Sports venues have a massive impact on a region. For the renovation and expansion of Footprint Center, home to the Phoenix Suns (NBA) and Phoenix Mercury (WNBA), the design team reimagined the aging arena to create a new community asset.
Over the last three decades, Phoenix has built up around the original arena, which opened in 1992. The venue now anchors the southern edge of Phoenix’s central business district.
This prime location and the unique intimacy of the basketball-first seating bowl influenced the Suns’ decision to renovate the arena instead of building new. As did the project cost, which was about half of what they would have paid for new construction.
The challenge was to transform a compact facility with low ceilings, tight concourses, a shortage of amenities (compared to current standards) and an aging infrastructure into an ultra-modern venue that provides an exceptional experience for all fans. 4,000-sq.-ft. of practice and team space was moved from the arena into a new practice facility, freeing up the event level to be reimagined with new amenities.
The multifaceted renovation adds a variety of premium offerings including clubs, suites, premium seating options, themed bars and other social spaces. Existing suites have been turned into mini suites, theater boxes (small groups of boxes with shared dining areas) and all-inclusive party boxes with access to exclusive lounge spaces. The design team reimagined dark back-of-house spaces on the east and west sidelines as 10,000 square feet of premium clubs with high-end materials, textures and fixtures.
A new glass-framed main entry and grand lobby—branded the Casino Arizona Pavilion—welcomes fans. The Pavilion offers fans clear views through the concourses all the way into the new center-hung scoreboard and creates continuity in the building facade. The focal point is an 8,500-sq.-ft., interactive LED video wall that can be programmed with dynamic content. This video wall glows like a beacon and is visible from several blocks away.
Enhancements to the sound, lighting and video systems include the installation of more than 450 new screens. The new 3,550-sq.-ft., HD center-hung scoreboard is six times larger than the previous display board. Its completely digital content ties seamlessly into new LED ribbon boards circling the lower and upper bowls. Technology upgrades include new 5G Wi-Fi coverage.
The design removes walls and seats to widen the previously narrow concourses. This, along with the addition of new escalators, streamlines circulation. The transformation of the seating bowl includes the installation of more than 15,000 cushioned black seats.
Inspired by local food trucks and Airstreams, a new food court on the upper concourse offers a casual, family-friendly environment. Concessions and restrooms have been refreshed with new graphics, finishes and fixtures. New grab-and-go markets and concession stands provide an array of food and beverage choices.
HOK’s design incorporates a significant modernization of the arena’s infrastructure. High-efficiency mechanical systems, air conditioning systems and LED lighting reduce the venue’s electrical energy consumption by 5.5 million kWh annually. This is roughly equivalent to the energy usage of 450 U.S. homes. These systems have eliminated 3,800 tons of annual carbon emissions, equating to approximately 4,700 acres of forest in annual carbon sequestration.
The project was completed in two phases, with the final phase ready for the 2021-2022 season. The pandemic and a shortened 2020-2021 NBA season allowed the Suns to progress through the first phase faster than they anticipated. A recent economic impact study estimated that $153 million worth of jobs depend on arena events.