Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
A local celebrity, dark backgrounds, smooth jazz, and a mysterious set of eyes surely sold the region’s corporate class on what’s now known as “The Q.”
Welcome to the latest installation of “Public Access,” where CityLab shares its favorite videos—old and new, serious and nutty—that tell a story about place.
After playing 30 miles away in Richfield for two decades, the NBA’s Cavaliers returned to downtown Cleveland in 1994 as part of the city’s Gateway Complex—a ballpark, arena, and shared outdoor plaza downtown.
Sports venue design in the 1990s was all about club seating and corporate suites, which meant Gateway would have to convince Cleveland’s business elites that they couldn’t miss out on the action. So while construction continued on the arena, a “Cavs Preview Center” opened up on the 25th floor of the nearby BP Building (now known as 200 Public Square) as a showroom of sorts.
The team also made a video about said showroom. Narrated by musician and local media icon Michael Stanley (do check out his musical tributes to the Browns and life in Northeast Ohio), the video uses smooth jazz, dark backgrounds, and a mysterious woman’s eyes to help sell Cleveland business types on the pleasures of watching basketball inside a wet-bar equipped executive suite. Stanley talks up the arena’s architectural features as the camera slowly pans around a model, revealing windows that expose activity inside the venue, a signature roof design, and a street-level team store—all 1990s-style urban stadium innovations. To seal the deal, Stanley takes viewers to the final room in the preview center tour, where a window provides a simulated dead-on view of the arena and its surroundings.
The home of the Cavaliers opened in October of 1994 as Gund Arena, changing its name to Quicken Loans Arena upon Dan Gilbert’s purchase of the team in 2005. While the arena’s newness has long worn off, it has provided sports-crazed Cleveland with two successful chapters of LeBron James’s career and four straight NBA Finals appearances.
“The Q” will be closed for the next two summers as it makes way for a $140 million renovation. By September 2019, the nearly 25-year-old venue will once again meet the always increasing demands of American pro sports.