SBJ/January 12 - 18, 2004/Facilities

Phoenix Coyotes’ desert dream comes to life in Glendale Arena

The steep design of the bowl is intended to put fans on top of the action.

Fifteen minutes after the Phoenix Coyotes lost in their Dec. 27 debut at Glendale Arena, a few hockey fans remained in their seats at center ice in the new $220 million facility.

While finishing their beers and gazing up at the market's first all-digital, LED scoreboard, a $6.5 million Daktronics model, their moods lightened considerably. They realized once again that Phoenix finally has a major league venue tailor-made for hockey.

"You know, this is really a beautiful place," one die-hard said to his buddy.

When the Winnipeg Jets relocated to Phoenix in 1996 under former owner Richard Burke and became the Coyotes, they moved into America West Arena, home to the Phoenix Suns. For 7½ seasons the Coyotes played second fiddle to the Suns in facility revenue streams, and 4,300 seats had obstructed views of the ice.

In 2001, the Coyotes and Glendale officials struck a deal that assured the franchise would remain in the area. Publicly owned Glendale Arena, 14 miles northwest of the team's old downtown location, becomes not only a place to see hockey but also is the first step in the 6.5 million-square-foot Westgate City Center commercial and residential development project, which sits within a quarter-mile of Loop 101, the new expressway in Phoenix, and adjacent to the future home of the Arizona Cardinals.The Coyotes' chairman and CEO, real estate developer Steve Ellman, is spearheading Westgate. A 20-screen Loews movie theater complex and five restaurants, announced in late December as the first tenants, are scheduled to open in 2005. More of the 30 firms that have signed or committed to leases are expected to be publicly identified this month. Inside the building, Toyota joined Anheuser-Busch (Bud Light Party Zone suite), Allied Waste (Paradise Ice Lounge), Qwest (both suite levels and the club level) and the Arizona Lottery, with kiosks in the Coyotes Den retail store, as founding partners. Those sponsorships are in the high six to seven figures, depending on the elements, said Coyotes President Doug Moss.

The arena will be incorporated with Westgate into a naming-rights package brokered by Denver-based consultant Dean Bonham.

"For the first time, we have a product to sell. For the first time, we have a home where the fans can come and see both goals. It's just a darn good building," Ellman said during a pregame news conference.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman agreed. "There is no finer arena in North America," he told an estimated 5,000 people at the outdoor dedication three hours before face-off.

Bettman later said: "If you look at the layout and the intimacy of the lower bowl, I think it will provide the fans with a tremendous experience for hockey. The previous venue, while a fine building when it was built, obviously was never intended for a hockey team."

The Daktronics-created $6.5 million center scoreboard delivers all-digital video images to every corner of the arena.
During the planning process, a team of 15 representatives from the Coyotes, the team's Arena Management Group, architect HOK Sport, consultants and the city of Glendale toured 14 venues to identify features they wanted in the new building. They relied primarily on two NHL arenas, Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., and Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

"We're on the back end of the building boom, literally one of the last ones to be built. We saw that as an opportunity to take a philosophy of being the best of the best," said Brian Byrnes, Coyotes executive VP of business operations.

Glendale Arena is actually the third generation in a sunken bowl, open-concourse footprint emphasizing tight, vertical seating, according to Byrnes. The design was originally used at Air Canada Centre in Toronto and later by Xcel Energy Center. The height is 100 feet from playing surface to ceiling, which is 15 to 20 feet shorter than America West Arena, said Glendale Arena GM Ron Woodbridge.

"It was designed almost in a retro style," Byrnes said. "With the low ceilings and intense rake to the seating, we think it will remind people of Chicago Stadium and Boston Garden, older buildings that put fans on top of the action."

The tight design created a steep upper bowl where on opening night, even the most seasoned beer vendors could be seen firmly gripping handrails as they walked down the aisles. But Coyote Country appears unfazed; after three home games, intimate seating was voted by fans as the most popular arena feature, according to the team's Web site.

The seating bowl filtered into concourse areas that were difficult to navigate during breaks in play. During the first intermission, the "Blue Line Bar" beer stand in the upper deck had a line of customers stretching across the hallway. Since the Coyotes' opener, arena officials have put up tension barriers for events to channel patrons along the sides of the concession stands. "We did find areas that are a bit congested when we're pushing over 18,000," Woodbridge said. A few areas remain unfinished. The Paradise Ice Lounge, the event-level club for premium seat holders sponsored by an Allied Waste subsidiary, won't open until Feb. 12. Officials are waiting for furniture made with high-end materials to be shipped from Europe.

In addition, two of the four tower suites holding as many as 50 people in the upper level remain as concrete shells according to plan, said Byrnes. Black draping with the Coyotes' new logo covered those areas.

