How sports venues are turning “cheap seats” into fan favorites

In the ever-evolving landscape of live sports, the demand for immersive and engaging fan experiences has reached new heights and has the sports arena renovation market booming. Seeking to revitalize and revamp aging facilities, owners of athletic venues – from MLB ballparks to NCAA basketball arenas – are looking for ways create more inviting and varied live sports settings.

The design and engineering experts at Sightline Commercial Solutions have been called upon to help transform both the spatial and experiential aspects of stadiums and arenas across the country by creating alternative types of viewing options that go beyond traditional VIP and Club Level spaces. Following are three ways the company is working with venues to optimize historically underutilized areas and boost attendance and profitability.

Field-Level/End-Zone Experiences

Providing a close and often captivating experience for spectators, field-level and end-zone seating sections have become increasingly popular – and premium – due to their proximity to players and the action on the field. At the Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, for instance, Sightline Commercial Solutions recently created all-new seating risers for the lower bowl platforms at both ends of Texas Christian University’s (TCU) basketball court. These “Courtside Club” VIP areas provide a permanent look and feel but can be dismantled and moved into storage based on the format and capacity needs of different events.

Another example of this type of prime viewing can be found at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. As part of a major renovation for the 50-year-old stadium, Sightline Commercial Solutions paired custom engineered glass divider rails with VIP seating at the North End Zone to create a comfortable and exclusive atmosphere for those closest to the action. The team also fabricated helical glass railing on floating walls at the 200/250 Loge Levels and 500/600 Terrace Levels to create “super vomitories” with unobstructed views of the scoreboard and the field from both sidelines.

Field-level seating can also be found at high-profile venues such as Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium and Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. In Miami, Sightline Commercial Solutions contributed more than 2,100 square feet of seating platforms to create four luxury seating sections in the Field Club areas. The project in Charlotte involved pairing seating risers with Griprail, lush seating and low-maintenance composite decking to create an exclusive and versatile field-level viewing area.

“Fans love being down on the field and close to the action because it allows them to feel more engaged in the game and connected to their favorite teams,” said Brian Elliott, national project sales manager for Sightline Commercial Solutions. “The atmosphere is livelier and more energetic, and it affords spectators the opportunity to interact with players – an experience that is especially memorable for younger fans.”

Another important aspect of fan engagement is ensuring everyone has access to the best seats in the house. To that end, the Staten Island FerryHawks tapped Sightline Commercial Solutions to help improve accessibility at its minor league ballpark by providing weatherproof and ADA compliant wheelchair accessible platform infills at field level. Similarly, the company had the privilege of being part of an accessibility renovation at Zephyr Field in New Orleans. There, the team installed wheelchair accessible platform infills in 19 of the stadium’s lower bowl sections by knocking out existing seats and adding ramps, counter-height railing, IBC compliant guardrail and aluminum closure panels to create dedicated areas designed to cater to handicapable fans. In the end, both projects not only improved access and sightlines for wheelchair users but also opened the concourse areas for better traffic flow.

Infill and Modular Seating

Speaking of infill, these versatile and often modular sections have grown in popularity due to their ability to be retrofit. Typically added during a renovation, these sections can be customized to provide enhanced amenities or expanded seating capacity for different types of events.

“Custom infills have become a big trend in stadiums and offer a practical solution for right-sizing capacity and optimizing venue versatility, utilization and revenue,” noted Courtney Schmitz, regional sales manager for Sightline Commercial Solutions. “With the integration of premium components and access to special services, these customized systems can be used to convert areas of a venue that have historically been underutilized into preferred seating for fans seeking a unique viewing experience. They also visually fill holes and create the impression that a venue is at full capacity.”

At Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Canada, Sightline Commercial Solutions replaced two of the main seating areas with a customized platform system to create seven levels of specialized viewing decks that offer spectators nearly twice as much personal space as before.

During a recent renovation at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, the company custom tailored a seating riser with an automated liftgate that allows the section to be raised to allow equipment and emergency vehicle access to the field.

