Cavs owner waits two whole months after getting arena money to dream about even newer arena

It’s been almost two whole months since Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert got approval of $70 million in taxpayer money to renovate his arena, just three years after getting his last batch of public arena money, so what’s a guy to do now? How about drop hints that he’d like to tear it down and build a whole new arena when his lease expires in 2034:

The Cleveland.com headline on this — “Did Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert hint at a new arena for 2034?” — is fairly hilarious, given that he obviously hinted at it, though a Gilbert spokesperson insisted he didn’t hint at it, and we’re apparently in an age where you need to give important people the benefit of the doubt even when they’re obviously lying about things right in front of your face, so okay.

If you’re wondering about what that “Inverted Bowl” thing is, it’s the design firm Rossetti’s claim to attempted fame, which from the firm’s renderings appears to be “get rid of the upper deck and replace it with a wall of overhanging balconies and claim that this makes the upper deck ‘the best seats in the house.'” On the one hand, this is just reinventing cantilevering, which does indeed create better upper-deck seats, albeit cantilevering that doesn’t create an overhang over any of the lower deck, pretty much eliminating any significant benefit you’d get from it; on the other, with only a handful of rows of seating in each balcony, it’s going to be really tough to create as many seats in an “inverted bowl” arena as in a standard bowl. (This isn’t helped by the fact that the closer you get a ring of seats to the game action, the fewer seats you can fit in each row — try cutting a strip of paper and play around with it if you can’t picture why.)

Plus those top balconies are going to need to have a crazy rake so that the fans in the back rows can see the game over the heads of the fans in front of them … but you know what, Rossetti put together a really nice video, with talk about the “digital age” and animations of their staffers’ actual brains for some reason, so go watch it and repeat to yourself it’s just a show, you should really just relax.


21 comments on “Cavs owner waits two whole months after getting arena money to dream about even newer arena

  1. My guess is that Rossetti is trying to get the Clippers to adopt the single bowl concept for their new arena in Inglewood. Ballmer mentioned on Simmons’s podcast that he wanted to get the crowd in tight and that he didn’t like how the boxes at Staples Center left the upper bowl removed from the action. Plus, standard upper bowl seats are a tough sell for most NBA teams nowadays. Most clippers games have single game, face value tickets in the upper bowl as cheap as $9.

    • As to Ben’s comment about 9 dollar upper deck tix, yeah unless you are deep into the playoffs or a defending champ no one is going to pay more than ten bucks to sit 200 feet away from the players.

  2. “Handful” is being rather generous. I count two rows in the top deck in that video. (And give them credit for honesty because that’s basically a sales video so they’re clearly showing the best possible scenario.) They’d be the most expensive seats construction-wise by a huge margin so no way does anybody build one of these designs just to make the cheap seats better. The only way I could see it working in practice would be if you could sell fans on the exclusivity of them–fewer people to deal with, shorter lines, etc.–and charge top-tier even though they’re up in what would normally be nosebleed land. (And I actually think those are pretty great selling points.)

    That would be an interesting change to stadium dynamics because it’d mean the cheap seats would end up somewhere at the top of the middle decks which would be far better experience for the budget-conscious fan than they see most places now. Possibly so much so that it would make it tough to sell the better seats.

  3. Pizza Pizza arena has some gimmicky seats like these…only they’re “boxes.” If you’ve actually seen the boxes, they’re about 15 rows (off the ice) and hanging about 200ft in the air.

    Cool for about 15 seconds…then…Scary. Very, very, very scary.

    First problem with these stadium shenanigans is that cantilevered stands are prohibitively expensive. One reason stadiums are so expensive these days is because they all try to eliminate limited view seats like those in Fenway and Wrigley. You can see the effects of ridiculous cantilevered stands are in England where by law fans must be covered. The extended capacity will necessitate a higher return than regular “nosebleed” seats.

    Secondly, and I am sure this is extremely obvious…the inverted bowl would work most appropriately if the teams were playing on the ceiling….or maybe some flying sport like Harry Potter’s broomball.

    • “Cantilevered stands are prohibitively expensive.”

      No, they’re not — cantilevering is ancient, cheap technology (all you need is a counterweight), and if anything it can reduce your stadium footprint, so you have to spend less on both land and concrete. The reason why cantilevering fell out of favor has to do with feeling that deep-pocketed fans want a clear view of the sky/the roof/the scoreboard, so screw everybody else if they might get in the way of that.

      “One reason stadiums are so expensive these days is because they all try to eliminate limited view seats like those in Fenway and Wrigley.”

      Again, I have seen zero evidence of this. Yes, stadiums built in the last half-century like to avoid pillars, but the whole point of cantilevering is to avoid support columns — the 1970s version of Yankee Stadium did this fine, and the Tiger Stadium fan club determined that that stadium could have been retrofitted with far fewer columns with no problem at all.

      Also, Marlins Park, one of the most expensive stadiums out there, has obstructed seats because of columns holding up the roof. So clearly this isn’t the priority.

      “You can see the effects of ridiculous cantilevered stands are in England where by law fans must be covered. The extended capacity will necessitate a higher return than regular ‘nosebleed’ seats.”

      Stadiums in England typically cost less to build than similarly sized ones in the U.S., so I’m not sure what you’re talking about here.

      • Arenas cost less in England primarily because they are usually built by the teams themselves (or teams pay the majority of the costs). Strange, that.

