SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Forty Under 40

Chris Dunlavey



Chris Dunlavey discovered early in his career that, as an architect, he was on the wrong side of design and development. After jumping the fence, he’s become a primary player in the process of planning sports facilities.

Chris Dunlavey
• Age: 39
• Title: President
• Company: Brailsford & Dunlavey
• Education: B.A., architecture, Columbia University, 1988; MBA, finance, George Washington University, 1993
• Family: Wife, Janet; daughter, Taryn, 7; son, Conor, 3
• Career: Architect, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1988-1989; project manager, MPC Associates, 1989-1993; partner, Brailsford & Dunlavey, 1993-present
• Last vacation: A week in Rehoboth Beach, Del., with the family
• Last books read: James Joyce's "Ulysses" and Brian Greene's "The Fabric of the Cosmos"
• Last movie seen: "The Polar Express"
• Greatest achievement: Assisting in returning Major League Baseball to the nation's capital after a 33-year absence
• Greatest disappointment: Assisting in Washington's losing bid to serve as the U.S. candidate city to play host to the 2012 Olympics
• Fantasy job: Wing forward for the U.S. national rugby team
• Business advice: The expert is just the guy who knows a little bit more than everyone else in the room.
Dunlavey, 39, has directly overseen the construction of more than $1.5 billion in arena and stadium projects and has completed studies for an additional $3 billion worth of sports venue work.

His consulting firm, Brailsford & Dunlavey, represents the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission in its quest to build a $435 million ballpark for the newly won Washington Nationals. He wrote the design proposals for the team’s new facility and the $18.5 million renovation of RFK Stadium, where the Nationals will play the next three seasons.

Dunlavey earned a degree in architecture from Columbia University in 1988 and got a job designing office towers for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, a firm specializing in commercial architecture.

“What they don’t tell you in school is that the architecture industry is a very reactive profession,” he said. “You get to be hands-on, but at the same time, you’re divorced from what gets built where, the economics that drive [the decision] and how the deal really works. I was more interested in how to shape the big decisions rather than figuring out what the brickwork looked like.”

Dunlavey went to work for MPC Associates, a university development consulting company, and found the work of managing the development of on-campus facilities was more stable. Paul Brailsford, his eventual business partner, was in charge of MPC’s sports facility practice.

“We were doing things better than anybody else in the firm and discussed hanging our own shingle,” Dunlavey said. “I was working for Paul at the time and needed help [to start a new company]. I never could’ve done it on my own. It was too early in my career.”

Brailsford & Dunlavey started in 1993, with “two guys in a rented room with a laptop,” Dunlavey recalled. B&D has since grown to a staff of 40 employees and posted revenue just short of $6 million in 2004, he said.

The fledgling firm got in on the tail end of the Baltimore sports development when the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens hired the pair in 1996 to facilitate the process of building a new stadium soon after the team moved from Cleveland.

“It was the first big-league project we were involved in that actually got built,” Dunlavey said.

The Ravens job led the Ohio Arts and Sports Facilities Commission to hire Brailsford & Dunlavey to act as the state’s adviser for funding publicly owned sports venues in Ohio. Strangely enough, that included Cleveland Browns Stadium, built for the NFL expansion team that replaced the Ravens in 1998.

Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals, and Great American Ball Park, where the Cincinnati Reds play, also were built under the guidance of Brailsford & Dunlavey.

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