SBJ/January 7-13, 2013/FacilitiesPrint All
The vision of developing an NFL stadium as a civic icon in Atlanta led project officials to Peter Eisenman’s doorstep.
Eisenman, a noted New York City architect whose firm specializes in art museums, made a statement in sports when he co-designed University of Phoenix Stadium for the Arizona Cardinals. Six years later, Eisenman is back in the NFL competing for work after Falcons owner’s representative Icon Venue Group called the 80-year-old architect and asked him to respond to their request for qualifications.
Eisenman Architects was one of 10 groups submitting qualifications to design a 72,000-seat stadium in Atlanta with $700 million in hard costs.
The Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, the proposed stadium’s owner, contacted several architects working outside of sports after the document was posted publicly, said Richard Sawyer, the project’s procurement director.
The RFQ states up front in bold letters the intent to develop a “distinctly iconic” landmark in Atlanta and the state of Georgia. Eisenman Architects was the only civic architect to submit its qualifications, based on the list of respondents disclosed by the authority in late December.
“The people from Icon called us at the suggestion of [Falcons] ownership,” Eisenman said. “Evidently, they had seen a number of NFL stadiums and liked our work in Arizona. This is our first time [proposing for NFL work] other than the Cardinals.”
When University of Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006, it was praised for its unconventional design: a metallic mushroom-shaped exterior, a portable field and suites marketed as lofts with cork floors and carpeted walls. For the Cardinals’ project, team President Michael Bidwill, intent on making a statement in the desert, hired Eisenman to design a signature stadium several years before teaming him with Populous to complete the project. In Atlanta, a similar situation could occur if Eisenman’s boutique firm makes the short list, Eisenman said.
“It’s not in our firm’s capability to be the lead designer,” he said. “We spoke to Populous, and they told us they thought they might be able to get it on their own, but if it was required, they would join up with us. A few other firms said the same thing.”
By Wednesday, the Falcons and the authority will short-list qualified candidates, giving those groups time to expand their teams before submitting design proposals before a Feb. 1 deadline.
Should Eisenman Architects make the cut, it would be up to company officials to choose a design partner, Sawyer said.
Missing among the Falcons submissions was HNTB, designer of the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium under construction in Santa Clara and a finalist to plan the Minnesota Vikings’ facility in downtown Minneapolis. “We assessed it really close … but with all the other things we’re looking at, we decided it probably wasn’t the smartest one to pursue,” said Tim Cahill, HNTB vice president and national director of design.
HKS, the winner in Minnesota, submitted for the Falcons job. Heery, Rosser and TVS Design, the three architects that teamed up to design the 20-year-old Georgia Dome, the Falcons’ current home, are split among two submissions.
Skanska USA, builder of four NFL stadiums, will compete for the job to build a facility for the Minnesota Vikings, said Tom Tingle, the firm’s senior vice president and national sports director.
Typically, those decisions are not considered hot news. In this case, though, it is noteworthy considering that a competitor, Turner Construction, a builder of 11 NFL venues, chose not to pursue the project because of what company officials believe is a competitive disadvantage in the Twin Cities. Over the past 20 years, Mortenson, a local contractor with a national profile, has been selected to build arenas for the Timberwolves and Wild and stadiums for the Twins and University of Minnesota Gophers.
Skanska, builder of 2-year-old MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, the most recent NFL stadium to open, had the same concerns as Turner. Company executives decided to propose after having discussions with Icon Venue Group and Hammes Co., the firms serving as owner’s representatives, respectively, for the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the entity managing the stadium development.
“We had conversations with people close to the project who pointed out that the firms selected as the architect and structural engineer were not the favorite sons,” Tingle said.
HKS, the Vikings’ stadium designer, was chosen over Populous, the architect of Target Field, Xcel Energy Center and TCF Bank Stadium.
Thornton Tomasetti, the project’s structural engineer, won that job over Walter P Moore, which has designed every NFL stadium with a retractable roof, said Jenifer Johnson, a senior associate with Thornton Tomasetti.
The Vikings’ stadium will have a retractable feature, but a decision has not been made on whether it will be a roof or a movable wall, said Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president of public affairs and stadium development.
Hunt Construction, a builder of 14 NFL stadiums, is teaming with a partner from Minneapolis to submit a proposal, said Ken Johnson, Hunt’s executive vice president and division manager. The partner will be announced at a later date.
The proposal for hiring a construction manager was issued by the sports authority Dec. 7. A selection is to be announced Feb. 1.
Construction is scheduled to start in October, with completion set for July 2016. The $975 million project includes $690 million in hard construction costs, according to the document.