        Arena costs have definitely hurt a lot of teams without sufficient cash flow to pay debt and get good players—Arsenal comes to mind— which suggests that tinkering with a good enough older stadium is probably the option that makes the most sense. FC Kaiserslautern will go from a champion contender to likely the 4th Division because of overbuilding.

        Soccer fans in Europe do generally want good sight lines, which has brought seats closer to the field and removed running tracks from many stadiums. Europeans usually want to sit back and not in the front row.

        • I am not sure why FC Kaiserslautern was mentioned here–are they in financial trouble? They have a nice stadium in the Betze but that place is almost 100 years old (yes, refurbed many times but not much money spent recently). They signed a bunch of players this year but nothing seemingly out of their means. German financial rules are pretty strict so while you can get yourself into trouble there are twice a year reviews that prevent most of that. Being in the 2nd Division is not the most profitable place to be but the TV money is enough for most prudent teams to get buy. They may still have debt from their last time in the Bundesliga but it has not appeared to alter their signings.

          TSV 1860 Munich was relegated to the 4th level from the 2.BL(and has created some interesting stories playing against some teams that only practice 3 times a week) for financial issues. This is pretty rare and their troubles come from being involved with the building of Allianz stadium which was financially viable on the whole (Bayern) but not for a 2. BL team.

          • I found an article in the German *Finance* magazine that talks about debt problems at 1FCK so I guess that is why they were mentioned earlier. It is still not clear to me that the issues are building related as the last big renovations were done 10 years ago (there does appear to be some legal action with a major investor that was resolved recently). Anyway, 1FCK still has some debt and are proposing some incorporation ideas to reduce that debt but their debt is already going down.

      • One of the really humourous aspects of the new stadium craze is that a number of the new builds have included obstructed view seats, even though there was no reason to do so. Typically these are seats installed adjacent to walls or other architectural “features” that obstruct large portions of the playing surface, and not seats wedged in behind support columns (as in years past).

        Ah, progress…

        • I wonder if some of this is because of the rise of computer-assisted design. It’s a lot easier to place a seat somewhere stupid when you’re just pouring them in to fill a polygon, rather than actually placing them by hand.

          • Possibly.

            In a world where furniture designers create chairs to meet a certain “look” and then class them as ‘casual use’ because they are so uncomfortable no-one could sit in them for more than 25 minutes without developing serious pain, truly anything is possible…

          • PS: Has any world series manager ever used a bullpen as poorly as Dave Roberts has this year?

            In game 5 I found myself googling “managers fired during world series games”…

  4. The old U of Oregon McArthur court had a concept like this, albiet there were obstructed views:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=old+oregon+macarthur+court&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwib6c-kmpnXAhVKxWMKHRy5B9EQ_AUIDCgD&biw=1098&bih=833&dpr=1.25#imgrc=6f5AStqj1RynCM:

    What’s old is new again, although I could pass on bell bottoms and high-waisted jeans.

    That place was iconic, except for visiting teams. A very hard place to play. It seemed like there weren’t 2 decks, but 5. It really did feel like the fans were right on top of you.

  5. Philips is getting rid of their cantilever wall of skyboxes after just under 20 years, ancient in Atlanta arena/stadium years.

    • Interesting. That was one of the main selling features of the place when it was built. What are they doing with that space if it’s not going to be suites?

      I assume the reason for removing them is less “style” considerations than ‘we can’t sell them so we might as well put something else in that space’?

      • John, basically the latter.

        https://www.peachtreehoops.com/2017/6/28/15891152/atlanta-hawks-philips-arena-renovation-plan-suites-bars-topgolf

  6. Wouldn’t it just be easier to have a plexiglass floor and put an entire new bowl beneath the playing surface?

    By that way, this idea is completely mine, patent pending. I just need to do up a spiffy video and put it on Twitter – I’m hoping @ROSSETTIdesign will lend me their voice-over guy.

  7. “No, they’re not — cantilevering is ancient, cheap technology (all you need is a counterweight), and if anything it can reduce your stadium footprint, so you have to spend less on both land and concrete. The reason why cantilevering fell out of favor has to do with feeling that deep-pocketed fans want a clear view of the sky/the roof/the scoreboard, so screw everybody else if they might get in the way of that.”

    Perhaps prohibitive was a bit strong of language, but the fact remains that buildings with cantilevering are more expensive than buildings without. If they were there would be office buildings, warehouses, and apartment complexes that are cantilevered everywhere you look.

    Counterweights are not the only ways to provide cantilevering; what you really need is a way to transmit an equal and opposite force to the force that is being placed on the structure. Flying buttresses and suspension bridges use the earth as a counterweight, so to speak, to transmit the load.

    “Also, Marlins Park, one of the most expensive stadiums out there, has obstructed seats because of columns holding up the roof. So clearly this isn’t the priority.”

    I believe the Bob Uecker seats in Miller Park are also obstructed, and I think the design was meant to be cheaper, even though it wasn’t in the end. It would be cool if there was a website to check on that though. :)

    “Stadiums in England typically cost less to build than similarly sized ones in the U.S., so I’m not sure what you’re talking about here.”

    As GDUB explains below, stadiums are not subsidized (usually) by the government. West Ham and Man City are exceptions to this rule. Arsenal has built their own stadium, and similar costs and configuration are nearer to NFL standards. Aston Villa are a strong historical football club and have four VERY different ‘stands’ within their stadium, Villa Park. One look at the stadium would explain 1000 words of how the stands canopies are cantilevered.

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