The Nitto ATP Finals is firmly established at the O2, but that hasn’t stopped Arena’s innovation.
Attending the ATP Finals is a vastly different experience to The Wimbledon Championships.
While the breezy ‘Pimm’s and strawberries’ atmosphere of SW15 is iconic in its own right, the ATP Finals, which took place last year from 11-18 November, take a very different approach.
Drama is accentuated with immersive sounds, atmospheric lighting, rousing music during breaks in play, and dramatic player entrances – complete with dried ice, flashing lights and high-octane visual effects. And there’s not an all-white cotton outfit in sight.
This modern, high production approach to tennis is complemented by Arena Group’s sleek and luxurious structure, designed to create a high-end experience at the event– where new face Alexander Zverev defeated World no 1 Novak Djokovic.
ATP Finals tournament director, Adam Hogg (pictured below), told Access that getting the balance right is crucial. “It’s not entertainment with tennis on the side. It’s tennis put on in an entertaining way,” he commented.
Hogg’s seen two iterations of the tournament, the second of which got under way in 2016. “When I joined, they’d just had the 2008 Finals in Shanghai and I was on board from early 2009, when it came to The O2. Back then, the venue was cavernous and we had a lot of space to play with. Now it’s a more bespoke solution that has to work for everyone in a tighter footprint. ATP was previously almost entirely under The O2’s tent, but now, today, only the media centre structure is under there.
“Back in 2009, the ATP Finals succeeded in capturing the local market, which is always a priority, but because of the event’s success, it’s now captured an international audience.
“We had around 30-40 million viewers globally, but now we average in the mid-90 millions.”
As a backdrop to this drama, Arena installed 6,800sqm of event infrastructure including an array of double-decker structures providing hospitality and public bars and concessions, with interior design and fit out by Arena, alongside Spaceworks furniture and Well Dressed Tables.
This was the 10th year that Arena’s Dan Bluff project managed the ATP Finals extension to the capacity of the O2 Arena, installing a temporary I-Novation building adjacent to the venue’s main entrance, which flanked the players main practice court.
Bluff told Access: “We were approached by the ATP initially to come up with some very basic designs in 2009, which grew into large hospitality and media spaces. These were greatly received. 2015 saw the end of us working inside The O2’s arena as the venue built new infrastructure, with cinemas, shopping centres and restaurants, so 2016 was a new chapter for us with the ATP and we were well advanced on the re-think for an outside structure even before the end of the 2015 event.
“We came up with the I-Novation structure, but with two triple-decker structures built within that, for the outside which gave them the height and the space that they wanted to achieve inside for sponsors, players, and hospitality guests. We designed the reception area to look similar to the I-Novation, with a slightly pitched flat looking roof, and the infrastructure that goes with it, including the toilets, kitchens and so forth. The new staircases were well received and looked really smart.
Commenting on the new setup, Hogg says: “It feels like you are in a permanent building, with fabulous letterbox views that really come alive at night, seeing Canary Wharf and the lights of the city is spectacular. The 02 is where the players have been striving to get to for the past ten months, so let’s ‘hero’ the location. If there’s an option between a moderate finish and a premium finish, we’ll pick the latter. This event is for the final eight, the crème de la creme.”
“There’s a set of deliverables for us that are non-movable. Last year The O2 happened to have just cleaned the roof, and it caused glare into the player’s court, acting as a mirror. This time, we tested various UV films on the window. We didn’t want to move the location because the views of the 02 are crucial. Many players said it was the best practice court they’d ever played on.”
The new glass provided views of the iconic O2 dome structure, and was treated to avoid the glare of the sun. The triple-deckers were transformed with creative interiors by Arena, or sponsors’ own agencies, with fully appointed facilities including a luxury player’s restaurant and lounge, a tennis family’s restaurant, sponsors’ hospitality and reception area.
Arena invested in three-stop lifts and installed a complex heating and air-conditioning system that kept the players court warm and the VIP suites at a lower temperature. Arena also supplied all of the interior walling and lining along with carpets, lighting, toilets, lifts, catering hoists and HVAC. The completed areas were then handed over to various sponsor agencies for the final install.
Guests entered this ‘VIP Village’ via a reception area, which incorporated accreditation and ‘airport style’ security, joining seamlessly into the main building. Separate triple-decker structures were also joined at the rear to house the kitchens.
Although there haven’t been any fundamental changes to a winning formula established during a redesign in 2016, some key areas have evolved with the event. The redesigned top floor of the players facility features a top floor restaurant with glass walls to give a 360 degree panorama, which is particularly stunning at night.
Bluff adds: “The insulation was a crucial factor for the comfort of guests, but also for the practice court because the players were used to training in the heat.
The build was not without its challenges, Bluff adds: “The O2 site used to be far easier to work on, but as AEG moved forward with their development space was harder to find but they found space off site for us to store kit, just a three-minute drive away. ATP have given us the infrastructure to work with, and it’s a fun site to work on. Once the Innovation is up you are cornered in that area. Once heating and air-conditioning is in, you are quite cornered in, so scheduling is very important. Getting the bulky kit in first is important.”