The Bell Centre in Montreal is known as one of the NHL’s most intimidating venues for visiting players, mainly due to a large lower bowl and steep upper-bowl seating. In fact, Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland stated that from a player’s perspective, this type of design makes it seem like “everybody is on top of you.”
In addition to the home-team advantage the design provides, it also gives fans better sightlines to the action and lets them feel more engaged in the event due to such close proximity. This is an increasingly important factor, as in-person attendance for sporting events continues to decline and ownership groups seek new solutions to provide a better live experience.
But that proximity carries a potentially steep price. Fan accidents at the 19,000-seat Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., have led to at least four lawsuits resulting from fans tripping and falling in the arena’s steep upper bowl. More commonly, fans attending events at arenas with steep stairs complain of experiencing vertigo. Looking up at seemingly endless rows of seating can make fans feel as though they are falling.
These types of incidents have raised some serious and diffi cult questions. At a time when owners and their architects are facing mounting pressure to improve the fan experience to halt and reverse dropping attendance rates, is there a way to prioritize both the fan experience and fan safety without compromising either?
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