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A. Multi-sport use

 

The best basketball arenas place basketball at the heart of the planning process and subsequently meet the needs of its users, be they players, officials or fans. The arena could also need to serve other users and sports to fulfill its brief, secure the necessary funding, achieve its revenue targets and to be sustainable in terms of its use of resources.

 

Other users could be sports such as handball, futsal or ice hockey; entertainment productions such as concerts or motor shows; or business events and exhibitions. The number and variety of other users will differ in each arena. Arena projects, therefore, need to balance the needs of its users against the risk of adding too much complexity into the project which can add cost and be both cumbersome and time-consuming to manage. The key is to incorporate as much flexibility as possible at the design stage. In some cases, some of the future users of the venue might not be defined until later in the arena’s lifecycle. The implications of this are discussed in Sub-section 2c.

 

Flexibility can be achieved by providing adjustability and adaptability of seating units and playing surfaces to facilitate different configurations for various events. These aspects are considered in more detail in Sub-sections 3a and 5a.

 

Sports such as ice hockey and handball require a much larger playing area than basketball, as do most entertainment events such as concerts. Therefore,
multi-use arenas can have an open floor area in excess of 2,000m2. This is more than double the space required for a single basketball court and surrounding area which emphasizes the importance of flexible floor and seating configurations to bring the spectators closer to the court. 

 

In smaller arenas, flexible configuration may be required to accommodate wider participation or community use. This can be facilitated by using retractable or removable seating around a main “showcourt” which, when retracted, creates space for additional courts or other uses.  

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b. Business planning

There is no hiding from the financial aspects of running an arena. Objectives will vary between projects, some arenas attempt to be self-funding by matching ongoing costs with income, others aim to generate profits for their owners.

 

This sub-section is concerned with the commercial strategy and expenditure that will be incurred in the ongoing operation of the venue. This is managed by producing a business plan and monitoring actual results against this plan. Such a plan is usually more detailed than a feasibility study and is a dynamic document that should be updated on a regular basis.

 

The business plan should identify all the operational expenditure (OPEX) required to run the arena and any sources of income that will be generated. This will quantify the overall profitability of the arena. A cashflow forecast can then be developed and any financing requirements identified.

 

As well as operational expenditure, an arena may have to incur financing costs to service the funding required for original outlay of the project. This initial outlay is classified as capital expenditure (CAPEX) and is treated separately to the day-to-day running costs of the arena. Because operating costs are incurred each year, when accumulated over the lifetime of the arena these will exceed the capex incurred during construction and/or refurbishment.

 

The main source of revenue for the arena is usually venue hire fees paid by tenants who want to use the arena for their events. These could be:

  • a flat fee per day or per season;

  • a share of ticketing revenues (often with a minimum guarantee); or

  • where an anchor tenant (such as a club) is also the owner or operator of the arena, the ticketing revenue can be retained in the same entity.

The key to maximizing revenue from venue hire is flexible event scheduling and the ability to efficiently transform the venue to meet the needs of its various users. Arenas need to balance availability for use by its core tenants (such as the progression of a club through a cup competition or end-of-season play-offs), whilst securing additional revenue from other tenants, such as for entertainment or corporate use.

 

Arenas can also derive income from the following sources:

  • Naming rights - usually a commercial brand enters into a multi-year agreement to be incorporated into the official name of the arena.

  • A hierarchy of sponsors or commercial partners who pay an annual fee to be associated with the arena. These are often in non-competing categories with the right to provide products or services such as the official drinks partner or official telecoms partner.

  • Food and beverages (often contracted-out in return for a fee/share of revenues) this can cover non-event day if footfall to the site is sufficient.

  • Retail concessions (merchandising) this usually event-driven and can be both on behalf of a user e.g., club side or music artist, or generic such as light-sticks.

  • Renting out other space on a long-term basis e.g., office space.

  • Renting out other space on a short-term basis e.g., business meetings.

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c. future-proofing, overlay and competition hosting

 

Before we dive into design factors in Section 3, we stop and think about how things might need to change over the arena’s lifetime and how it can be adapted to hosting relevant competitions including FIBA’s own.

 

Future-proofing is the factoring of aspects into the base design of a building that can facilitate future development and adaptation. This can include the ability to increase (or reduce) venue capacity and to allow different uses of the building. Overlay describes the temporary adaptations and enhancements that allow a venue to transform its permanent infrastructure to meet the specific requirements of an event.  

 

Future-proofing is not a substitute for thorough planning, business case development or detailed design. However, in some cases an arena’s purpose or circumstances may change over time and might be influenced by factors which are not certain or known at the time of the development project. Such examples might include:
 

  • the hosting of major competitions and adapting to their requirements;

  • returning to legacy use after a major competition;

  • increases in the fanbase/average attendance of a tenant club side or other users;

  • changes in technology such as the ability to accommodate larger video screens;

  • emerging potential users of a venue e.g., the growth of esports; and

  • changes to user requirements e.g., the accommodation of larger stage sets and light shows.

 

It might also be the case that funding or other restrictions prevent the full development of the arena in its initial development phase and the possibility of further development phases should be incorporated into the planning. This could include space and access route planning for future upper-tier seating areas. The structural planning of the building could require load-bearing capacities to accommodate future expansion. 

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Important aspects to consider are:

  • Flexible seating systems can be responsive to different use requirements and are considered in Sub-section 3c. The separation of lower and upper tiers can allow for different levels of attendances (e.g., upper tiers not being active and curtained/hidden for smaller attendances).

  • Having additional capacity and access points for both power and data connectivity will make the arena more attractive to potential users who are seeking “plug and play” functionality. Installing accessible cable routes (trunking) which can contain temporary cables safely and efficiently across the venue will promote greater flexibility. It is particularly useful to provide spare capacity around the field of play, seating tiers and logistics areas. The diagram below shows suggested locations for such trunking. Ducts (which are enclosed routes) are also shown in the diagram.

  • Planning for extendable broadcast compounds with services.

  • Designing the flexibility for the wireless local area network (WLAN) to be enhanced and for additional data points to be installed. 

  • Allowing for spaces to be flexibly configured by using open layouts, neutral and changeable finishes, removable partitions and furniture.

  • Ensuring the number and location of entrances/exits and circulation routes within the building allow for the potential separation of key user groups, e.g., players, media, VIP and public (see diagram below).

  • Back-of house areas should also be reviewed with the ability to adapt spaces to different uses and to reconfigure rooms. E.g., could office space be reconfigured as a media working area? Is sufficient storage space being provided for furniture and equipment to be removed and stored as required?

  • The provision of additional (pairs of) changing rooms can support competition use, wider participation and entertainment uses.

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For FIBA competitions, it is common for certain aspects of the venue requirements to be met by overlay installations. This is because some of the infrastructure included in the competition requirements is unlikely to be justified in the regular use of the arena. An example of this would be building a large media tribune or additional camera positions that would only be utilized (or close to capacity) during the competition. 

 

It does not make sense in terms of the use of space or budget to deliver these aspects in the core arena project. However, it is important to think about how the arena could be adapted for competition purposes at the planning and design stages. For example, removable seating could facilitate the adaptation of spectator seating rows into the wider platforms required to support enhanced media tribunes.

 

FIBA produces specific venue requirements as part of the bidding process and host nation agreement (HNA) of FIBA competitions and these requirements can vary for each edition. However, following the advice of this section and that found elsewhere in this document on specific aspects of permanent infrastructure (such as court surface and lighting) will help to facilitate the hosting of key competitions.

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