A. Vision and key stakeholders
Whether or not you are experienced in development projects, the thought of delivering a basketball arena can be a daunting prospect. However, every arena has started somewhere, and the best usually benefited from a clear project vision from the very start.
This vision should be customized to the specific circumstances and resources of each project. The most important factor to consider is “what is the specific function of this arena?”. The arena and its facilities must meet the needs of its key users and be matched against local demand. Failure to do this is likely to result in problems with the arena’s long-term operation.
In some cases, this will be a large multi-event venue, designed to adapt to the needs of a variety of sports and other events, whilst in others it could be a smaller venue serving its local community. Ownership and funding models, project delivery methods and user requirements and expectations differ across the world.
Objectives for the arena project can be:
Sporting: the needs of the game of basketball and its users should be central.
Social: providing opportunities for participation and education for the wider community.
Economic: be it driving commercial revenues and profits for owners, covering on-going operating costs or providing long-term payback on the development costs.
Environmental: to mitigate or eliminate any negative impact on the environment..
Other: such as being part of a wider sporting development or acting as a catalyst for local regeneration.
When developing the vision for a basketball arena, factors that need to be considered include:
the source of funding for the project (public, private or combined);
the concept for operating the venue (public funding, private revenue streams, operating cost constraints);
the key stakeholders involved (venue management, venue owner, the local authority, users of the venue, basketball and other sports clubs, sports federations, sponsors, the local community);
different user groups of the arena (players, officials, media, spectators, VIPs);
location (climate, topography, public transport, accessibility); and
local and national rules and requirements for design, construction, safety, accessibility, environmental aspects and sustainability.
A public consultation process is recommended which will help the community to feel that it is a valued stakeholder and will help to support the arena’s long-term success.
The following diagram demonstrates that the ability to influence a project diminishes (and becomes more expensive) as time progresses. The dilemma is that, whilst project knowledge builds up as the project progresses, key decisions are required in the opening phases. Therefore, getting things right from the start cannot be underestimated. This is achieved by ensuring appropriate time, resources and expertise are factored into the planning stage. As we shall see in Sub-section 1d, obtaining advice from experienced professionals is essential and can have key benefits from the very start of a project.
A feasibility study (see Sub-section 1c) and subsequent business plan (see Sub-section 2b) should help to determine the size and spectator capacity of the venue, as well as any demand for premium facilities, such as suites and boxes.
A basketball arena should also strive to be a social and enjoyable place for many different activities. To attract users and visitors, the venue needs to be inviting, comfortable and safe, whether on the court, in the stands, having something to eat or drink or visiting the toilet facilities.
For arena refurbishment or replacement projects in particular, the past (or current) needs of users will not necessarily be the same as those in the future. Arena projects should provide a framework of facilities that can be used or adapted for decades. The needs of players, support teams and broadcasters are constantly evolving as are the norms and expectations of public users. The topic of futureproofing venues is explored in Sub-section 2c.
B. Site selection
Before working out what should go into an arena, you need to make sure that it is in the best possible location for its users.
The possibility of renovating existing facilities should be considered as an option. A renovation project will usually have the advantages of securing a suitable site, having a lower environmental footprint and be less costly than a new-build project. This is not, however, always true and new-build projects can have advantages in terms of location and long-term impact. Therefore, each project should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Aspects to be taken into account when assessing whether an existing building is suitable for renovation are illustrated in the following diagram:
The assessment of potential sites (including existing ones) should include:
Is the location convenient and suitable for the users of the arena? This might go beyond logistical access if, for example, an established club side has its core fanbase in a particular neighborhood?
Are there sufficient open spaces immediately around the venue for filtering the spectators on arrival and egress? Noise control and environmental features should also be considered.
Are access routes to the site sufficient for spectators, teams, event load-in and load-out? An urban setting should facilitate pedestrian access and links to local public transport networks, mitigating the impact of traffic. Are there convenient public transport nodes and network capacity to service the arena? Is there sufficient car parking capacity?
Other factors that can impact on site selection are:
Availability which can depend on land ownership, cost of land acquisition/ ground lease and planning regulations.
National or regional development frameworks. An arena might be part of a wider sporting infrastructure plan or could be a catalyst in terms of the development of a neighborhood.
Any requirement for complementary facilities such as training facilities, airports, hotels, restaurants, retail and other leisure facilities for spectators.
The location of any competing venues.
