ROSSETTI’s Inverted Bowl: The Future of Arena Design?

The 21st century has seen some fairly significant advancements in arena design, but it’s come at a price. As arenas have expanded to accommodate luxury suites and high-end concourse attractions, the less expensive seats have moved so far away from the action that the fans feel detached from the in-game experience. But while it’s true that those seats typically generate the least amount of revenue, their importance should not be understated. Typically, the fans sitting in the “cheap seats” are amongst the loudest and most passionate fans, willing to sit far away from the ice just for the opportunity to be inside the building. And for the players, having those fans sitting so far away takes away from the excitement of playing in a loud, energetic building. Fans in the far reaches of the Staples Center or the TD Garden don’t feel close to the action, and the players consequently look microscopic.

ROSSETTI in Michigan has taken dramatic steps to address these concerns, and their futuristic Inverted Bowl arena design offers terrific promise. Not only does the design bring the upper-deck fans much closer to the action (thus also increasing the crowd volume inside the bowl), but it also offers the ancillary benefits of a larger concourse area and a smaller “footprint” (meaning, less real estate is required to construct the building).

Here’s a video presentation detailing how the Inverted Bowl might look and feel. It does a terrific job of demonstrating just how much better ROSSETTI’s Inverted Bowl could be in terms of delivering a dynamic in-game and concourse experience for fans in all seating levels.

As part of the process to develop the Inverted Bowl, ROSSETTI initially tried to evaluate ways to better engage and immerse fans in the action (not only hockey, also basketball, concerts and other arena events). They looked at roller coaster-style fronts, where fans would need to be strapped in to safely view the action. And eventually, they came to a design that offers a more traditional, safer approach but still dramatically transforms the viewing experience. By moving the upper deck(s) forward, more concourse space was created, offering opportunities for club spaces where fans could socialize before and during the event. As a result, the in-seat experience for the fans in the upper levels of the arena would be much more energetic, and the ancillary concourse experience would be much improved (as compared to other modern arenas like the Staples Center and the TD Garden, where the concourses get smaller with each ascending level).

One great example of how this type of seating layout could generate more energy is the old Maple Leaf Gardens, where the tiers of seats behind the goal were “stacked,” making for a terrific high-energy experience. Another example capturing what the feel of the Inverted Bowl’s upper deck seats might be like is the press “halo” above the ice in the Molson Centre in Montreal. The members of the press are virtually over the ice, able to easily see plays develop, and the energy level is terrific when the crowd below (and behind) reaches peak energy.

Perhaps most importantly, the Inverted Bowl requires less real estate, which should substantially help with municipality negotiations. They are currently in talks with the Calgary Flames and Ottawa Senators about new arena construction designs, and the footprints for the proposed arenas will be 20% smaller than for traditional arenas with similar capacity. For one present-day example, the new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit required 900,000 square feet, while the arena ROSSETTI would design for the Flames will probably be closer to 600,000 square feet (33% less real estate needed).

The combination of a more dynamic in-game experience, an improved concourse experience for upper-level fans and a smaller footprint makes ROSSETTI’s Inverted Bowl arena design a quite compelling proposition, one that offers a bright future for hockey fans. It will be very exciting if we get to see their vision come to fruition.