Norfolk Scope is a cultural, entertainment, convention and sports complex in Norfolk, Virginia, comprising an 11,000-person arena, a 2,500-person theater known as Chrysler Hall, a 10,000 square foot-exhibition hall and a 600-car parking garage.
The arena was designed by Italian architect/engineer Pier Luigi Nervi in conjunction with the (now defunct) local firm Williams and Tazewell, which designed the entire complex. Nervi's design for the arena's reinforced concrete dome derived from the PalaLottomatica and the much smaller Palazzetto dello Sport, which were built in the 1950s for the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.
Construction on Scope began in June 1968 at the northern perimeter of Norfolk's downtown and was completed in 1971 at a cost of $35 million. Federal funds covered $23 million of the cost, and when it opened formally on November 12, 1971, the structure was the second-largest public complex in Virginia, behind only the Pentagon.
Featuring the world's largest reinforced thinshell concrete dome, Scope won the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects Test of Time award in 2003. Wes Lewis, director of Old Dominion University's civil engineering technology program, called it "a beautiful marrying of art and engineering." Noted architectural critic James Howard Kunstler described the design as looking like "yesterday's tomorrow."
The name "Scope", a contraction of kaleidoscope, emphasizes the venue's re-configurability and while the name chosen for the entire complex, has come to refer primarily to the arena component. The facility logo (right), which features a multi-colored, abstracted kaleidoscope image, was designed by Raymond Loewy's firm Loewy/Snaith of New York.
After watching the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics on television, and seeing the Palazzo and Palazzetto dello Sport, Brad Tazewell and Jim Williams, two Norfolk architects, solicited U.S. Sen. A. Willis Robertson, father of Pat Robertson, to build a sports complex in Norfolk. Subsequently, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked Robertson to support federal funding for a multimillion-dollar cultural center in Colorado and Robertson said he would if Johnson would support one in Norfolk. Williams and Tazewell was subsequently commissioned; they in turn commissioned Nervi.
The complex was an important part of the first phase of Norfolk's post-World War II revitalization. A large section of the city's downtown was razed, and the Scope complex was to "anchor" its northern corner, with the Vincent Kling designed Courthouse and Civic complex anchoring the Eastern edge of downtown.
The arena is located on its 14-acre site above a raised plinth, below which is located a parking garage for 640 cars. The facility includes a 65,000 sq ft (6,000 m2) exhibit hall as well as the adjacent Chrysler Hall, a music and theater venue, home to the Virginia Symphony Orchestra). The arena's seating can be reconfigured to accommodate from 10,253 for sporting events up to 13,800 for concerts.
With a concrete monolithic dome measuring 440 ft (134 m) in diameter and a height of 110 ft (33.5 m), the dome was, at the time of its construction, the largest of its kind in the world — and was displaced as the record holder after the construction of the Seattle Kingdome. After the demolition of the larger Kingdome in 2000, Scope reclaimed the title as having the world's largest reinforced thin-shell concrete dome. Supported by 24 flying buttresses, the arena roof encloses 85,000 sq ft (7,900 m2). With over 1,000 pilings, the facility was constructed 10' below the city's water table. The roof is a ribbed concrete dome, independent of seating bowl formed of sloped concrete beams supporting precast treads and risers which form the seating bowl. The perimeter of the dome roof is supported by a combination of vertical columns and inclined buttresses, which tie into a tension ring below ground. A concentric ring, approximately 7' 9" wide, is suspended from the dome, for service and lighting needs.
During preparations for the first hosting of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, a bear escaped its cage and ran across the wet paint on the floor of the unfinished Exhibition Hall below. During the first presentation in the Exhibition Hall of the Hampton Roads Automobile Show, visitors could spot bear tracks in the painted floor, between the exhibitions. (Source: The Virginian-Pilot)
The arena has undergone $11 million of renovations since 2003, including the replacement of a center-hung scoreboard with a matrix screen on each side with a center-hung scoreboard with LED video and matrix boards and two LED end-zone videoboards in 2008. A new glass wall has been installed, and is expected to be extended in order to expand the arena's main concourse at a cost of $3.5 million in 2014. This would result in additional restrooms and concession stands at the arena.
From 2000 to 2003, Norfolk Scope was home to an arena football team, the now-defunct Norfolk Nighthawks of the AF2 developmental league.
Norfolk Scope was home to the now-defunct American Basketball Association (ABA) Virginia Squires professional basketball franchise. The Squires were a regional franchise that played at Scope, the Roanoke Civic Center, Richmond Coliseum and Hampton Roads Coliseum (now Hampton Coliseum) – all within the state of Virginia – from 1970 to 1976. The Squires moved to Virginia after spending one year in Washington, D.C. as the Washington Caps (1969–70), and two years in Oakland as the Oakland Oaks (1967–69). The Squires played their first game at Scope on November 27, 1970 versus the Dallas Chaparrals (now known as the San Antonio Spurs), and their last game on April 7, 1976, versus the New York Nets (now known as the Brooklyn Nets). Hall-of-Fame player Julius "Dr. J." Erving played for the Squires during the 1971-72 and 1972-73 seasons after leaving the University of Massachusetts early to sign with the ABA. The franchise was not included in the 1976 ABA-NBA merger. Norfolk Scope served as the venue of the 1974 ABA All-Star Game on January 30, 1974.
The arena hosted Old Dominion Monarchs basketball games on a part-time basis from 1971 to 2002, being the de facto home court of the team from 1977 to 2001. This practice ended in 2001, when the team moved back into the ODU Fieldhouse in advance of their own arena, the Ted Constant Convocation Center, opening in 2002.
From March 4 to March 6, 1982, Norfolk Scope hosted the ECAC South Region Tournament, an NCAA men's Division I basketball tournament organized by the ECAC South Basketball League (now known as the Colonial Athletic Association), the winner of which, host team Old Dominion, received an automatic bid to the 1982 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament.
The arena was the site of the Final Four of both the first NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Tournament on March 26 and March 28, 1982, and the second NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Tournament on April 1 and April 3, 1983.
Norfolk Scope also hosted the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Men's Basketball Tournaments in 1991, 1992, 1993, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. It served as the venue for the McDonald's All-American Game, an American-Canadian high school all-star basketball game, on March 21, 1998 as well.
Norfolk Scope has hosted a number of professional boxing events:
Norfolk Scope is the home to the Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL. It has hosted an Admirals team since the Hampton Roads Admirals began play in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) in 1989, and remained their home arena when the owners started a franchise in the American Hockey League (AHL) in 2000 and renamed the team to Norfolk Admirals. In 2015, the Anaheim Ducks of the National Hockey League (NHL) purchased the AHL Admirals and relocated them to San Diego to become the San Diego Gulls beginning in the 2015–16 season. However, the ECHL's Bakersfield Condors (owned by the NHL's Edmonton Oilers) were relocated to Norfolk to play in the Scope and continue to use the Admirals name as of the 2015–16 season.
During the 2011–2012 season, Norfolk Scope was the home of the now-defunct Norfolk SharX professional soccer franchise that played in the now-defunct third Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL).
Norfolk Scope has hosted various professional wrestling events: