Atlanta, Washington DC).

    This plus the fact the optimal attendance for hockey and basketball are similar (16k-20k) while there is a big disparity in football/baseball (70k vs. 40k).

    Arco is so bad as ML points the Kings are done and they have gone quiet on moving the team. I am sure they are thinking 2012-2013 but who knows….They could head to Anaheim or San Jose next season…

  23. “I wonder why arenas don’t copy the removable field concept of University of Phoenix Stadium. Have the ice sheet on a retractable platform that goes out underneath one end of the arena”

    The Target Center in Minneapolis was originally designed with a retractable ice sheet, as it was assumed the North Stars would move there (of course, they went to Dallas instead). Not sure if the remodeling a few years ago changed that. I assume such a system is too complex and costly to be strongly considered.

    If you think about it though, an imaginary arena floor would get bigger as it was raised up relative to the seating bowl, so a hockey surface that slides into place a few rows up could be less disruptive to the seats / sightlines.

  24. For all the whipping it takes, ARCO is easily the best arena in which I’ve ever seen a pro basketball game. I know the fancy luxury boxes are a revenue necessity, as well as all the other crap they shove into the new arenas. The end result for the fan in those new mega arenas is that the game itself is much less fun to watch, even if you remembered to bring the oxygen tank you need for the upper level.

  25. @Mike in MN

    “If you think about it though, an imaginary arena floor would get bigger as it was raised up relative to the seating bowl, so a hockey surface that slides into place a few rows up could be less disruptive to the seats / sightlines.”

    That was exactly what I was thinking.

  26. @Ezra/Mike in MN – Interesting idea and it makes sense from a sight lines standpoint. One logistically challenging issue though: If the ice is, say, 6 feet above the regular event floor, how do you get the Zamboni onto the ice? I have some ideas on this, but I wanted to see how you responded first.

  27. That’s a good question ML. I hadn’t thought about that. I believe most modern arenas have 4 floor level entrances. 1 for the zamboni, 2 for the hockey players (behind their benches), and 1 that is used for basketball. So what I’d suggest is that the 3 that are used during the hockey games would all be raised higher than the 1 for basketball. Those three can have temporary seating installed during a basketball game (the basketball one I would assume would be mostly below the ice surface, so there’s no need to install seats, maybe just put in a little platform for photographers to stand on). Then behind the stands the arena would be like a split level house (for a lack of a better way to describe it). With the hockey side where their locker rooms and the zamboni sits at a raised level.

  28. Event level access could be dealt with fairly easily, as Ezra described. The bigger issue would be giving up behind-the-scene event level staging area. Obviously, you can’t have locker rooms, etc in areas where the ice moves through and to. That would require a larger building or creative engineering/space planning.
    The modern systems with dual-rise seating are much less complex and don’t take up extra room, which is probably why moving ice sheets never really caught on.

  29. @Ezra/Mike in MN – I tried to do a quick sketch to see how it would work and hit a problem. Either the event level is split – half for the regular floor and half for the rink – or there’s a system of ramps in the bowels. Either way it’s inelegant. It also doesn’t solve the space problem with floor seats, in that for hoops there are too many in the ends and not enough along the sides. Changing to an international size rink (200 x 100) helps a little, but not as much as you’d think.

  30. I’d like to see your sketches. I’m not sure I understand the problem with the seats. I know the two sizes aren’t the same ratio, but how do you get that there are too many seats at the end for basketball?

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