(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) Inside Uline Arena, artifacts of the building’s varied history abound. Old, orange stadium seats show where spectators watched concerts. Wooden panels used to convert the hall into a basketball court are stacked on the dirt-covered floor. And plumbing used to create an ice rink can be spotted through a hole.
All this is according to REI executives, who gave Hill Now a tour of the cavernous NoMa arena that offered glimpses of its history and of what the sporting goods store REI will build there.
REI will open a 51,000-square-foot store at M Street NE and Delaware Avenue NE that retains historic elements of Uline Arena, executives said this afternoon.
“We know how to be responsible with a building like this and not over-design but reveal elements that highlight the history of the space,” said Rachel Ligtenberg, a vice president for retail. REI has experience creating stores in other historic buildings, like inside New York’s Puck Building.
REI confirmed on Wednesday that they would move into the space completed in 1941.
The store — which will be REI’s first in Washington — will have 21-foot ceilings, with differences of elevation inside and separate “activity gear shops,” Ligtenberg said. To achieve the store’s height, workers will dig 5 feet down.
The entrance will be on M Street NE, and the western wall on Delaware Avenue NE will be lined with 16-foot-tall windows. The southwest corner of the building, with 25,000 square feet, will be rented to a separate retailer. The adjacent Ice House building will become a restaurant, Ligtenberg said. Closer to the vaulted ceiling will be three floors of office space.
REI began talking with Douglas Development, which owns the arena, 16 months ago, Ligtenberg said. The arena was the location of The Beatles’ first U.S. concert, the site of President Dwight Eisenhower’s inaugural ball and was then used as a sanitation garage and parking lot.
The store is slated to open in late 2016.