DLR Group's University of Nebraska arena project: Designer Forum


By Melissa Lindberg

In late 2004, DLR Group worked with the city of Lincoln, Nebraska to achieve its vision of a new destination development in the West Haymarket area of the city. This property encompassed railroad tracks, contaminated soil, a large post office and other industrial buildings. What the city envisioned, however, was something very different, a game changer—new restaurants, shops, bars, hotels and, at the center of it all, a new arena to house University of Nebraska Husker basketball, concerts and events. 

DLR Group assisted every step of the way in this process and helped pass the $340 million dollar bond issue that would catapult this vision into a reality. Of the total bond issue, $161 million was dedicated to creating the new Pinnacle Bank Arena, which opened ten years after the initial meeting.

The arena’s interiors concept emerged from a comment made by Chris Beutler, mayor of Lincoln. The mayor said he wanted this to be “the state’s arena.” Tasked with that goal, DLR’s design team researched the geographical significance of Nebraska and, specifically, Lincoln as the state’s capital. The Platte River emerged as an important factor in selecting Lincoln as the state capital. The patterns and motifs carried out in the Pinnacle Bank Arena reference the Platte’s braided river features.

With so many interior spaces to design in this facility, each needed to stand out while remaining unified with the spirit of the overall building, so the colors in the project were directly tied to the exterior metal panels—zinc and copper. The neutral tones allow the facility to transform with each game, concert or performance. The braided river concept guided DLR’s design team through each finish selection, which is generally how colors are selected at DLR Group—a concept is identified, and all the colors, materials, graphics and textures are developed to support it. 

The flooring varies from focal point to a supporting role, depending on the space. The highly public lobbies definitely called for a focal point on the floor. The south lobby, a four-story atrium space that can be viewed from all levels, is a main entrance to the facility. For this space, DLR created a powerful braided river design with five-color epoxy terrazzo. The terrazzo allows for infinite patterns and colors, while also 

providing the durability and low maintenance needed for a high-traffic public space. Precast terrazzo base was utilized in this case, rather than cast in place, to reduce installation time. 

The braided river terrazzo design carries into the north lobby as well. The pattern engages the wall materials and integrates with the three-dimensional Founders’ Wall and nine-monitor Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) display. This is where program advertisements are made, along with real-time broadcasting of events taking place in the seating bowl. On the concourse levels, terrazzo was not in the budget, though the durability and maintenance needs were the same. DLR specified dyed and polished concrete for these spaces. 

With so many hard surface floors in high traffic areas, acoustics needed to be addressed, so DLR’s design team created acoustical panel ceiling clouds in the lobby spaces and partitioned off openings into the spectator seating bowl with heavy velour black theater curtains, which can be drawn to prevent noise spilling from the concourse and concession area into the performance space. 

To support the “state’s arena” goals, concessions were themed after prominent Nebraska geography or locally significant landmarks. Chimney Rock Cantina, Capital Grill and Haymarket Place were a few of the names settled on after months of brainstorming and working with the owner’s concession consultant. In the end, each concession front featured its own materials that relate to the landmark. Unique concession fronts increase food sales, which was the determining factor in creating such memorable themes.

Hospitality areas in the facility called for a warmer, more intimate atmosphere, which was achieved on the floor with carpet tiles. On the Premium Suite level, a custom Interface carpet with a wave design was used in the Loge Lounge—the custom glass mosaic-clad pizza oven at the Loge Bar is another key feature in this space. Many people automatically think hard surface flooring should be used in food areas, but carpet tiles provide the warmth, sound absorption and aesthetic properties without sacrificing in terms of maintenance. The solution-dyed yarns and custom capabilities of Interface carpet allowed DLR to achieve exactly the desired look with the required performance. The colorfastness of the carpet and the ease of cleaning with hot water extraction ultimately sold the client on this approach. 

The suites were designed with long-term aesthetic appeal and performance in mind. Many arena suites are specified with wall-to-wall carpet with stadium seats in the front and a few lounge chairs in the back, but DLR Group’s design instead placed a high top hammered copper community table in the center of the action with a secondary soft seating zone near the suite entrance. Niches were designed into the walls to house the TVs and to prevent light bleed from the TVs into the lower bowl during a performance blackout. A wall of cherry cabinetry with integrated counter induction burners and a hammered copper ice bin creates the perfect frame for the suite holder’s company branding. 

The majority of the suite flooring is 12”x24” ceramic tile called Concrete by Interceramic. The monolithic design allows the carpet inset under the soft seating area to really pop. DLR’s design team searched for a carpet with a large scale pattern to provide a plush, beautiful rug application for the space and found Energy, a design by Atlas Carpet Mills. The advantage of using ceramic tile with a carpet inset is that the suites can be updated with a simple carpet refresh and new paint in ten years. The ceramic tile has a classic look and will last for decades, and that translates to a cost savings to the owner over the life of the building.

As a designer, there is a lot to consider when making flooring selections for public sports facilities. Also, when the facility is over 450,000 square feet, practically every flooring type imaginable could be used. For Pinnacle Bank Arena, ease of maintenance was at the forefront of each flooring selection. How durable is it? How often will it need replacement? What is required in terms of process and staff to maintain the flooring and keep it looking its best? The range of products used at Pinnacle Bank Arena is not overwhelming: terrazzo, polished concrete, carpet, porcelain tile, static dissipative tile and miles of sealed concrete in back-of-house areas. The philosophy is simple—make it easy on the end user. 

DLR Group has sophisticated clients with their own expertise and maintenance programs, and DLR design teams will generally make suggestions and arrive at conclusions together with the clients. Many times, DLR’s designers will walk away from these conversations with new insight on flooring struggles and successes, and that knowledge and experience is applied to ensure successful projects and happy clients.

Copyright 2015 Floor Focus 


Related Topics:The International Surface Event (TISE), RD Weis, Interface