"We chose not to finish them out," he said. "Early on in the construction process, we knew there could be an oversupply of premium seat capacity. It would be a minimal expense to finish out the interior."

There are 89 suites, including 75 with multiyear leases, 60 of which are sold. The remaining 14 units are reserved for individual event rentals, including the tower suites. The idea is to "allow more people to sample the product," said Byrnes. Game rentals were 92 percent sold for the first three games.

"We can generate more revenue from those suites for single games than from annual leases. Our average suite costs $100,000. Based on 125 events in a typical year, that's an average of $800 per event from a suite owner. We can go out and rent that suite for single events at $2,500 for hockey and $3,500 for a major concert."

Woodbridge said 60 events are on the books through June 30, the end of the Coyotes' fiscal year, and that ultimately, the arena could play host to as many as 150 events should indoor football and soccer teams become tenants.

Byrnes said more than 60 percent of the 400 club seats are sold. The Coyotes purposely kept that particular inventory low. "From the feedback we got, a lot of teams overbuilt and are having a very difficult time renewing their initial contracts," he said. Club seat holders have exclusive access to the mid-level Lexus Club, the arena's only sit-down restaurant operated by Aramark.

For the Coyotes' opener, Aramark's regular food and drink per cap was $15.43. FMI reported a $5.80 per cap from the busy team store and portable locations. Moss said those numbers more than doubled the Coyotes' averages of $7.62 for food and $2.16 for retail at AWA. The Coyotes' new logo and color scheme helped boost merchandise sales, he said. There were relatively few operational problems despite the tight schedule in opening the building. The National Lacrosse League Arizona Sting, owned by the Coyotes, officially opened the arena the night before with an announced crowd of 12,700.

An elevator that stranded eight people earlier in the night was working again by the third period. Arena maintenance and building engineers worked together to solve the problem of cold air blasting down on upper-level ticket holders. There were no fan complaints the next two games, Woodbridge said.

Meanwhile, outside the building, there were a few traffic bottlenecks for the opener despite the open parking lots. "We identified improvements with traffic and parking, making adjustments with barricading and staff," said Woodbridge. The cost of parking is included in ticket prices.

Company Work performed
Aero Automatic Sprinkler Co. Fire protection
American Fence Co. Catwalk fence
Apache Pipelines Inc. Storm drainage
Arizona Surveying & Mapping Layout
BCI Suite appliances
Becho Inc. Drill shafts
Buesing Corp. Footing excavation
Cactus Rose Construction Firestopping
Cannon & Wendt Electric Co. Electrical
Charles Court Construction Inc. Waterproofing
ColorCor Painting Painting
Commercial Door & Hardware Hollow metal doors
Commercial Roofers Inc. Roofing
Concrete Coring Co. Sawcutting
Consolidated Rebar Inc. Reinforcing steel
Construction 70 Inc. Westgate earthwork
Coreslab Structures Inc. Precast
Corradini Corp. Terrazzo floors
DuPont Flooring Systems Carpeting, resilient flooring
Duray/JF Duncan Industries Inc. Food service
F. Rodgers Insulation Insulation
Geotechnical & Environmental Consultants Consultant
Havens Steel Structural steel
Hurricane Fence Co. Wrought iron fence
Hussey Seating Co. Seating
Irwin Seating Co. Seating
Juarez Contracting Inc. Site utilities
Kimbrell Electric Inc. Lighting fixtures
Kone Inc. Elevators
Lewis Refrigeration Co. Ice floor
Meyer and Lundahl Manufacturing Co. Arch woodwork
MKB Construction Inc. Metal stud framing
Network Infrastructure Corp. Security system
Norcon Industries Inc. Operable partitions
Northwest Floor and Wall Co. Fiberglass-reinforced panel in food service
On Time Steel Management Handrails
Partitions and Accessories Co. Toilet partitions
Performance Contracting Inc. EIFS system
Red Rock Curb Inc. Extruded curb
Roadrunner Fire & Safety Equipment Fire extinguishers
Rock & Stone Manufacturing Inc. Stone
RWK Electric Co. Electrical
S.O.S. Exterminating Inc. Termite control
Schnabel Foundation Co. Soil nailing
SchoolCraft Inc. Metal lockers
Scuderi Tile Contractors Inc. Stone
SmithCraft Interior signage
South West Metalsmiths Guardrails
Southwest Stair Inc. Handrails
Stagecraft Industries Inc. Blackout curtains
Sun Valley Masonry Inc. Masonry
United Rentals Highway Technologies Striping
University Mechanical Mechanical
Valleycrest Landscape Development Landscaping
Walters & Wolf Glass and glazing
Wholesale Floors Inc. Athletic flooring
Young Electric Sign Co. Monument signs

 

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