New Arena Projects

Back in January, plans for the first multi-purpose venue in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi moved forward as BAM International was appointed to construct the new 18,000-seat Yas Arena. The facility will feature an illuminated façade on the waterfront parade area of Yas Island.

The Madison Square Garden Company in February revealed plans to open new multi-use venues in London and Las Vegas as part of an effort to expand its global network, while fresh details emerged over a new arena for NBA basketball team the Los Angeles Clippers.

Later in the year, ambitious plans were revealed for the world’s biggest ice hockey arena in Saint Petersburg, with the Russian club’s billionaire owner Gennady Timchenko eyeing a new 22,500-seat facility that would be built by 2023.

September saw sports and entertainment giant AEG make a major commitment to the Thai market when it partnered with The Mall Group, the country’s leading retail and entertainment complex developer. Two new state-of-the-art arenas are set to be built through the agreement, which is designed to revolutionise Thailand’s business, retail and entertainment centres.

A month later, Live Nation joined forces with Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment on a multi-year initiative to acquire talent for the latter’s integrated entertainment resort currently under development in South Korea. ‘Project Inspire’ is due to open in 2021 and will be the first-of-its-kind integrated entertainment resort destination, featuring a 15,000-seat indoor arena at its core.

Meanwhile, an opening date of summer 2019 was set for The Event Complex Aberdeen, which aims to provide a new world-class facility for the Scottish city. Elsewhere, it emerged that Hungary is planning on building Europe’s largest handball arena.

Earlier this month, Mortenson was appointed as the new general contractor for the Seattle Center Arena, with Skanska-Hunt having stepped away from the project. The arena is due to serve as the home of a new NHL ice hockey team in Seattle but spiralling costs have led to reported friction with those involved.

And just last week, the University of Texas entered into what it claims is a groundbreaking arena deal with a consortium led by entertainment and sports facilities company Oak View Group. The university struck a 35-year agreement with the OVG group, which also includes Live Nation, C3 Presents and Hollywood star Matthew McConaughey. Under the deal, a world-class arena will be built on the Austin campus that will be home to Texas men’s and women’s basketball games, graduations, concerts and other events.

Arena Redevelopment/Renovation

February saw major renovation plans outlined for Capital One Arena, home of NHL team the Washington Capitals and NBA franchise the Washington Wizards. Upgrades included brand new padded seats, a state-of-the-art sounds system and concourse makeovers.

Later in the year, the venue concept for the 2024 summer Olympic Games in Paris was revamped amid fears over rising costs related to stadia and arenas. The finalised plan introduces the historic Grand Palais into the list of venues and builds on an initial draft drawn up in June.

November saw TD Garden, home of the NBA’s Boston Celtics and the NHL’s Boston Bruins, reveal plans for $100m (£79m/€88m) worth of renovation work over the next two years. Earlier this month, plans for the renovation of Talking Stick Resort Arena, home of NBA team the Phoenix Suns, were put on hold amid suggestions that the franchise may move to Las Vegas or Seattle.

New Arena Openings

Esports continues to be a growing presence within the live events sector and 2018 saw the opening of two major gaming venues in the US.

In May, the new Esports Arena Oakland specialty gaming facility in California officially opened its doors by hosting an all-day multi-genre ‘Smash Royale’ contest. Located in the Jack London Square waterfront area of Oakland, the venue is the fourth dedicated gaming arena and production facility in the Esports Arena network.

In November, Esports Stadium Arlington, the largest gaming and esports event facility in North America, opened in the heart of the Texan city’s entertainment district. The 100,000 square-foot facility is built to serve the demands of the esports industry and has been designed by Populous.

Fiserv Forum, the state-of-the-art new home of NBA team the Milwaukee Bucks, officially opened its doors in August. The 17,500-seat, Populous-designed arena (pictured) hosted a Grand Opening ceremony on September 4 which was headlined by The Killers. TheStadiumBusiness.com also profiled the arena back in May.

Hosting Rights

2018 also saw a wide range of event organisers assign hosting rights for their various competitions, with venues around the world having been chosen to stage tournaments across a number of sports.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) unveiled the eight stadia that will host its new Twenty20 competition, U.S. Bank Stadium retained rights to the summer edition of the X Games action sports event, while the International Cricket Council announced the 11 host venues for the 2019 Cricket World Cup.

London Stadium was one of the venues that missed out on Cricket World Cup hosting rights but in May it struck a landmark deal to stage two regular-season Major League Baseball games between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in June 2019. The deal forms part of the venue’s plans to become the most widely-used stadium in Europe.

In perhaps the biggest hosting news of the year, it was announced in June that the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be staged in the US, Mexico and Canada. The United 2026 bid saw off competition from Morocco, receiving 134 votes to the African nation’s 65.

In September, Germany landed hosting rights to another major football event, UEFA Euro 2024. Germany saw off competition from Turkey to secure the tournament.

Elsewhere, Madrid was selected to host the first two editions of the new Davis Cup finals in 2019 and 2020; Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome was awarded hosting rights to the finals of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup rugby union competitions in 2020; and Dakar in Senegal landed Africa’s first Olympic event as it was chosen to host the 2022 summer Youth Olympic Games.

In other hosting news, New Zealand was awarded the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup; Cameroon was stripped of hosting rights for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations; Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabéu was selected as the new host of the second leg of the 2018 Copa Libertadores final; and Budapest landed the 2023 World Athletics Championships.

Technology

Back in January, mobile payment firm Lyf Pay partnered with French Ligue 1 football club Toulouse, with the deal allowing fans to make all payments at the Stadium de Toulouse with their smartphone, including tickets, food and drink, and merchandise.

In another tech-focused initiative, NFL American football team the Houston Texans partnered with artificial intelligence solutions company Satisfi Labs to offer a chatbot service for fans at NRG Stadium, while in March The Jockey Club completed what it claimed was the largest multi-site installation of free public Wi-Fi in Europe.

In March, Samsung successfully completed a 5G field trial at a major baseball stadium in Japan as it continued its drive to redefine user experiences at sports venues. The following month, Paris Saint-Germain claimed a first for football in its home market with the launch of a new digital overlay technology system at Parc des Princes. The system allows the club to geo-locate the advertising displayed on stadium LED screens.

Other tech-focused highlights of 2018 included AEG and the LA Kings’ partnership with BluEco Technology Group to launch a new environmental technology solution for arenas and public facilities; Tokyo 2020’s plans to introduce a facial recognition system; and Allianz Arena’s roll-out of Apple Pay and other digital innovations through a partnership with Skidata.

Ticketing

In 2018, SeatGeek signed two high-profile partners in the shape of the Dallas Cowboys and Manchester City, while StubHub signed a multi-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers and AXS to become an official marketplace of the NBA club and its Quicken Loans Arena home.

Elsewhere, SecuTix partnered with Premier League football club Everton, while it also signed an expanded deal with the sport’s European governing body, UEFA.

In July, Major League Baseball announced plans to introduce biometric ticketing technology from 2019 through a new partnership with Clear. Spanish LaLiga football club Barcelona also continued efforts to grow attendances at the Camp Nou by revamping its ticket resale platform, Seient Lliure.

November saw the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers NBA teams offer passes for games that do not provide a view of the court. The Warriors’ pass with cost fans a reported $100 a month, while the Trail Blazers’ standing-room-only ticket will set fans back $60.

You can read the first part of our 2018 round-up here.

Image: Milwaukee Bucks