What have been some of the most
notable stadium design cycles, and
what is the industry seeing now?
One of the most obvious design cycles was the brick
ballpark in the United States in the 1990s and early-
2000s when everyone wanted to (re)create the original
ballpark. Around the country you’ll find many
ballparks built in brick and stone. I’m pleased to say, I
think, we’re out of that cycle.
There was also a big cycle for retractable roof
football stadia in the United States but eventually teams
noticed they weren’t really using the roof as they had
thought. This is a discussion we had with the
ownership of Raiders who said they should do a
retractable roof, and I explained why they shouldn’t.
This came from my experience going back to Reliant
Stadium where half the crowd sat in the hot sun under
an opened retractable roof, while the other half were
seated comfortably in the shade. Eventually, the
operators of retractable roof stadia learned to close the
roof during the game in order to improve the comfort
for all guests. This was my point to the Raiders, which
is why I suggested an ETFE fixed roof and open-up
a wall with views to the strip and we’ll get the natural
grass field to grow by using a slide-out tray. This means
everyone can sit comfortably in the shade. Personally,
I think this is a trend we’ll continue to see.
But perhaps the biggest cycle we’re seeing now is
the need for multi-use event programming. A football
stadium needs to do more than host football, and must
carefully accommodate concerts or esports, for
example. This notion has been around for a while,
of course, but as the cost of these buildings escalate,
so do the demands to drive more programming and
higher revenues in order to justify their construction.
We are in a cycle now where building a bespoke venue
for a single event type is just not feasible anymore.
Is the sports stadium at risk from
increasing television audiences,
and how can design help to fight
falling attendance figures?
Whether or not the television will replace the stadium
experience is something that I’ve been asked for nearly
The Coliseum in Rome, Italy, is
one of the oldest examples of
the stadium building type, yet
elements of its design principles
are still used in today’s venues
25 years. As TVs get larger and more affordable, people
are creating full-on multimedia rooms in their homes
and can easily avoid the hassle and crowds of the real
life stadium experience. It would certainly seem the
stadium as we know it could be at risk.
However, there is no replacement for being part
of a crowd of tens of thousands of people watching
something live as it unfolds before your eyes. I believe,
while you may have a more comfortable seat at home,
and perhaps a better view of the game, it can never be
the same experience as watching it live in a stadium.
As designers we need to be cognitive of the
competition the television poses. It’s why we need
to take our work seriously. This is why the guest
experience, and the comfort and variety of options
made available at the stadium or arena is at the front
of everyone’s mind.
Are there any venues that have
particularly inspired you?
I’m sincerely honored to be working with this building
type, at this time in history. There are so many amazing
and exciting things happening around the world in our
industry. But actually, one of my favorite buildings is
really, really, old – the Coliseum in Rome, Italy.
I was struck during my first visit there, as a very
young sport designer, that it established in almost every
way the things we still do today. There was a hierarchy
in the stadium environment related to tickets and
amenities, it had an event level with concourses and
access ways for the guests, gates and seats were
numbered for efficiency and it even had a retractable
fabric roof. It’s one of the oldest building types in the
history of mankind and yet we still design them today.
In some ways stadia today are very different from
the Coliseum and in many ways they are not. It’s a thrill
to be a part of the history of stadia as we keep pushing
them forward into the future.
What do you make of the modern
venue and where do you see it going
in the next two decades?
When I think about modern venues I think about
enhanced guest experiences that fuse technology,
video, and multi-sensory experiences together with
what is an otherwise purely analogue experience.
Watching live sport in a stadium is about raw
emotion. It’s one of the last analogue experiences in
a digital world that can still unite us together. That’s
what stadia are all about. n
76 www.stadia-magazine.com Showcase 2020