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More Thoughts on Stadium Art

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A continuation of the Silver Seven discussion about stadium art at the Canadian Tire Centre.

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Last weekend Brad asked which version of common stadium art should grace the entrance to Canadian Tire Centre. I thought about replying in the comment section, but soon realized my response was better suited to a post.

Brad's right to bring up the question of art at CTC. He took us through some of the conventional forms commemorative sports statues tend to take, but maybe you were left wondering why such decorative elements would be a good use of money. Art has long been overlooked by the Senators and serves as an important component both in enhancing the building's status as an attraction and in conveying the team's narrative. Plus it can be moved if/when the team starts building a new facility.

Before deciding what type of statue should be installed at CTC and who the subject should be, the organization needs to determine what they are trying to convey. Is the art piece designed to illustrate a team's dominant narrative? To depict lesser known aspects of team history? To show an individual's and/or the team's connection to the community? Perhaps the intended purpose of a future installation at the CTC will be to illustrate the longevity of hockey in the capital. Whatever the motivation, it's important to consider the relationship between art and fans before going forward with the project.

The multitude of reasons fans have for paying money and going to a game is varied. Statues and other artwork are not likely to be on the top of such a list. However, the uniqueness of an arena or stadium does draw fans in. One of the best things about visiting another team's home field or ice is the comparison you make with your own building. Art gives a team, especially a team which owns its arena and doesn't share the facility with another major sports team, a chance to offer fans something unique. A statue is something many fans want to go and see each time they go to a game. Statues become part of pre-game rituals, especially at the college level: fans take photos in front of them, climb them, dress the figures up in hats and scarves, and touch statues for luck. In short, stadium art becomes an easy, relatively economical, way to enhance the in-game experience for fans.

For an excellent example of how commemorative statues enhance connection and in-game experience for fans, we turn to the Baltimore Orioles. In 2012, the Orioles celebrated the 20th anniversary of the iconic Oriole Park at Camden Yards with the Orioles Legends Celebration Series. The Celebration Series featured six bronze statues of former Oriole players and managers. The statues were revealed, roughly one a month, throughout the season. The game day ceremony for each unveiling provided the team with an opportunity to acknowledge an individual, like Frank Robinson or Earl Weaver, bring together members of his team, and highlight great moments in team history (World Series wins, MVP honours, the Iron Man streak). One of the best about this series was that the Orioles gave out replica statues to each fan in attendance. While some inevitably made their way to eBay, this promotion had purpose: it connected fans to the ceremony, the player, the team's history and more broadly, the stadium.

As successful as commemorative statues have been in Baltimore and other sports venues, it's fruitful to think beyond the statue. The traditional bronze statue depicting a beloved former player or a famous play works, but has become conventional. The dimensions of a baseball or football stadium and its interplay between interior and exterior space allow greater opportunities to make both the outdoor space and indoor space commemorative. However, there are ways to make the narrow concourses of a hockey rink commemorative. Relief sculptures would work in narrow interior spaces, but murals are the most space and cost effective and add to the vibrant atmosphere.  When there are things to look at along the concourse it draws fans to walk that space before and during games increasing their exposure to the organization's history and of course, concessions and souvenirs.