SBJ/January 14-20, 2013/Facilities

AS Roma hires Meis, Woods Bagot to design new stadium

Don Muret
Sports architect Dan Meis will look to one of the world’s most iconic venues for inspiration in his design of a new soccer stadium.

Officials with AS Roma, an Italian soccer club, announced in late December that they had selected a site to build a 55,000-seat stadium, giving Meis the go-ahead to start project design.

The site, Tor di Valle, is home to a horse racing facility along the Tiber River on the southwest edge of Rome. The property is about 20 minutes southwest of the Colosseum.

Meis, global director of sports for Woods Bagot in Los Angeles, points to the Colosseum as one of the first facilities for public assembly to reach the level of sophistication of having multiple seating tiers, including VIP boxes developed for Roman emperors.

Keeping in mind that a group of American bankers and lawyers owns 60 percent of the club, the team wants the stadium to build greater awareness for an international brand, as well as reflect Italy’s best-known architecture, Meis said.

“The history of the Colosseum is what everybody looks back to, [and] a lot of our early discussions have been about how to find a way to draw on those elements without making it a themed building,” Meis said. “We’re going to look hard at it. It has to connect with Italy; that’s the trick.”

The new AS Roma facility could have a retractable roof, although that part of the design has not been decided on, Meis said.

Researchers say the Colosseum had a similar feature. “I’ve had people tweet me images of the Colosseum with a roof on it,” he said.

The site announcement took place at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, where AS Roma has a training agreement. Team ownership estimated project costs between $215 million and $275 million for the stadium, expected to open for the 2016-17 season.

AS Roma now plays its games at Stadio Olimpico, a 60-year-old facility that served as the main stadium for the 1960 Summer Olympics.

> HALFTIME HOOPS: The Brooklyn Nets have found a creative use of space for the practice court at Barclays Center to entertain some of their highest-paying customers.

The team recently converted the practice court, connected to the Calvin Klein Courtside Club at event level, into an area for courtside seat holders to grab dessert and shoot baskets at halftime of weekend games and other marquee dates at the new arena.

The concept originated after Levy Restaurants, the arena’s food provider, expanded its sweets menu at halftime, taking up more space with food carts inside the club. As a result, crowds became an issue, leading to the team’s decision to open the practice court as a spillover zone, said Fred Mangione, the team’s chief marketing officer. The Nets tested the concept Dec. 23 against the Philadelphia 76ers, a Sunday game that drew a large number of children who enjoyed the experience.
Based on fan feedback during the holiday break, the Nets decided to continue using the practice court for more weekend games and other games in high demand against the New York Knicks, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, Mangione said.

The desserts in the practice court are served in a space roped off and protected by a tarp, and those who want to shoot hoops must be wearing sneakers. To provide further value, the Nets Dancers and the Brooklyn Knight mascot make appearances to have their photographs taken with fans.

For the Nets, the practice court provides another touch point with their 750 courtside seat holders, who pay up to $3,000 a seat per game. Considering practice courts at most arenas are off-limits to the public, the Nets can position a unique amenity for their premium patrons.

“It’s a great testament to our general manager, Billy King, to allow us to do it,” Mangione said. “One quick idea is sometimes the best.”

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.



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