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Metamorphosis 6 meta-trends for evolving

venue design and operations By Kevin Lewis


he design and operation of sports venues is at a crossroads. Since 2001, energy codes have reduced energy targets by more than 50 percent, while technology has fundamentally changed the way we do business. To give one example, the ever-increasing quality of broadcast technology has led many fans to prefer watching games at home. In response, venues must deliver an exceptional fan experience that begins long before players take the field and extends far beyond the last play. Indeed, our long-established notions of venue design and operations are being challenged more than ever before. But compelling trends are emerging. Here are six meta-trends that we at Henderson Engineers believe will be integral in the design of future sports venues.


Totally Suite Experience. As previously mentioned, with the increasing quality of broadcast technology, more people are choosing to watch sporting events at home, leading to a decrease in overall attendance. We can, however, be inspired by trends in other areas of the entertainment industry. For example, “dinner and a movie” used to be standard entertainment, but dedicating three or four hours doesn’t fit the 21st-century lifestyle. The solution: combine the two — do dinner at the movies. For sports venues, this means offering an entertainment experience more exciting than what fans can get on TV. Instead of general seating, a fully interactive, catered experience like a suite may be required to attract patrons to a live event.


Improving the Fan Experience via HVAC. The next trend challenges the status quo on how air is delivered in arenas and outdoor stadiums. For outdoor venues especially, conditioning from above is extremely wasteful and cost-prohibitive. Much of the conditioned air doesn’t reach the fans. And when it does, its delivery is so flawed that it makes some spectators too cold, while others remain too hot. At the Golden 1 Center — home of the Sacramento Kings — Henderson provided lower bowl under-seat conditioning using a technology called positive displacement ventilation. It provides consistent, conditioned air right to the spectators. This dramatically improves the fan experience, while also improving operation costs. This technology is working so well that the facility can leave its giant aircraft hanger doors open even on a 90-degree day.


Entertainment Districts. Entertainment districts are the latest trend to explode in design. Bringing multiple uses into one district creates an alliance between teams, local businesses, the government and the general public. It makes a lot of sense from an economic development standpoint, but it also has one hidden advantage: the facilities in the district rarely ever operate at the same time. For example, when venues operate at full capacity — typically at nights or on weekends — office spaces are mostly dark. We can, therefore, develop a central plant or energy source to serve the entire district, providing both initial and energy cost savings.


Data Accessibility. Data access is incredibly important to fans. In fact, it is no longer a differentiator, but an expectation. Distributed antenna systems are being rolled out by the dozens, but just having access to the data may not be enough. Users also need technology that they can interact with at the event. Personal smartphones are a good start, but the future looks to have more interactive screens available to patrons.


Sustainable, Economical Operations. One thing we’ve learned is that optimized, sustainable buildings don’t stay that way for long. Like a piano, buildings have to be occasionally retuned to maintain performance. We finally have common software platforms that can identify issues and opportunities and make changes without user input. Granted, these changes are small, but they add up to the tune of 10 percent to 15 percent savings. An additional operations trend we often see in conjunction with this monitoringbased approach is cost-neutral capital upgrades. Buildings routinely need new equipment, but this method aims to establish an implementation plan over a handful of years that makes the CFO happy because he or she just has to move money from operations to the construction budget. These recently adopted and developing meta-trends are creating a new normal in our industry, one that seeks to meet regulatory, socioeconomic and cultural shifts. As with all new initiatives, the collaboration of many partners will be needed to ensure success.

Lighting Players vs. Lighting Pretenders. LEDs are taking over, but with limited information how do we separate those that can meet league and team requirements from those that can’t? In 2015, we launched an extensive research effort to evaluate and test multiple LED sports lighting products. It became apparent that there are a lot of variances. And, although we have a good grasp on what’s available today, the technology continues to evolve quickly. We expect to study this again very soon.

Kevin Lewis is the Sports Practice Director and a Senior Vice President at Henderson Engineers. A professional engineer and LEED AP with more than 16 years of experience, he is actively involved in the design and oversight of a wide range of sports facility projects ranging from collegiate to professional, including numerous high-profile arenas, stadiums and practice facilities nationwide. Recent projects include the Ford Center at The Star, the Inglewood NFL Stadium at Hollywood Park, and the Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center. He can be reached at


Facilities & event management 2016-2017 Booking Guide


Facilities & Event Management 2016-2017 Booking Guide  

Semi-annual publication for Booking Agents, Promoters,Talent Buyers, Special Event Planners, and Venue Management. Featured in this issue: I...

Facilities & Event Management 2016-2017 Booking Guide  

Semi-annual publication for Booking Agents, Promoters,Talent Buyers, Special Event Planners, and Venue Management. Featured in this issue: I...