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Volume 22 No. 23
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Atlanta project gives architect another shot at retractable roof

Don Muret
The selection of 360 Architecture to design a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons gives sports architect Bill Johnson another crack at developing an NFL facility with a retractable roof.

Johnson, 360’s lead designer for the $1 billion project, was principally involved in the firm’s design of the West Side Stadium for the New York Jets. The $2.2 billion development in lower Manhattan had a retractable roof planned but it was never built after the New York state Public Authorities Control Board in 2005 refused to approve the project. As a result, land could not be transferred for construction, and the state could not contribute its half of the $600 million in public money designated for the stadium.

The West Side Stadium was tied to New York’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics and was fully designed at the time the deal fell through, according to 360 officials. The Jets ultimately joined the New York Giants to privately fund the construction of MetLife Stadium, an open-air facility in New Jersey that opened in 2010. Johnson worked on that project as 360, the Jets’ architect, teamed with EwingCole to develop the 82,000-seat venue.

In Atlanta, the Falcons’ project includes $700 million in fixed construction costs to build a stadium with 66,000 to 72,000 seats, according to the request for qualifications for lead contractor that was issued April 17 to construction firms.

Johnson is familiar with the city’s sports landscape after designing Olympic Stadium for the 1996 Summer Games. He also worked on the post-Olympics retrofit of the same building that was renamed Turner Field and became the home of the Atlanta Braves in 1997. At the time, Johnson worked for Ellerbe Becket, now AECOM.

Johnson’s first experience designing a stadium with a retractable roof came in Phoenix, where he worked on the development of Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks for the past 15 years.

As of last week, 360’s deal was pending a signed contract with the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, the landlord for the proposed stadium. Johnson declined to talk about the Falcons’ project until those negotiations were completed.

> BANGING IT OUT: Creative design firm RipBang Studios has kept busy over the past year with projects at three major league arenas, including rebranding the Southwest Flight Deck at Amway Center.

The premium-seat space was called the AirTran Flight Deck when the Orlando Magic’s facility opened in the fall of 2010. Southwest bought AirTran for $1 billion in a transaction completed in May 2011. The rebranded space was completed prior to the 2012-13 NBA season.

RipBang Studios designed the deck’s interiors, graphics, murals and furniture. Southwest wanted to totally re-do the space to represent

A premium-seat space at Amway Center has new branding as the Southwest Flight Deck.
Photos by: FERNANDO MEDINA (2)
their branding with a “stylish, boutique hotel feel,” said Bob Bangham, RipBang’s creative director.

“The star of the show” at Amway Center, Bangham said, is the installation of an LED board about 30 feet long framing the Southwest space. The screen emits a subtle glow to create ambiance within the seating bowl without being a distraction, he said.

Elsewhere, RipBang designed branded areas at BMO Harris Bradley Center tied to four new building partners in Milwaukee: Miller Lite; Potawatomi Bingo Casino; Northwestern Mutual Insurance; and Kohl’s, the department store chain formerly owned by Bucks owner Herb Kohl.

In Tampa, RipBang completed the design of three new sponsor quadrants at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The branded spaces in the corners of the lower bowl are tied to the St. Petersburg Times, Dex Imaging and Bright House Networks. Eighteen months after signing those deals, the Tampa Bay Lightning continue to market the fourth quad, said Steve Griggs, the NHL team’s chief operating officer.

> CONNECT THE DOTS: During a session on connectivity at sports facilities, San Francisco Giants CIO Bill Schlough told an intriguing tale for how he believes technology played a key role in giving the team a competitive edge on the field in 2012. The Giants have been ahead of the curve upgrading technology to 13-year-old AT&T Park, investing millions in the infrastructure required to expand bandwidth to accommodate thousands of fans operating their mobile devices without the breakdowns experienced at other venues.

Last season, in the days leading up to the 2012 MLB All-Star Game in Kansas City, the Giants encouraged every fan at their sold-out ballpark to pull out their smartphones and vote 25 times for their favorite Giants players to make the starting lineup. The Giants’ faithful responded to those messages. Pablo Sandoval, despite missing 35 games with an injury, became the National League’s starter at third base after trailing the New York Mets’ David Wright by 465,000 votes in late June, about a week before fan voting ended.

In the first inning of the All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium, Sandoval hit a three-run triple off Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, helping the National League win 8-0. The victory gave the NL home-field advantage in the World Series.

The Giants went on to win the National League pennant and, as luck would have it, they faced the Tigers in the World Series. Sandoval continued crushing everything Verlander threw at him, hitting two of his three home runs in Game 1 off the Tigers’ ace. San Francisco eventually swept Detroit in four games, winning its second World Series title in three seasons.

OK, maybe it’s a stretch, but it still makes for a good story. Ask Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, who was scratching his head over how Sandoval overcame Wright in All-Star Game balloting. As Schlough retold it, Alderson said, “How does a city of 800,000 beat one of 8 million?’”

> IN BED WITH BRADY: In the same session, Gillette Stadium executive Jim Nolan revealed the New England Patriots are developing a new mobile application that will feature an alarm clock providing wake-up calls to fans on game days. The application will wrap fans around the entire experience surrounding NFL game weekends, starting with the Friday press releases issued by the Patriots, continuing to Saturday’s walk-throughs and news updates, and extending to the wake-up calls — provided by Patriots players and coaches.

Fans, for example, could select Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as the voice they want to hear as they climb out of bed on Sunday mornings, said Nolan, the team’s senior vice president of operations, finance and administration.

The Patriots’ mobile application follows Wi-Fi improvements completed at the stadium prior to the 2012 season by Enterasys, a tech firm that became the team’s official networking partner.

As they commit to these high-tech renovations, the Patriots have an eye on maintaining an 11-year-old building they believe can last for several decades, similar to Fenway Park, the 101-year-old home of the Boston Red Sox.

“We want to be like Fenway,” Nolan said. “As a legacy stadium, it’s all about what can we do to bring it up to date.”

> BITS AND PIECES: The Brooklyn Nets are searching for a way to expand the team store at Barclays Center for next season, said Brett Yormark, the team’s CEO. The 3,350-square-foot Nets Shop by Adidas, open 365 days a year with a streetside entrance, is too small to meet the demand for Nets merchandise. “We are exploring more space in particular for kids [retail],” Yormark said. … The Seattle Seahawks will form a fan council this fall similar to that of the MLS Sounders, their sister organization, said Peter McLoughlin, president of both teams. The Alliance, the Sounders’ group, includes longtime season-ticket holders and new ones with input on team decisions, including a vote every four years to retain or dismiss the MLS club’s general manager. During a one-on-one interview at the conference, McLoughlin stopped short of saying whether Seahawks fans would play a role in determining the fate of the NFL team’s GM. … The NBA could expand its use of 4K technology for the Finals after testing the next generation of high-definition video during the regular season at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. Three 4K cameras, mounted on the top of the shot clock, at midcourt and in the stands, help game officials determine line calls for 3-point shots. Further testing will be done in the playoffs before the decision is made for the championship series, said Steve Hellmuth, NBA Entertainment’s executive vice president of operations and technology. Eventually, 4K will find its way into television production, Hellmuth said.

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