Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers had the pleasure of playing in the second-largest arena in the NBA, with an overall capacity of 20,562. But, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, then known as Quicken Loans Arena, was also the fourth-oldest and was ready for renovations to bring the facility to beyond modern NBA standards. But, when the time came to finally begin the arena’s overhaul, the Cavaliers organization did not forget what matters the most: its fans.
So, even when the organization elected to remove more than 1,000 seats from Loudville, they still had their fans at heart. That space is now home to the Budweiser BrewHouse, a standing-room-only space where fans can order food, drink and socialize - all while the Cavaliers are playing on the hardwood below. The BrewHouse was one of the largest gathering places that was part of the two-year, $185 million renovation of the arena.
“When you think about this project, it's about how could we create a venue and a platform here with the FieldHouse that is truly fan-centric,” said Nic Barlage, President of Business Operations for the Cavaliers. “Every decision we made, as you look at the transformation, was made around optimizing the fan experience. And we think we've accomplished that with this special project.”
Some of the new features include what the organization calls eight "destination hospitality areas" that feature 16 spots where fans can order food and beverages or simply socialize during events. There are 22 meeting, banquet, hospitality and event spaces as well. No matter the expense, the Cavaliers made sure that the overall fan experience was a driving force throughout the arena’s revamping.
“We spent a lot of time studying that from a fan development end, we realized our fans kind of span the spectrum of age, of race, of demographic, of interests and the diversity of events we host reflect that,” Barlage went on to say. “We wanted to make sure we have products that our fans can consume from an experiential basis that meets and exceeds what they're looking for. We want it to be a place where they can come and spend time with their friends, their colleagues, their clients and be in an experience that makes a difference in their lives. We want to be able to chameleon to whatever the objective is of our fan. We have really tried to cover that from A to Z by leveraging technology and create fan destinations from our Event Level to Loudville and everywhere in between."
The fusion of technological innovation and the overall fan experience has also led to a few first-time features for really, any arena. They’re also the most visually striking additions to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, other than the massive art collection on display throughout the arena. These are of course the power portal as well as the atrium, which features a uniquely geometric aluminum curtain wall capable of lighting up the Cleveland with just a flip of a switch.
On the exterior, the atrium serves another purpose other than its eye-popping display is the fact that it protects fans from the elements. Anyone who has been in Cleveland knows a winter gust off of Lake Erie can be bone chilling. To solve this, the Cavaliers organization utilized all their open sidewalk space outside the arena to protect fans from the elements and get them inside the arena faster. It also added an additional 42,530 sq. ft. to the FieldHouse, which the Cavaliers have filled with history from all the teams that have played at the arena.
After making their way through the atrium, fans will then be exposed to what has been dubbed power portal, which is a seamless DVLED tunnel experience designed and implemented by ANC coupled with a state-of-the-art surround sound system called Soundscape engineered by Metropolitan Interactive featuring D&B Audiotechnik hardware. It has become a popular fan destination during both initial tours and the preseason, and will be a feature for years to come. According to Michael Conley, SVP Chief Information Officer for the Cavaliers, the organization are are experimenting with piping real-time data into the visual experience, further personalizing a fan's experience as they navigate from the atrium to the concourse and back.
The technological improvements the Cavaliers made with fans in mind weren’t just cosmetic, they were internal as well to make Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse the gold standard in terms of technology.
“While architecting technology 3-4 years ahead of its implementation often proves challenging given its fluid nature, we focused on bolstering our core to modernize the low-latency technology needed to manage both business operations and the fan experience,” shared Conley. “When the building was originally built in 1994, things like data centers and intermediate distribution frames didn't exist or weren't critical to doing business. We did our best to piecemeal stopgap solutions over time to meet the demands of our evolving business but often found ourselves behind the curve. Revamping our core allows us to scale the business proactively and future-proof our building for the next 20 years.”
And in the end, that’s what the arena renovation project ultimately provides not only for the Cavaliers or any of the teams within Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, but the city of Cleveland as whole. Every last decision was made with fan-optimization in mind, and will be the new benchmark standard for arena renovations going forward.