SBJ/July 1-7, 2013/Facilities

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  • Video screens to give Jags ‘huge palette’ for stadium content

    Don Muret
    The Jacksonville Jaguars’ plan to install the NFL’s largest video screens at EverBank Field goes much deeper than taking over bragging rights, according to team President Mark Lamping.

    The club announced June 19 that it will replace the stadium’s two end zone boards for the 2014 season with new screens measuring 55 feet tall and 301 feet wide. The width of those screens far surpasses the monster boards at Cowboys Stadium and LP Field, as well as new installations for the coming season at Reliant Stadium and Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

    In Jacksonville, both screens will have 16,626 square feet of active video space, more than five times greater than the size of the stadium’s current boards. The expanded screens give the Jaguars a “huge palette” to distribute content, and the challenge for team officials is to program them in the most compelling way possible, Lamping said.

    The massive screens will measure 55 feet tall and 301 feet wide.
    Image by: Populous
    One year out, nothing is definitive, but the new boards will give the Jaguars the capacity to run the NFL’s RedZone channel throughout the game, a key piece of the in-game experience given the makeup of the local market, Lamping said.

    “We know this would be welcomed by the large portion of our fans who are transplants to Jacksonville, as well as all fantasy football enthusiasts,” he said.

    The NFL encourages teams to broadcast the RedZone channel at their stadiums and many clubs have televisions tuned to the network on their concourses and in premium areas.

    To this point, some teams air it upward of 10 times a game on their scoreboards, but nobody runs it continuously, said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. The Houston Texans, for example, plan to show RedZone highlights on their new end zone screens this season but not during the entire game, said team President Jamey Rootes.

    In Jacksonville, the new boards will be large enough to program unique content on each screen, keeping in mind the Jaguars’ need to maintain some consistency on both boards with game statistics and sponsor obligations.

    “Because the boards are so big we don’t need mirror images at each end because they are in view of most fans,” Lamping said. “Some content will remain the same such as time of game, down and distance and replays.”

    Big picture, the Jaguars feel the new boards will go a long way to satisfying NFL fans glued to their smartphones at the games.

    “The story is not just who can build the biggest video board but to give them enough content so fans don’t have to be constantly interacting with their handheld device … to increase their enjoyment of what’s happening in the stadium and on the field,” Lamping said.

    The new boards are part of $63 million in overall stadium improvements. The project includes the construction of a new fan platform in the north end zone to replace 7,000 seats currently covered by tarps for Jaguars home games.
    The platform will have the flexibility to add temporary seats for the Florida-Georgia college football game, said Dennis Wellner, Populous’ senior principal in charge of the project. Wellner designed the stadium’s last renovation in the mid-1990s.

    > BREAKING THROUGH: The new Breakaway Music Festival booked for two MLS stadiums on consecutive weekends in September is the direct result of the Soccer Stadium Alliance’s effort to fill more dates at those facilities.
    Two years ago, about a half-dozen MLS teams formed the alliance and hired veteran promoter Donnie Frizzell as their point of contact for agents and bands. Together, they routed a few national tours through some of those 18,000- to 27,000-seat venues in 2012.

    This year, the alliance’s intent was to develop all-day events customized for their buildings that attract a younger demographic. The result is Breakaway, featuring electronic, indie rock and hip-hop acts set for Crew Stadium and FC Dallas Stadium.

    Prime Social Group, the event’s producer, is headed by Adam Lynn and Zach Ruben. The two 20-something promoters live in Columbus and played soccer in their youth. They understood the purpose behind the alliance and contacted Frizzell about creating an event for MLS venues.

    “It’s all about laying out the groundwork and getting the right players in, not necessarily the bigger guys,” Frizzell said.

    “There’s crossover with some of this music slanted toward soccer. We’re looking to expand this festival into a few more soccer stadiums in 2014.”

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

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  • Daytona to showcase amenities

    Daytona International Speedway plans to develop the most sophisticated, premium-seat experience NASCAR has to offer.

    The track’s $400 million renovation project, which begins next week, will introduce big league amenities to the most important track on the NASCAR circuit. It also will bring an end to decades of hosting corporate pre-race hospitality outdoors in tents that shut down after the race starts.

    Come February 2016, pre-race hospitality parties for the Daytona 500 will continue uninterrupted inside the track with high-end lounges tied to new and larger suites.

    “This was the priority in this redevelopment, making sure we had the premium experience that matches up with what people expect,” said Daytona President Joie Chitwood. “No one else in motorsports will be able to offer what we’re offering.”

    The project, which is being designed by sports architect
    The project will allow Daytona to move the hospitality experience from tents outside the track to areas such as suites and lounges in a reconstructed grandstand.
    Images by: ROSSETTI (2)
    Rossetti, introduces about 80 new suites tied to a reconstructed grandstand tower along Daytona’s frontstretch. A mezzanine level in the middle of the tower will include more than 50 suites that can accommodate groups of 50 to 400 spectators and cater to individual ticket holders. The top two floors, the tower’s sixth and seventh levels, will have more than 30 larger, more traditional skyboxes for Daytona’s biggest sponsors that can seat 50 to 100 people.

