A Grand Designs Approach for New Homes of British Hockey

First Plans for New Braehead Arena

New year is always time for a change and something new. New clothes perhaps a new car or how about a new home! In hockey terms there are teams looking at upgrading their surroundings. Last year the Edmonton Oilers moved to their new home from the Northlands and this year it is the Detroit Red Wings that will make the move to their new home. We also welcome the Vegas (legal challenge pending) Golden Knights and their T-Mobile Arena home to the hockey community. Closer to home their are moves for new venues too. Braehead potentially and a new rink in Manchester may or may not be on the cards. So what should a Braehead or Manchester ice arena look and feel like.

First of all size. Size matters when it comes to a hockey venue and it is particular tricky in the UK. Too small and you will miss out on revenue and turn away potential fans, too big and it loses atmosphere and becomes costly. The Manchester Arena is the obvious example of a too big a venue but the Braehead Arena is an example of a too small venue. It is becoming outgrown by its fan base and has no room to increase. It is not like a football stadium where you can rebuild a stand or add another tier, a hockey rink is building with a rough and complex heating systems that can not be expanded without major work and expense.

However if you get that right then what does it look like. Rinks and arenas build in the 1990’s and early 2000’s were very prescriptive. The TD Garden, Rogers Centre, Wells Fargo Centre, Keybank Centre if you took the branding and colour scheme away they could be in any city. A two tier bowl with luxury suites in between. Since then though and in Europe arenas have started to regain some of their individuality that was seen in the 60’s and 70’s. Terraced sections are in place in venues in Germany and Switzerland for example. This could be something to consider at new venues.Or how about a viewing platform above the bowl such as the one in Las Vegas.

The old Ice Stadium in Nottingham

The feel of a venue comes from more than the seating area. The concourse needs to be a place where fans can meet, eat and relax both during and after the game. Perhaps a course that was lined with shops one side and the entrance to the bowl on the other would provide the right space. It could even be used as a shopping arcade when games are not in place increase the feel and productivity of the arena.

Then there is the name of rink. Sponsorship brings in a great deal of money and helps supports arenas but with the number of name changes a venue gets we have lost something of the aurora of a venue. The National Ice Centre or Trent FM Arena hasn’t picked up the same ring as the Nottingham Ice Stadium. Hallam FM, Motorpoint Arena has never had a romantic ring to it like Maple Leaf Gardens or Montreal Forum did. Perhaps given time Ice Arena Wales will develop that but it is hard to see of the other new arenas what will develop that romantic, nostalgic name that is forever associated with a team.

A return to the days of oval rinks, stages at the end of the ice and the other unique features of British rinks though the years is not what is needed but perhaps with more thought for the entire experience any new venues in this country can be something unique, different and break the mould for the benefit of all.

Neil Tucker

Neil has written on ice hockey for many websites concentrating on British ice hockey mostly. Neil also covers ice hockey in other countries and organises his Blueliner Hockey Tour. A graduate of the Manchester Metropolitan University Neil turned his hand to hockey writing in 2009. As well as contributing on Blueliner Hockey Neil has contributed to Get Real Hockey and Slapshot Magasine.

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