Spokane Journal of Business

Arena seat addition, upgrade set to begin in late summer

Project will push capacity of venue beyond 12,000, cost about $1.4 million

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The Spokane Public Facilities District plans to start work late this summer on a project to replace all of the seating in Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena and to add a few hundred seats, which will bring the facility's capacity to just over 12,000.

Nor-Pac Seating Company Inc., of Kent, Wash., is the apparent low bidder on the project at $1.4 million, says Kevin Twohig, executive director of the PFD. Spokane-based ALSC Architects PS designed the new seating system.

The district's board was scheduled to select a contractor April 9.

Twohig says an improved seating design will allow for adding seats in some spaces where there are gaps, plus allow installation of a better-designed, west-end riser system on the lower level for more efficient placement of seats.

When all of the arena's seating renovation is complete, the arena will have just over 12,000 sellable seats, minus those reserved for press and event participants, compared with 11,400 sellable seats now, he says.

Additionally, he says the project will involve replacing lower-level seats with new padded seats, while replacing upper-level seats with ones that have a better ergonomic design but are made with the same plastic material as the seats now in place.

"We'll end up with a better experience for every event and better seating in the lower bowl," Twohig says.

He says the seating upgrade will take about three months to complete and is expected to be done by November. Twohig adds that the construction won't hinder any arena events, instead being scheduled between events.

The arena seating upgrade also will provide a cushion for meeting the NCAA's seating capacity requirements for hosting its men's basketball tournament games there. The district has won a bid to host the second and third rounds of the NCAA men's championship games in March of 2014 at the Spokane Arena. The facility last hosted games during the 2010 tournament.

In 2011, the district paid ALSC Architects about $25,000 for a seating design study that considered an NCAA rule of 12,000 sellable seats for the men's tournament, or the number of seats available to sell, less those used for media, bands, and others.

Twohig says the NCAA since has lowered that requirement to 10,000 sellable seats, and it's made other recent changes such as opening up front-row seats for sale to the public that it previously required to be held for press members. That change also added to the number of sellable seats the arena can count, he says, so when that consideration is combined with additional seats from the better seating system design, the arena has a gain of about 600 sellable seats.

"There was a change in how the NCAA assigns seats, assigning press out of the front row and letting ticket holders in the front row closer to the action," he says. "The press has been assigned to other areas of the building."

The district's arena seating upgrade is part of its planned $60 million-plus in PFD projects, for which voters approved funding last April.

Treva Lind
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