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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)
A preliminary study has concluded it's possible to dig into the earth to add 4,000 or more seats to Norfolk's Scope arena.
But it's not clear how much the renovation would cost or who would pay for it.
The study, provided by the city in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, shows the first renderings of what a larger Scope could look like. It envisions the arena floor 4½ feet lower than it is now, though that figure could change slightly.
The city, which owns the arena, has not decided whether the renovation will happen.
"Everything is going to depend on what the price of this project will be," said John Rhamstine, director of SevenVenues, the city agency that runs the arena.
More details, including the cost, are expected in another study by the end of the year.
Scope, which opened in 1971, seats 8,701 for hockey, 10,276 for basketball and up to 13,600 for concerts. One section of the preliminary study shows new seating capacities of 10,574 for hockey, 14,294 for basketball and 14,914 for concerts with a center stage. But officials said none of the numbers is certain.
Mayor Kenny Alexander said he would like the arena to have about 15,000 seats.
Several City Council members have said they don't support major public spending to expand Scope. Alexander said there could be a public-private partnership, with companies paying for most of the renovation and making money from ticket sales. The city would benefit from taxes, parking and perhaps arena naming rights.
Over the years, Norfolk has replaced seats, upgraded sound and lighting systems and installed a modern scoreboard. But the arena has never had a complete renovation or expansion.
Alexander announced an expansion study during his first State of the City address in May, saying more seating would help draw larger sporting and entertainment events, such as NBA exhibition games and concerts.
The city hired a Los Angeles company, Oak View Group, to perform the study. Oak View in turn partnered with two architecture firms, Populous and Moseley.
Norfolk had already budgeted $100,000 for the study.
Virginia Beach developer planning to build an 18,000-seat arena at the Oceanfront runs into a financial deadline today.
That project and an expanded Scope would give Hampton Roads two major arenas just 18 miles apart.
Besides lowering the arena floor, the preliminary Scope plan calls for expanding the concourse to add new restrooms, concessions and clubs or restaurants, as well as a modern heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.
Rhamstine said the larger concourse would fit under Scope's 24 "flying buttresses," the sloping supports that surround the arena and connect to its roof.
The study shows that, after a meeting in September, officials from the city, Oak View and the architecture firms rejected two other options. One called for lowering the arena floor by 15 feet, the other for a basketball-focused layout that would have reduced hockey seating.
Oak View Group, formed in 2015, aims to help sports and music venues sign major sponsors and attract new events, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. It has an "Arena Alliance" that includes partnerships with 26 venues, among them is New York's Madison Square Garden, and it works with Live Nation Entertainment.
Oak View is working on a $600 million expansion of Seattle's KeyArena that includes lowering the floor by 15 feet in hopes of attracting an NBA or NHL team.
Any lowering of Scope would have to take into account the water table and flooding problems. The current arena floor is above sea level, but the Scope exhibition halls are below, Rhamstine said.
Peter Luukko, a longtime NHL executive who works with Oak View, said architectural and engineering reviews have shown the water issues are "pretty easily addressed" when lowering the floor 4½ feet.
But Luukko said the rejected 15-foot option would have been "cost prohibitive." The basketball-focused option would not have added many seats, according to the study.
The study says Scope would likely shut down for 18 to 20 months during an expansion.
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