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Hangin' With ... HOK Senior VP/Director Of Entertainment & Sport John Rhodes

JOHN RHODES is the senior VP/director of entertainment & sport for architecture firm HOK. His organization, which has designed a number of sports complexes including Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif., was recently awarded the contract to design the New Palau Blaugrana, the home of Barcelona's basketball team. The facility will have a capacity of 12,000 for sporting events and 12,500 for social and cultural events, and the project is expected to cost around €90M ($102M). Construction on the new building is expected to begin during the '17-18 basketball season and be completed during the '19-20 season. Rhodes talked to SBD Global about the unique design of the basketball arena, how it will be used during the basketball team's offseason and how his team's project will complement the nearby Camp Nou. 

On taking advantage of the Mediterranean climate ...
John Rhodes: We wanted to develop a design which was very much about the club, for the club. And for the local context. We really took the view that Barcelona is this wonderful Mediterranean climate, so we wanted to create a building which worked with that climate, and create a public space that could be used with the arena. So the spaces between the inside and the outside are very much connected. Some of the concourse is outside as well as inside, so that was one of the big innovations of the project.
 
John Rhodes
On building a facility to be used year-round ... 
Rhodes: We can reduce the concourses internally because we've got this overflow space externally. But also, we can pull some of the concessions out into that public realm. And they can work every day of the week. So you have these concessions which will be there on dark days as well as event days. That, of course, means that you can invest in the food and beverage, which means the food's going to be better. It's going to create more revenue, because these assets are being used more frequently. What we're trying to create is an environment where we can really maximize the asset potential of the arena components.

On creating opportunities for signage ...
Rhodes: It's our job as architects to really optimize the potential to attract sponsors. We've really created a design that is flexible, so we can tailor it in response to sponsors. We're very excited about that as well, the ability to work with the sponsors to create the right inventory for them. I think we've got lots of opportunities within the building design, and we've created that flexibility to do that going forward. ... What we have created is really great opportunities for people to participate in sponsorships or partnerships as we move forward.

On the atmosphere the asymmetrical design aims to create ... 
Rhodes: European basketball has a very different character to that of the NBA. It's more akin to football, so how do we create a modern basketball arena or a handball arena for that? In some ways that evolved into the idea of the enlarged end, where we could increase the capacity of the arena but also could get this wonderful connection with the fans and create a wonderful home-end advantage. ... The idea is that you create a home end. There's lots of examples in football, like Borussia Dortmund's Yellow Wall, or the Kop at Liverpool, where there is this big wall of fans, where there is no opportunity for the energy to leak out. 

Hangin' With runs each Friday in SBD Global.

The seating bowl's asymmetrical design aims to emulate a theatre environment.