SBJ/December 15 - 21, 2003/Facilities

Ellerbe Becket scopes out Scope

The 31-year-old Scope is home to Norfolk minor league teams.
Ellerbe Becket was hired last month to study the feasibility of renovating the Scope, the 31-year-old arena in Norfolk, Va., said John Rhamstine, director of civic facilities.

The American Hockey League's Admirals and the Arena Football 2 Nighthawks are the arena's sports tenants. The building, which has 8,900 permanent seats, opened in 1972 and has had no major renovations, Rhamstine said.

Subcontractors are Hunt Construction, CSL Consulting, employed to complete a market analysis for premium seating, which the Scope lacks, and locally based Clark Nexsen, hired to conduct a historical building analysis examining infrastructure elements. Clark Nexsen's Brad Tazewell was part of the original Scope design team.

In 2001, the NBA Charlotte Hornets hired Ellerbe Becket to do an arena site study regarding a possible move to Norfolk. That plan was shelved when the Hornets selected New Orleans in 2002, but building a new facility is still an option pending research results, Rhamstine said.

"We have made the decision to find out how much it's going to cost to renovate the Scope. That's the first step," he said. "A lot will depend on Ellerbe's numbers. We've seen what the renovations of other facilities cost, but we don't have a sense of what ours will be. It could be $10 million, it could be $60 million."

Ellerbe Becket principal Steve Hotujac, in charge of the project, said the study will price out low-, medium- and high-cost options for remodeling the Scope. The return on revenue from additional amenities will be factored into the equation.

The high-end numbers would include 24 suites and 1,000 club seats, according to Hotujac. The high end "may prove to be so high" that the study could recommend constructing a new venue. "We're going to test the renovation vs. a new building, ultimately," he said.

Last year, the city began collecting revenue from lodging and restaurant taxes earmarked for construction. "We have several million dollars, but not enough to fund the whole thing," Rhamstine said, adding that the city would consider naming rights as another source for financing.

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