The Entertainment and Sports Arena (ESA) opened in September and serves as the practice facility for the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the home arena for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the NBA G League’s Capital City Go-Go. It will also host concerts, boxing and other events.

The new 120,000-square-foot arena can seat 4,200 people. The $65 million project is expected to attract close to 400,000 fans annually.

The Entertainment and Sports Arena is located in St. Elizabeths East, a National Historic Landmark in D.C.’s Congress Heights neighborhood. Several red-brick buildings that once served as a psychiatric hospital are now in the midst of a massive redevelopment project.

One goal of Events DC, the designer and builder of the project, was to blend the new arena into the historic neighborhood.

“The materiality of the historic buildings will be used for the building’s common spaces to create a unified thread to its environment on the greater St. Elizabeths Campus,” said Events DC in a statement during the design review process.

Initially, the plan called for terracotta panels to tie the new facility in with the brick buildings in the neighborhood. But after seeing the cost of using terracotta, the architects changed the design to utilize insulated metal panels. That change saved an estimated $100,000 - $200,000.

The designers turned to Kingspan to supply the metal panels, and chose the company’s Optimo™ wall panel system. The Optimo panels deliver a clean, smooth modern solution that can be customized to the needs of any project, especially in commercial and industrial settings.

While the switch to insulated metal panels (IMP) saved money, the need to blend the building into the neighborhood remained the same. Kingspan worked quickly with the architects to come up with just the right exterior colors – especially the shades of red. After experimenting with dozens of colors, the teams agreed on Colonial Red, Redwood, Sandstone and Bone White (all Kingspan standard colors) and Audubon Russet, a custom color from Valspar. An advantage of IMPs is the ability to choose from thousands of colors to meet the architectural needs of any project.

Kingspan also worked closely with the design team to incorporate different panel widths on the project, utilizing 24”, 30”, 36” and 40” panels – the wider panels provide a cost-savings and allow for faster installation. The majority of the panels are 2” thick, with a small portion being 3” thick.

Another specification on this project was that there were to be no exposed fasteners – this was no small task, as the arena has more than 53,000 square feet of metal panels. The owners wanted a full wall envelope that did not show any visible fasteners. Kingspan met the challenge by engineering a concealed fastener solution that delivers a smooth, flat appearance without the need for exposed trim at the base, corners or openings. The ESA has more than 4,000 linear feet of extrusions – all painted to match the panel colors. There are also 1,500 trimless ends on the building. Kingspan utilized factory folded corners to provide a clean 90-degree bend without the need for formed trim or corner extrusions.

Using insulated metal panels help facilitate the design when the specifications call for no exposed fasteners. Panel lengths are limited to 20-30 feet, so on a building of this size, there are thousands of joints.

Kingspan Optimo panels provide a high R-Value (approximately 8.25 per inch ASTM C518 @ 35˚) for a high level of energy efficiency, especially important in D.C.’s cold winters and hot summers. The single component system also allows for a faster build, reducing on-site installation time by up to 50 percent compared to traditional site-assembled systems, and eliminates the need for multiple trades.

Insulated metal panels are a popular choice in the design of sports venues, often chosen for their cost, durability, ease of installation and versatility in architectural design. Kingspan panels have been used in sports facilities around the world, including the Daytona International Speedway, the Alaska Airlines Center, the Orlando City Soccer Stadium, Davis Wade Stadium at Mississippi State University, Worcester Rugby Club’s home field in England, and Emirates Stadium in London, home of the Arsenal Football Club.