A $1 million upgrade is running on schedule at U.S. Bank Arena, which recently hosted the Cincinnati Cyclone's first face-off of the season.
The project, which began in April and is the first major overhaul at the Downtown concert venue since 1997, is eliminating the concrete pinch points in the lower bowl and extending the retractable seating in those areas.
U.S. Bank Arena operators said they had to expand the nearly 40-year-old facility to hold more people to meet market demands of touring musicians and other events.
The move comes after Cincinnati lost the chance earlier this year to hold the 2016 Republican National Convention because the arena was too small.
"By removing some permanent seating on the sides to allow the present stage to be pushed upstage, the venue now has a wider stage footprint and more floor capacity," said Sean Lynn, spokesman for U.S. Bank Arena. "By increasing the sellable capacity it raises the potential gross sales and income for promoters and artists playing the facility. In short, the artist has the potential to make more money.
Construction is also underway for the replacement of the cyclones ice cooling system and new state-of-the-art ammonia system.
"This will result in a more stable ice playing surface, the ability to build ice faster, and overall a more efficient system," Lynn said. "In addition to owning the facility, we own the Cyclones and they continue to be a major point of emphasis for our organization. While the success on the ice has been wonderful, we continue to see success in the stands with an average attendance of almost 4,500 and continual increases in both attendance and revenue.
"The Spring of 2015 will see another improvement project begin as the arena will renovate and expand our green room and locker room areas," he continued. "This project will add several new spaces to the backstage area including two additional team locker rooms. The main motivation for this is to make the artist experience at the arena more comfortable.
"As tours continue to grow, the need for additional green room and dressing room space is needed. The addition of the locker room space solidifies the venue as a potential destination for future (National Collegiate Athletic Association) championships as we work with the city and greater Cincinnati Sports Corp. to secure those events."
The Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau has said the arena is so old, the biggest and best conventions and concerts are bypassing Cincinnati in favor of newer facilities.
Lynn said everyone at U.S. Bank Arena agrees and they were disappointed, too, when organizers of the Republican convention chose Cleveland over Cincinnati. But, he said, the facility did just complete one of it's busiest years and the calendar is packed with plenty of upcoming events.
"The past year saw sold out performances by Bruno Mars, Bruce Springsteen, the Eagles, and Michael Buble," Lynn said. "We continue to see success and plan on continuing our aggressive programming of the facility."
For background and perspective, unlike other cities, the arena isn't publicly funded. It's privately owned by Nederlander Entertainment.
The arena opened in 1975 as Riverfront Coliseum. Its concert capacity is 17,556.
In the last 20 years, newer arenas have opened in the region, see how they compare.
Columbus – Nationwide Arena
· Built in 2000
· Concert capacity: 21,000
· Publicly funded
Cleveland – Quicken Loan Arena
· Built in 1994
· Concert capacity: 20, 562
· Built with tax money, team has invested $129 million
Louisville – Yum Center
· Built in 2010
· Concert capacity: 17,500
· Developed, financed and built by an authority with ties to the state of Kentucky
Indianapolis – Bankers Life Fieldhouse
· Built in 1999
· Capacity: 20,000 for center stage concerts
· Owner: city of Indianapolis
Highland Heights, KY. – The Bank of Kentucky Center
· Built in 2008
· Capacity (center stage): 10,500
· Owner: Northern Kentucky University
Raw Interview Video: Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann on needs of U.S. Bank Arena