Death Of An Arena

By Jo Last edited 157 months ago
Death Of An Arena


First opened in 1989, but having undergone a major £10 million refit in 1998, London Arena, in the heart of the UK capital’s docklands area, has become an internationally recognised multi-event arena. The extensive refit, completed in September 1998, included a new seating bowl, ice rink and executive suites.


The London Arena is just 15mins away from central London, via the Docklands Light Railway just south of Canary Wharf. Crossharbour and London Arena Station are adjacent to the main entrance of the Arena.


Built on the site of the old Fred Olsen tomato and banana warehouse, the London Arena was opened originally in 1989 and is large enough internally to hold a football match. The capacity of the arena can nowadays be altered hydraulically and can seat from 500 up to 12,500 people. Events range from ice hockey and boxing through to pop concerts and trade shows.


One of the primary reasons for the refit by joint owners, Anschutz, was to introduce professional ice hockey back to London. Along with this, the brief given to architects, HOK Sport, was to turn the arena into a major multi-entertainment centre. This involved introducing a permanent Olympic-size ice-floor, 48 luxury hospitality boxes with views over the arena, two brand new team dressing rooms, a completely refurbished foyer and box office - providing easier and faster access for larger crowds – new luxury seating for up to 12,500, plus a state-of-the-art SACO SmartVision video scoreboard, the only one of its kind outside the US.

Something that HOK Sport is adept at is providing obstruction free sightlines in stadia and arenas. For London Arena the architects provided 9,000m² of flexible pillar free space.

All services and public circulation facilities were updated, including an upgrade of the catering amenities as well as the public concourses. Access for articulated vehicles was also improved.


Timescales for construction of the refit were tight. Anschutz wanted to launch the London Knights Ice Hockey team at the start of the 1998/99 Season in September 1998, which meant a 16-week project.

Poole Stokes Wood (PSW Projects) was the project manager for the four-month programme. Working closely with architects, HOK Sport, enabled a number of corners to be cut.

Mott MacDonald was appointed as the building services engineers, with Maxwell Stewart being contracted to work on the heating and ventilation.

Scottish-based, WA Fairhurst, who were the design engineers for the original Arena, were contracted as the structural engineers for the refit.


Fundamental to the whole project was the installation of the ice floor. Canadian based, Cimco Refrigeration, was appointed to install the ice pad. The company was responsible for the design and build of the refrigeration plant, the civil works inclusive of all concrete work related to the refrigerated slab, ice resurfacer and dasher system. As Cimco is the NHL's preferred supplier, the system has been designed around the published NHL guidelines for refrigeration standards. The system is based on ammonia as the primary refrigerant and ethylene glycol as the secondary refrigerant. Before constructing the pad, the contractors had to excavate some 1,500m³ of concrete flooring and install 13 miles of the pipework needed to freeze and defrost the ice.

As the arena is used for multiple events, a system known as "polar floor" was installed. Supplied by the US company, Stage Right, through their UK representatives, Audience Systems, the polar floor provides a flat floor surface which retains the correct temperature for the ice underneath and the Arena overall.


The hospitality suites are suspended from the roof, which caused a logistical problem due to the concurrent ice-floor installation work underneath. Fairport Steelwork was responsible for supplying the 200t of structural steel that was required for the 48 hospitality suites. The company also provided the suspended floor suites together with the lift shafts and new staircases, whilst Midland Shopfitters was employed to oversee the fitting-out of the suites.

The additional four conference rooms and 48 VIP suites, adjacent to the main arena, provide for small meetings, syndicate groups and hospitality for between 10 and 250 delegates. In particular, the Waterside Room, with its panoramic views of Docklands and Canary Wharf, is a superb stand-alone conference venue with its own dedicated entrance and catering facilities.


Video Screen and Multimedia consultants, Conceptron Associates of Canada put together a very complex tender document for the supply and installation of an eight-sided centre hung video display and scoreboard gondola with auxiliary equipment, integrated with the very latest "state of the art" LED video technology.

Conceptron Associates is an independent design consultancy providing total solutions to the live production, display and audio-visual design aspects of projects. Working directly for the owners (Anschutz Sports Holdings), the company researched large-format display technologies and evaluated existing products. Their specification also included a live production control room, including the arena-cabling infrastructure.

Venue Revenue Services Ltd won the contract and were invited to design, supply and install the first eight-sided centre hung video and scoreboard display in Europe.

Suspended from the roof, in the centre of the Arena, VRS (Venue Revenue Services) supplied four 7ft x 9ft SACO SmartVision 12mm video screens together with four LED scoreboards supplied by EDS (Electronic Display Services). In addition, EDS were responsible for designing and constructing the giant gondola that houses the screens.

A major consideration in terms of the design of the scoreboard was the floor to ceiling height of the Arena; just 15m in total. The scoreboard, which is 5m in depth and has a total area of 24m², was built within the Arena due to its size. VRS also had to take into consideration the importance of sight lines together with the importance of ensuring that the video and scoreboards are visible from everywhere in the Arena.

In all VRS spent less than 21 days on-site. Since being awarded this contract, VRS has been involved with a number of other European Arenas and several stadia projects.

Conceptron worked with both the scoreboard contractor (VRS) and the video system contractor (MVI Broadcast Systems) to ensure that the systems were installed, integrated, commissioned and operational for the opening event.


£2 million was spent on seating, which was provided by Audience Systems, who supplied one of the largest, modern telescopic seating systems in the UK, the fold down Espace Chairs on TX mobile, fixed and power operated platform units.

As with the ice floor contractors, it was vital for Audience Systems to take into consideration the variety of events staged at the Arena, together with the differing seating requirements. It was vital that the venue retained its 12,500 capacity plus the ability to provide 9,000m² flat exhibition space. All of the seats are fully upholstered and the modern means that all the seats are retractable. This state-of-the-art design enables event organiser's optimum flexibility to vary seating configurations.


Philadelphia-based, Spectacor Management Group (SMG), the world's largest private facility management company, took over ownership of London Arena in 1994. Based in USA, the company currently manage arenas and stadiums in the US and Europe, including the Louisiana Superdrome, Mile High Stadium, Denver and Oslo Stadium.

During 1998, SMG entered into a partnership agreement with the US-based company Anschutz Sports Holdings and now hold an equal share in the ownership of London Arena.


The London Knights are the first fully professional ice hockey team in the capital for over 30 years. Their home is the London Arena.

Farewell, oh sad old white elephant of a stadium, swept away to make room for executive flats.

Last Updated 29 January 2007