C. Feasibility studies
Having come up with a concept, a decision to refurbish an existing facility or to build on a new site, we next need to step back and sense check that the project doesn’t have any fundamental issues before things are progressed further. In some cases, it will be necessary to go back a step or two and re-think the concept. However, this is preferrable to attempting to run with a project that has some serious flaws.
Validating the vision, concept and site of the proposed arena development is an essential part of the process. It helps to ensure that money and resources are not unnecessarily committed to a project that is not viable or requires significant modifications to become viable.
Viability refers to the long-term sustainability of the arena in the broadest sense of the word, whereas feasibility considers a range of aspects to assess whether the project should proceed at all (or subject to certain conditions being met).
In some cases, a pre-feasibility study could be undertaken to consider a range of scenarios. This would be undertaken in less detail than a feasibility study.
When validating the viability of the site and the arena itself, the following questions need to be answered:
Is the site available, affordable and meeting any regulatory requirements for development and intended use (e.g., planning permissions)?
Is the site accessible to its intended users (e.g., players, spectators)?
Is the development of the site aligned with any wider masterplans and complementary facilities (e.g., within a wider sporting development or near to training facilities)?
Is the site sustainable in terms of its impact on the local environment and community?
Will the arena be used sufficiently to justify the resources used both in the development and operation of the facility?
When assessing the feasibility of the project, the following aspects should be taken into account:
Any technical challenges that need to be addressed such as ground conditions both in terms of construction and ongoing operations (e.g., avoiding sites prone to flooding).
Is the project financially feasible in terms of both initial project funding and its ability to cover ongoing operating costs? The former of these is sometimes referred to as affordability.
Are there any legal or political challenges that need to be overcome e.g., planning permissions or potential objections?
Is the project timescale realistic and acceptable?
Whilst the feasibility study is intended to produce a binary “PROCEED” or “STOP” decision, the outcome can be conditional, such as “the project can proceed as long as the ongoing maintenance budget is increased” or “the project cannot proceed unless the access road is widened”.
Risk analysis addresses the impact of uncertain events and should be applied to both the development project and ongoing viability of the arena. For the construction project, it usually focuses on items that would have a negative impact on the timescale, cost or quality of the finished arena. Such risks could be the late delivery of materials, unexpected subsurface conditions or adverse weather conditions during construction.
For the ongoing viability, such risks could be external shocks to energy prices or other sports developing their own facilities. All risks should be considered and logged in a risk register. Risk levels should be calculated by multiplying the probability (of the event occurring) and the impact (of the event on the project/ arena). Mitigation measures should also be considered that would reduce either (or both) the likelihood and impact of each risk.
d. Project management and team
Now that we are satisfied that the project is viable, we need to establish a framework to deliver it successfully.
Building a new arena or undertaking a major refurbishment are long, complex and costly projects. Such projects require defined and documented processes and appropriately-qualified people assigned to them to ensure that they are effectively managed.
A formal project plan should be developed to control the project’s quantities, qualities, budget and timeline and to avoid unwanted outcomes such as overspends, time overruns or not meeting the project’s objectives. There are a number of internationally-recognized methodologies for project management and it is recommended that one of these is followed. For larger or more complex projects, a qualified project manager should be engaged who is experienced in the locally-adopted design and construction project management methodologies.
A key part of this is the development of a detailed project schedule which should be realistic in terms of the time allocated to specific tasks. A Gannt chart is a common tool used to manage the project schedule. This depicts the sequential timing of project tasks in a bar chart format and shows dependencies between tasks and the overall project status.
A project plan will identify the key project phases which are shown in the following diagram.
Local construction and design project methodologies will have their own definition of project phases.
Successful project delivery depends on having the right people in place and clarity of roles. The key teams and roles required are outlined below:
The (client) project team “owns” the project on behalf of the arena owner and/or operator (“the client”). It is responsible for ensuring that the arena is built to the specifications of its owners and users. The client team is responsible for the decision-making process and is usually led by a senior executive of the owner or operator.
If there is no stakeholder with a technical or project management background, it usually makes sense to find an external project management expert as a consultant to the project team.
The design team consists of specialist consultants (usually lead by an architect) and are responsible for the design of the building (interior and exterior) as well as its specialised systems.
The final step is to decide on the method of contracting a construction team. This is a critical part of the process and expert advice should be sought.
In the traditional method, the design process is separated from, and substantially, complete prior to the appointment of a contractor. It can be beneficial to include experts on the tendering and construction administration in the design phase when using the traditional method. In design and build models, the contractor is appointed earlier, before the design phase is substantially complete, allowing the project to benefit from contractor input during the design phase.