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We love working in large venues. When it comes to space, it’s better to have too much than not enough. In the case of this event, they chose to go with an entire arena, and handed us a different set of challenges.

First, why an arena?

This is the tenth year for this event. They’ve done it a few different ways in a few different spaces, even a theater one year. In this post-covid era, they needed to spread everyone out. They brilliantly chose a basketball arena. The space allowed for a massive floor for seating, overflow seating in the lower bowl seats, and most creatively of all, dinner on the concourse that bordered the area. Spreading everyone out on the concourse allowed for a social, but distant dinner.

The good

A lot of good comes from hosting your event in an arena. Namely, ceiling height. Often in large ballrooms, spaces can feel like a pancake. Plenty wide, but not equally tall. Arenas come with height. Why does this matter? It helps the room feel more connected. A space with a lower ceiling can feel flat, with one guest being way over here, and their colleague being way over there. Arenas are large, but the height helps provide the illusion of being all in a room together. This event budget did not allow for rigging, but having steel to rig from helps a ton with audio, video and lighting design, as well.

The challenges

The choice to go with an arena presented some challenges. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and their obstacles were our pleasure. First, the arena can feel “shut off” with the vast distances of darkness. The LED Ribbon helped that. A simple, clean look that accented the room. Second, no amount of pipe and drape can hide the fact that the stage is only a fraction of the size of the side walls. To solve this, we built our lighting design in a way that pointed lights back at the audience. These flares of light helped divert attention from staring past the backstage into the abyss. Lastly, the width. An awards show does not need a 60×40 arena rock show tour-sized stage. 24×12 will do the trick. However, that can make the front of the room seem dwarfed in a space this size. So, we spread out. The stage was 24 feet wide, but we extended our truss and lighting to be triple that, making the show feel larger, and increasing production value. Increasing production value doesn’t have to be a 1:1 ratio of increasing budget. We get joy out of stretching budget dollars to increase production value with smart choices that spread things out.

Arenas are helpful for a socially distanced event, and this event helped this client see it come together quite nicely. Given the choice between low ceilings and tight spaces or vast stretches of expanse, we’re happy to help make a large room feel intimate. It’s certainly more doable than moving walls. This client saw us helping them make this come to life, and we hope you seeing it inspires you to bring your event to life as well.