SBJ/May 21 - 27, 2007/This Weeks News

Stadium’s European influence hard to miss

Sitting in the chairman’s box during Arsenal’s final game at old Highbury Stadium, Red Bull Park President Nick Sakiewicz counted nine seats between himself and the playing surface. His proximity to the field stunned him.

More than 100,000 people will live within a walk
or bike ride to the stadium.

As Arsenal forward Thierry Henry streaked by fewer than 30 yards away, all Sakiewicz could think was: “Man, people would pay a lot of money to stand here.”

The realization compelled Sakiewicz to return home last year and scrap much of the design for Red Bull Park, a project he’d begun working on in 2000. Rather than go with the traditionally deep-set suites between the first and second tier of the stadium, he wanted suites as close to the field as possible.

The resulting design put 12 rows between Red Bull Park’s 50 suites and the field, so close, Sakiewicz said, “That when you see televised games, you’ll see the luxury suites on TV.”

The proximity of the 50 suites to the field and the 360-degree white roof that will top Red Bull Park will distinguish it from any soccer-specific stadium that’s preceded it, creating a complex that blends the traditional, enclosed feel of a European soccer stadium with the lavish amenities of contemporary U.S. sports facilities.

The stadium’s 50 suites will wrap around three sides of the field. Unlike several MLS stadiums, they will be accessible from a separate corridor — not the main concourse.

Inside, all of the suites will offer flat-screen TVs, arm chairs, granite counter tops and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the field. A door will open to 12 or 24 seats outside.

Suite holders will get access to all Red Bull Park events, including international soccer and concerts. AEG has already sold 21 suites, primarily to corporations but also to an individual doctor and a law firm. The average price of suites is $55,000 to $105,000 annually for a three-, five- or seven-year lease.

The suites will be complemented by two club areas. The larger club is at the main entrance and offers a view of the players’ corridor, a hallway teams will walk down when they enter and leave the locker rooms from the field.

The stadium’s 50 suites will wrap around
three sides of the venue.

The smaller club at the north end of the stadium will feature two floors. A traditional soccer-style pub will sit on the first level, offering club members a dark wooden bar where they can hunker down during games. Members will have access to an elevator that leads them outside to a terrace overlooking the field. AEG and Red Bull are exploring the possibility of selling the naming rights to the clubs.

While other soccer-specific stadiums in the United States have included roofs, the roofs have only covered one or two sides of the stadium or left the stadium corners open. In Europe, though, stadiums are generally closed on all four sides.

After buying the team, Austrian Red Bull executives who were accustomed to European design pushed to have the entire complex covered. Rossetti architects designed a roof that used translucent white material capable of transmitting light to the field.

“It will offer a much different feel than a traditional bowl,” said Jan Szupinski, Rossetti’s lead designer. “It will be much more contained and continuous and will keep the sound in better than any soccer stadium in the United States.”

Knowing that Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz has a great love for aviation, Rossetti designed the roof so that it will resemble the wings of an aircraft. Its east and west panels will be topped by the Red Bull logo and will be visible from tall buildings in Manhattan that offer a view of Newark’s skyline, Sakiewicz said.

The stadium’s location will set it apart, as well. The town of Harrison is full of Brazilian, Portuguese, Peruvian, English, Scottish, Irish, Polish and Italian immigrants, according to AEG research. Their sport of choice is soccer, and more than 100,000 of them will be within a walk or bike ride of the stadium.

With a price tag of $150 million, those patrons will be treated to one of the country’s premier soccer-specific stadiums. It may not carry the significance of Columbus Crew Stadium — MLS’s first — or the Home Depot Center — MLS’s biggest — but it will offer the league a first-class footprint in the nation’s largest media market.

“This is New York, and New York needs to have a top-of-the-line stadium,” Sakiewicz said. “You can’t have a ‘B’ building in an ‘A’ marketplace.”

Red Bull Park

Location: Harrison, N.J.

Tenant: New York Red Bulls

Projected completion: April 2009

Cost: About $150 million

Funding: 50 percent Red Bull, 50 percent AEG

Seating capacity: 25,000

Suites: 50

Club seats: 1,100

Other premium areas: Northend Club includes a traditional soccer-style pub and viewing terrace

Naming rights: Red Bull, as part of the company’s $100 million purchase of the team, a share of the stadium and stadium naming rights in March 2006

Lead sales executives: Dave Mosca, senior vice president, sales and marketing, New York

Designer/architect: Rossetti

General contractor: To be determined

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