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Volume 21 No. 1
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Architect’s work outside sports draws the interest of Packers

Don Muret
The Green Bay Packers went outside sports to hire an architect to design the $143 million expansion of Lambeau Field.

That’s the way the NFL team wanted it, said David Manfredi, a founding principal with Elkus Manfredi Architects, a Boston firm specializing in mixed-use projects. Its closest connection to a sports facility was developing a master plan for developer Samuels & Associates near Fenway Park.

Elkus Manfredi’s connections to Hammes Co., Lambeau Field’s project manager, certainly helped its cause. The architect is designing a major renovation of the Edgewater Hotel in Madison, Wis., Hammes’ headquarters are in Madison, and Hammes is in charge of the hotel’s redevelopment. Hammes President Bob Dunn introduced Elkus Manfredi officials to the Packers.

During the initial talks, Manfredi, a Notre Dame graduate, and Packers President Mark Murphy discussed the similarities between Lambeau Field and Notre Dame Stadium. In South Bend, Ind., school officials have resisted the temptation to add suites and advertising signs now common in other college stadiums. In past renovations, the Packers have not gone overboard on flash, unlike Cowboys Stadium’s Miller Lite go-go girls and Sun Life Stadium’s South Beach-style disco.

The exposed green steel in place inside the seating bowl is a good place to start for designing branded areas at the top of the south end zone, Manfredi said. The iconic Domino Sugars neon sign above the company’s factory in Baltimore is one example of what Lambeau’s new signs could look like, he said.

“The team hasn’t gone to where we’ve seen some other teams go,” Manfredi said. “Our job is to broaden the guest experience without being contrary to what Lambeau is all about.”

Sports installations by Philadelphia firm Sparks include work at Villanova’s Davis Center basketball practice facility.
FRESH SPARK: A former point guard who played in one of the greatest college basketball games of all time now helps teams display their own historic moments in sports facilities.

Harold Jensen, the sixth man on the Villanova team that upset Georgetown to win the 1985 NCAA title, is executive vice president of sales and marketing for Sparks Marketing Group, a Philadelphia firm that designs themed spaces at arenas, stadiums and halls of fame.

Over the years, Sparks has worked with Adidas and LG Electronics to design branded, interactive spaces tied to sports events. The past five years, the company has seen business grow developing attractions inside major league and college facilities, Jensen said.

Sparks is part of the design team planning the $977 million transformation of Madison Square Garden, where Jensen played in Big East Conference tournaments during his college days. The company is working closely with the New York Knicks and Rangers marketing staffs to brand the locker room areas, hallways and VIP spaces at event level. Those areas are near the $1 million bunker suites and the Delta Sky360 Club, the new event-level club players will pass going to and from the court and the ice.

The idea is to bring those drab walls in the bowels of the building to life with large murals and graphic treatments tied to famous MSG moments over the past 43 years the arena has been open, such as the “Willis Reed game” in the 1970 NBA Finals and the Rangers’ celebration of their 1994 Stanley Cup title, Jensen said. The moments that will be displayed are still under consideration, he said.

In the college market, Sparks is designing a museum-type attraction for Niagara University’s Gallagher Center in upstate New York. The 4,000-square-foot space in the arena’s front lobby will showcase the careers of Calvin Murphy, a former Purple Eagle who became an NBA star, and Frank Layden, who coached Murphy on the Niagara team that made the school’s first NCAA tournament appearance in 1970. The project is tied to an overall renovation of the 62-year-old arena and should be ready by the start of the season, Jensen said.

At Jensen’s alma mater, Sparks is putting the finishing touches on updating locker room spaces at Davis Center, the school’s three-year-old basketball practice facility. The wall from the locker room to the practice court contains images of all the Villanova players who have made the NBA. Elsewhere inside the three-story building are a mural showcasing the school’s four Final Four appearances and, of course, a display case featuring the Wildcats’ 1985 championship trophy.

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