At The Q, Future Is Already Here

With some improvements yet to come, new premium spaces are up and running

  • by Don Muret
  • Published: November 7, 2018

Semicircle booths with room for four in the Westfield Champions Club are among the new premium options. (Courtesy Cleveland Cavaliers)

The Cleveland Cavaliers are making up for lost time. The NBA team is in the midst of a $185 million renovation of Quicken Loans Arena designed to give the building a new sparkle as an anchor for the city’s entertainment district.

“We’re blessed to have an arena that has served northeast Ohio well and performed at a high level over an extended period of time,” said Len Komoroski, CEO for the Cavs and the Q. “Entering our 25th year, we had the oldest arena in the league without a structural renovation. The seating bowl works great with terrific sightlines, but we’ve been challenged with structural flaws — a lack of public space and tight concourses —  which inhibits operational flow.”

The first phase, completed in time for the Oct. 2 Justin Timberlake concert, focused on rebuilding premium spaces with smaller groups of seats along the east and west sidelines. A pair of club lounges were updated and a new club, the Bacardi Ocho Signature Lounge, which is exclusive to courtside seat holders on the east side, replaces the old weight room at event level.

The retrofit effectively reduces the arena’s total suites to 62, down from 93 under the previous configuration. Remodeling work was done on the existing suites, some of which had not been touched since the building opened, Komoroski said.

Bacardi_Ocho_Signature_Lounge.JPGThe new Bacardi Ocho Signature Lounge is reserved for courtside seat holders. (Courtesy Cleveland Cavaliers)

The new inventory consists of 20 eight-person theater boxes; 20 four-person club boxes; seven lounge boxes, designed as semicircle booths with room for four; and 200 lounge seats, which are 30-inch leather seats in the Westfield Champions Club. The Cavs have sold more than 90 percent of the new inventory, team officials said, but they would not disclose further information.

The second phase of construction, to be completed next summer, will transform the arena’s exterior from a drab concrete wall to a glass atrium extending six stories tall on the north side. The addition creates 43,000 square feet of new indoor public gathering space, and for the first time, patrons will have views to downtown Cleveland, Komoroski said.

Behind the glass wall, a brushed aluminum curtain will provide a dramatic architectural element with lighting that can change colors and textures to create a wave effect, he said.

“We can change the personality of the venue depending on the event,” Komoroski said. “We have more than 200 live events and 1,400 private events, and the curtain will create a more dynamic experience as well as connecting to the city in that realm.”

On the south side, the facility’s footprint will expand by 6,500 square feet and feature a new brewpub destination. The Cavaliers, in conjunction with Gensler, their architect of record, plus Rossetti and SHoP Architects, worked hard to develop new public spaces at an arena that was lacking those “neighborhoods” since the building opened in 1994, Komoroski said.

The emphasis was on creating destinations rooted in Cleveland through the imagery and materials used in design and construction. For example, the exposed steel in the clubs ties back to the city’s industrial origins, and tile patterns in the suite restrooms recall the region’s bridges spanning the Cuyahoga River, said Ryan Sickman, Gensler’s sports and convention center leader.

“You will see hints of Cleveland everywhere,” Sickman said. “The entire design team wanted to showcase where the city might be going in the next 50 to 100 years. It’s in a transitional period, and we wanted this building to represent that transition and be the catalyst for pushing it ahead.”

In the south end of the upper deck, which the Cavs refer to as “Loudville,” a reference to the boisterous fans in that space, three sections of seats (216-218) will be removed to build a standing-room platform and a bar, plus new general seating. The space will be branded as Loudville Landing presented by FirstEnergy, the same utility that holds naming rights to the Cleveland Browns’ stadium.

At the Q, the landing and the bar will provide views to the atrium and downtown, and the Cavs expect it to evolve into one of the arena’s most popular destinations, Komoroski said.

For those in the upper deck, “to date, they just had name, rank and serial number in terms of amenities,” he said. “The basics are there, but to get anything more, they would make their way to street level, which would compound the problem as far as [foot] traffic,” he said.

The adjustments will ultimately reduce total seating to 19,342, down from 20,562 under the original layout. When the renovations are complete, Quicken Loans Arena will remain among the NBA’s biggest venues, but the reduction brings it a bit closer to Fiserv Forum and Golden 1 Center. The league’s two newest arenas both seat about 17,500.

“The Q, as we knew it previously, was never an iconic building,” Komoroski said. “It’s not one you might see in a postcard coming from Cleveland. It’s been an amazing evolution. We’ve pulled bits and pieces from a variety of different venues. It’s been a mashup with our touches to make it uniquely Cleveland.”

The two-year project falls in line with multiple NBA arenas that have recently undergone or are in the midst of face-lifts surpassing $100 million. The list includes Wells Fargo Center, AT&T Center, Vivint Smart Home Arena and State Farm Center. This week, Delaware North announced details and renderings of a $100 million expansion of TD Garden in Boston.

In Cleveland, the upgrades led to the NBA awarding Cleveland the 2022 NBA All-Star Game, which the league officially announced Nov. 1.

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is privately funding $115 million of the project cost, and the team extended its lease for another seven years through 2034. The balance of funding is through public tax dollars and a county reserve fund, among other sources. The publicly owned arena is the county’s largest driver of economic activity, Komoroski said, and the renovations will keep the building on par with newer NBA facilities.

“It’s still cheaper than building a new arena,” said Sickman, whose firm also designed $40 million in upgrades to Capital One Arena in Washington. “The Cavs made a commitment to reuse an asset that could [last for] the next 30 years … and continue to grow that part of downtown. It’s the right strategy.”

  • by Don Muret
  • Published: November 7, 2018