Silberman's Sneak Preview
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Hello. In my online column I will explain to you how a state-of-the-art arena gets designed and built and the processes that go into it. This is the first entry and I will continue to write on a regular basis to give you a feel and an inside look at how we’re getting ready for an October 2005 opening.
I was hired to oversee the new Uptown Charlotte Arena project on January 6, 2003 after the NBA awarded the Charlotte franchise to Robert L. Johnson. While at that point the team’s first season was 22 months away and the scheduled opening for the new arena was more than two years away, decisions regarding the new facility needed to be made immediately.
Only one week after I came on board I needed to give the city and the architects the key determining factor of how the interior seating bowl would take shape. This was just one component of what was an extremely aggressive timeline – it takes approximately 24-26 good construction months to build a state-of-the-art NBA sports and entertainment arena. If we were to open in time for the 2005-06 season we needed to have the groundbreaking in late July 2003. Most people take six to 12 months doing market-specific research that helps to determine the nature of the arena. I had a week!
I have visited most of the new arenas built in the last 10 years
and my experience in opening MCI Center in Washington, DC was very
beneficial. After talking to Bob Johnson about his vision for the
arena, we decided to model the atmosphere of Conseco Fieldhouse
in Indianapolis combined with the intimacy of the premium seating
of MCI Center and other new facilities. After those decisions and
with input from friends in the arena industry I was ready to give
our design team the direction we wanted. In one week we did what
most others take at least six months to do.
And if you thought that was tough, let me explain a little bit about my first month in Sao Paolo, Brazil, where my task was to develop a soccer stadium (yes, in Brazil!!).
I was to identify, negotiate and complete a land purchase suitable for a new 50,000 seat soccer stadium in a city of 19 million people. To give you a little perspective, New York City is more than eight million people so Sao Paolo is more than twice the size of New York.
What we were trying to do was comparable to putting a stadium right in the middle of Manhattan. Imagine that. I needed to find a viable location that fit the criteria for size and cost of the land, was close to the team’s fans, was accessible by roads, was environmentally safe and was accepted by the neighborhood residents surrounding the site. It wasn’t easy.
We were able to complete negotiations on a site owned by the Catholic Church that was used both as a retirement retreat for priests and as a printing plant for religious materials. The priests were going to have to be relocated elsewhere and a 99-year "comodato" (ground lease) was negotiated for the printing plant to be allowed to remain on the site. We designed the stadium and parking lots by working around the printing plant.
That was accomplished within one month of being in Sao Paolo.
I gave you a lot of information in this first edition, but I hope it provided you a feel for what it took at the start.
In my columns I will also have an area for some Q&A. Please submit your questions and I will select some of the submissions and respond in my column. Thank you.