    “What we’re hearing [from our corporate partners] is we have to have more choices,” Chitwood said. “What was happening was we only had options for 50 to 100 people. The key is creating an experience inside and to make sure it is customized.”

    Driving the project was forging a better connection to the event for the corporate partners forced to do most of their entertaining before the race — and for some, outside the facility. Bringing the premium experience inside the track removes a barrier that existed and eliminates the need for the tentlike chalets that corporations bought in the past, project officials said.

    Rather than buying a chalet with synthetic turf interiors and white-picket-fence exteriors, they will be able to choose from customizable interior spaces on the mezzanine level. One of the options will be Midway Suites, which will have movable walls that allow Daytona to create a space that accommodates groups with as few as 75 people or as many as 400. The 20-plus Midway Suites won’t have views of the track but will be a place where suite holders can entertain before, during and after the race.

    In addition, the mezzanine level will have High Bank Suites to fit 50 to 100 people each. Those units have views of the track and open onto a patio with seats below the patio.

    Some amenities will be similar across all new suite inventory. There will be Wi-Fi access for corporate meetings and presentations, indoor seating, upscale food offerings with serving stations, lounge areas and bars with checker-flagged-themed backsplashes.

    The 80-plus suites are an increase over the 66 suites Daytona currently sells. The 38 skyboxes in the frontstretch and 28 suites on the backstretch will be eliminated as part of the renovation.

    Chitwood declined to discuss pricing of the suites or share how much the new premium seating will boost Daytona’s bottom line because the speedway is part of International Speedway Corp., a publicly traded company that owns 12 motorsports facilities.

    Sales of the new suites will be handled by Daytona and ISC staff. Current suites range in price from the mid-five figures to the low six figures annually. The cost covers several race events, including Daytona’s two Sprint Cup events, Chitwood said. Americrown, which is owned by ISC, will provide catering for all of the premium areas.

    During the design process, Chitwood and ISC executives drew from the premium experiences they saw offered during visits to several arenas and stadiums, including Barclays Center, Staples Center, Cowboys Stadium and Ford Field.

    “What we were trying to come up with was a model to integrate hospitality spaces for the corporate partners so they feel like they are in the stadium experience,” said Jim Renne, Rossetti’s principal in charge of the project. “That’s not something they have right now.”

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  • N.Y. architect designs shape of roofs to come

    The inventor of a classic children’s toy has assumed a key role designing the retractable roof of the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium, the facility’s signature element.

    Chuck Hoberman, inventor of the Hoberman Sphere, a geodesic dome that breaks down to a fraction of its original size, is part of a much bigger project after 360 Architecture won the job to plan the $1 billion NFL stadium.

    A New York architect, Hoberman specializes in transformable architecture, the design of movable structures. His firm, Hoberman Associates, has a joint venture with Buro Happold, the stadium’s structural engineer. Their partnership is called the Adaptive Building Initiative.

    Together, they have worked on several projects outside of sports over the past 15 years, including the transformable video screen for U2’s 360 stadium tour. They also designed the Hoberman Arch, a theatrical set for the 2002 Winter Olympics awards ceremony stage in Salt Lake City.

    This model of the Atlanta Falcons’ stadium sits in Chuck Hoberman’s New York office.
    Photo by: 360 ARCHITECTURE
    The Falcons’ stadium is Hoberman’s first job working directly on a sports facility project. His expertise in kinetic design led to the development of The Pantheon, a design the team of architects says represents the next generation of retractable roofs.

    Bill Johnson, 360 Architecture’s principal in charge of the project, coined the term to describe a design that reminds him of the Pantheon structure from ancient Rome.

    In Atlanta, the roof’s design and its motion are unique in sports, Johnson said. The roof’s eight panels open from a point in the center of the building, at the 50-yard line. Johnson estimated it would take about seven minutes to both open and close the roof. The retractable roofs at other major league stadiums open and close from one end of the facility to the other, he said.

    “There have been a whole series of these roofs built over the past few decades and they keep working about the same way and mining the same ground,” Hoberman said. “We wanted something new and exciting, and things kind of clicked in terms of how it came together.”

    360 and Hoberman came together for the Falcons’ project last fall, after Johnson had lunch in New York with Buro Happold principal Erleen Hatfield. The two discussed how their firms could work together in sports, and Hatfield mentioned her company’s joint venture with Hoberman.

    “I have always admired Chuck, because if you have kids and you’ve been in a toy store, one of the things he’s famous for is his little geodesic dome,” Johnson said. “I was always fascinated by that.”

    Hoberman’s niche in the design world fit perfectly with 360’s search for creativity outside of sports to give it a leg up on the competition to win the stadium design contact.

    “The idea was, How can you make buildings shift and move and surfaces open and close and control light and air and sound,” he said. “I asked Chuck, ‘How would you feel about taking your small scale thought process and ramping it up to a super large scale?’ He was intrigued by it.”

    For Hoberman, the opportunity to help design an NFL stadium marks a high point in his career.

    “It’s the ultimate dream for anyone who likes to do movable structures, to work on a roof over a stadium,” he said. “They don’t build bigger movable structures than that.”

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