You would hardly know it if you're even an occasional visitor to Honda Center, but the arena will celebrate its 25th birthday next year. In an age when new sports and entertainment facilities are springing up regularly around the world, you might not think a milestone of that caliber would be something to celebrate. But thanks to a series of facility upgrades and other improvements to the building over the past two decades, Honda Center looks just as good as the day it opened - and in many respects, much better.
"The best compliment I got this summer was when we made a presentation to the International Olympic Committee when they did their final walk-through with us," says Honda Center President/CEO Tim Ryan, who has been at the helm of the arena since it opened to the public in 1993. "They were flabbergasted that this building is 25 years old. We hear that over and over from individuals."
The IOC granted Honda Center the volleyball competition for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, a tremendous honor for a building that earned it by maintaining its status as one of the premier sports and entertainment venues in the world.
"I go to a number of arenas around the country," Ryan says, "and I still would stack this one up against any of them from a standpoint of sightlines, comfort, amenities and technology."
That is due in great part to the millions of dollars invested in facility upgrades by Henry and Susan Samueli, who have owned the management contract for Honda Center since 2003 and have been the owners of the arena's primary tenant - the Anaheim Ducks - since 2005.
Among the venue's enhancements over the past decade-plus are significantly upgraded food and beverage selections, technological advancements like in-arena WiFi and a state-of-the-art scoreboard and sound system as well as the addition of the Shock Top Terrace, which included a significantly expanded Ducks Team Store.
"From the very beginning, the Samuelis have supported the concept of keeping this facility state-of-the-art," Ryan says. "The bar has been set very high for our fans. Thankfully, they have given us the resources to meet these expectations."
The latest project is one visitors to the arena over the past few months have seen under construction - the expansion of the venue's South Entrance. The newly enclosed area adds close to 10,000 square feet to the venue concourse and connects the Ducks Team Store and innovative food & beverage concepts, while creating a central gathering space for all fans attending Ducks games, concerts and family events.
"As you take a look at the entry to the arena, it's a natural extension of the building," Ryan says. "The one thing we seek is more square footage. We want it to be more comfortable for fans, we want the concourses to be less crowded and we want to have more food & beverage options. Whether a fan is buying team merchandise or their favorite food & beverage, we want them to be able to get what they want and get back to their seat in a timely manner."
Once the project is complete - in time for Ducks Opening Night on October 5 - fans walking into Honda Center through the new South Entrance will be treated to visual splendor from all angles. Immediately they will see the customized set for all Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket pregame and postgame shows, which Ryan believes, "will be one of the best sets in our business."
To the left (in the space once occupied by the Standing 'O' restaurant), the brand new Sierra Nevada Draught House allows guests to pair their choice of award-winning beers with oven-fired pizza, gourmet burgers, carved sandwiches and signature tacos from The Kitchen. Fans can also grab housemade pre-packaged items from the Express Eats area, which includes a variety of hot and cold options.
"A family could walk in this new location, and if one person wants a salad, a sandwich and a glass of wine, another wants a hot sandwich and then another wants a cocktail or beer, they will all be able to do it in this one area, while getting back to their seats quickly," Ryan says. "There will be plenty of high-end healthy items in this area, and it will be a reflection of the Orange County lifestyle."
On the opposite side of the South Entrance, fans will see a more accessible entryway to the extensive collection of merchandise in the Ducks Team Store, "almost like you're walking in a high-end mall," Ryan says. On nights Honda Center hosts a concert, they will use a portion of the Team Store to sell performers' merchandise, "which will take a tremendous amount of pressure off the interior concourses," Ryan says.
An expansive marble-topped bar that measures approximately 22 feet wide and 44 feet long with dramatically increased points of sale (as many as 16 bartenders serving at once) and large high-definition screens will connect the back side of the South Entrance and the Honda Center concourse and is scheduled to be completed by early December.
"What Honda Center is finally going to have with this new South Entrance is what I would call a 'Sense of Place,' Ryan says. "I believe this is going to be a place for people to really spend quality time during events."
The design of the area will mirror the distinguished marble and granite design that has become a signature of Honda Center. "If there is a new fan who comes to events here, they won't know that it wasn't originally part of the arena," Ryan says. "And I believe our season seat holders and returning fans will be very pleased with the overall upgrade."
Fans inside the arena will notice even more enhancements going into effect this season. Among the upgraded concessions will be a unique location putting a California twist on traditional Southern-style faire. A custom Musco LED sports lighting system will make the playing surface for Ducks games more visually appealing in person and on telecasts. New carpet was also installed on the Pacific Premier Bank Club Level and in the suites.
Two years ago, Honda Center installed a $10 million state-of-the-art HD scoreboard and sound system that has been tremendously popular with fans. The board features video screens with 912 x 1440 lines of resolution, the clearest and highest definition picture available in any North American venue. In addition, millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements have gone into the facility over the past decade, covering everything from information technology to plumbing.
More arena enhancement are on the horizon, an enduring testament to meeting the demands of today's sports fan and concertgoer, as well the vision and commitment of the Ducks and Honda Center ownership.
More details about the new South Entrance will be made available before Ducks Opening Night on October 5.