Other examples of how venues are utilizing custom infill include:

  • Indiana Farmers Coliseum (Indianapolis): To allow the facility to be quickly and easily transformed into a hockey arena, concert venue or stadium for other events, a seven-tier removable vomitory infill comprised of more than 500 custom and ADA accessible viewing platforms was installed. It is designed to fit between a newly constructed dasher board system for the ice rink setup and concrete stadia that has existing fixed seating.
  • Petco Park (San Diego): The VIP Platform infill features larger tiers for more spacious and premium viewing, along with custom guardrails made of anodized aluminum with acrylic infill specially engineered to support TV screens and deliver a high-end, aesthetically appealing look. Paired with cushy seating, cupholders and tables with cloth coverings, patrons are sure to enjoy a one-of-a-kind day at the ballpark.
  • PNC Stadium (Houston): A set of standard bleachers was transformed into a tiered VIP section using 200 portable all-aluminum platforms outfitted with branded tables, drink rail and stylish cable rail to accommodate more than 1,100 fans.

“Designed with versatility in mind, semi-permanent systems like the ones at TCU and at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum can be set up in numerous configurations using the same components, making them ideal for hosting a range of events and audiences,” noted Elliott.

Standing Supporter Sections

Inspired by European football (a.k.a. soccer), one of the fastest growing trends across sporting venues of all types is the addition of standing supporter sections. These designated areas allow the most avid fans to stand and cheer on their favorite teams in unity. Ideal for filling otherwise underutilized spaces of a venue, these sections create a boisterous atmosphere and a vibrant visual spectacle due to the banners, flags and other team paraphernalia often displayed by fans to show their loyalty to the home team.

Sightline Commercial Solutions was the first to introduce this trend to the U.S. when it installed a standing rail system with integrated seating at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. Featuring safety railing and folding seats that enable supporters to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, the North End Terrace houses the spirited fans of the Los Angeles Football Club who don’t stop cheering for The Black and Gold until the final whistle. A fascia mounted metal railing frame angles back slightly, creating a comfortable lean rail for standing spectators while also increasing headroom for seated patrons. The slim profile tip-up seats provide comfort and maximum standing room for enthusiastic supporters, as well as enhanced crowd control.

“The vision for this project was to create an unrivaled in-stadium environment and sporting culture for devoted LAFC supporters that would enable them to feel like they were right on top of the action on the field,” said Schmitz. “With that in mind, our team was inspired to reimagine the safe standing concept in a completely new way.”

Since the introduction of this railing system in 2018, it has become a mainstay at soccer stadiums across the U.S., including GEODIS Park (Nashville), Field (Columbus, OH) and TQL Stadium (Cincinnati). Standing rail also is branching out into other sports venues as part of student standing sections and socializing areas at collegiate facilities and an upcoming Sightline NBA project in Los Angeles.

Still relatively new to the U.S., standing supporter sections require detailed customization and the consideration of many factors. Venue owners must contemplate a variety of comfort and safety elements such as pitch, maneuverability and egress, along with options including tip-up seats, bench seating and locking mechanisms.

“The customization aspect of these systems is a major point of differentiation between Sightline Commercial Solutions and the typical seating suppliers,” explained Elliott. “Since we are a railing fabricator first, we have the experience and capabilities to effectively navigate the nuances required for these standing supporter applications.”

From field-level viewing spaces and dedicated supporter sections to modular and customizable spaces for every level of an arena or stadium, today’s venues are exploring viewing options that cater to spectators of all types. Sightline Commercial Solutions leverages its experienced design and engineering team to be a turnkey partner and comprehensive resource by fostering close communication with clients and other trades, understanding the many considerations that go into a project and overseeing quality control. By harnessing innovative design principles and cutting-edge technology, the company can work with professional and collegiate sports venues to engineer creative solutions that not only drive additional attendance and revenue but enable fans to forge unforgettable memories.

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