Friday, January 28, 2011

Dear Richmond, If You're Gonna Build A Coliseum.....

So the proverbial "next step" has at least been spoken by those who, thanks to $150K from four area companies, did a study on where to put a replacement for the Richmond Coliseum and how big it should be built.

Of the four proposed locations, they like a parcel of land next to the current Coliseum, which opened about 40 years ago. Sadly, this parcel is the smallest of the four and provides the least flexibility for parking.

(Insert pause to fume slightly here.)

Meanwhile, the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park is withholding judgement on the site, because it is currently seen by them as a bridge connecting their endeavor with VCU Medical Center.

So, according to the article in the Times-Dispatch, here are some "good points":

1) The Mayor likes the recommended site.
2) The Greater Richmond Convention Center and the Convention and Visitors Bureau likes it, as it keeps the arena next to them. The article also states how it keeps it close to entertainment venues, which I can agree with if we're talking The National and Richmond CenterStage. Shockoe Bottom? Not so much.


Now for my thoughts......

1) Why pick the smallest parcel of land available? If this parcel is adjacent to the Coliseum site, why not use a block or two of it as well? Especially in light of the two most important things, in my view.


2) This article, as many before it, use the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament as a "measuring stick" or "holy grail" of sorts as to what kind of seating capacity you'll need in a new arena in order to successfully bid for events of this nature. Right now, the plans are around 14,000 with a stage, 15,000 in the round. Apparently some people connected with this study think 15,000 seats are plenty to get the Tournament back to Richmond for the first time since 1996.

I was there when the Tournament first came to Richmond in 1990. It was an incredible experience, the type Richmond rarely gets to enjoy and take advantage of. The nation's eyes watched us. In 48 hours, there was a major upset due to a 28-foot shot near the end of a game, the end of Terry Holland's career as head coach of UVA, both Jim Boeheim and Digger Phelps brought their teams to play, and future NBA stars like Derrick Coleman took the floor. CBS Sports was there, in fact, their "A" team, at the time, of Brent Musberger and Billy Packer were there. Yes, there were three other sites playing games on the same two days, but suffice to say Richmond, Virginia got its name all over CBS that wonderful March weekend. You can't buy that sort of publicity, even today.

I do NOT think 15,000 seats will be enough to make this a reality again in the RVA. Let's look at the sites being used for the 2011 Tournament, remember that there's now four "play-in" games as the field is up to 68 teams.

PLAY-IN GAMES: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, OH--Capacity: 13,455

(Note: Dayton has hosted the one play-in game in previous years since 2001....)

FIRST/SECOND ROUND: Verizon Center, Washington DC--Capacity: 20,173
McHale Center, Tucson, AZ--Capacity: 14,545
Pepsi Center, Denver, CO--Capacity: 19,155
St. Pete Times Forum, St. Petersburg, FL--Capacity: 20,500
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH--Capacity: 20,562
Time Warner Arena, Charlotte, NC--Capacity: 19,568
United Center, Chicago, IL--Capacity: 20,917
BOK Center, Tulsa, OK--Capacity: 17,839

We see the following trends:

1) Only two arenas seat less than 18,000. The smallest, in Tucson, is on a college campus (University of Arizona) with a long history of tourney success, though not recently.

2) Five of the eight arenas are used by NBA teams.

3) Richmond's best (and in my opinion, only) hope, by building a 15,000 seat arena, would be to steal the first games from Dayton. But, trust me, to many die-hard March Madness fans, the one game these past 10 years have been forgettable. Heck, people don't even count them in the office and online pick 'em games and pools. Now, the two-night doubleheader concept starting this year may add some luster to it, but frankly, if you want any chance of having the best teams in any given year to come to your town's arena in the first two rounds, you better have the seats available to host what I still call Rounds One and Two, but will henceforth be called "Rounds Two and Three".


Away from basketball, Richmond is constantly in competition with other metro areas for major arena "events" (concerts, wrestling, MMA, preseason NHL and NBA, etc.), and, Richmond usually loses. With the opening of the beautiful John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville a few years back, C'Ville actually jumped ahead of Richmond when it came to a great choice for concert promoters, et al. This was a collective slap in the face to Metro Richmond.

So why would Richmond now build something new that has essentially the same seating as Charlottesville? Don't we need to differentiate ourselves from JPJ?? As for concerts, the lure of JPJ being located at a place as prestigeous (and full of 20-somethings) as the University of Virginia sure looks better to me than the Richmond response of VCU, as a fair number of students there don't live on campus.


So, Richmond, if you're gonna build a Coliseum, and I know it may not be a reality for another ten years, take this time and opportunity to build in increases in seating, parking, and amentities (suites, etc.) so two things happen:

1) When it opens, Richmond FINALLY has a first-class arena worthy of a city twice our size, rather than settling for one which is equal to one in a city MUCH SMALLER than us 1.3 hours up I-64....

2) Thus, build it for the year 2040, not the year 2020. I expect 20,000 seats will be needed for events long before 2040 due to natural population growth.

CLOSING: My fear is they build a 15K seat arena that will disappoint. My hope is that they would take some space from the current Coliseum site, if they adjoin, and make it an 18-19K seat arena that will position Richmond for a number of economic opportunities in the future.

After all, did any of you think, 15 years ago, that Oklahoma City, with a population even with Richmond, would be home to a successful NBA franchise? I bet someone was forward-thinking in OKC years ago, which made this a reality.


1 comment:

JD said...

How about we fix all the school buildings and make them accessible first?