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Volume 22 No. 35
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Santee: ‘I use every resource available to me’

Before designing a facility, Earl Santee embeds himself in the market to know its true feel

A crucial part of the design process for Earl Santee on any project is what he calls “getting the vibe of the city.”

And that means eating out at various restaurants, hanging out in local bars, attending games at other venues in the market, walking the local streets, talking to fans and even making extended hotel and apartment stays. In the case of protracted stadium financing efforts such as Marlins Park in Miami, this process can continue on and off for several years.

“I use every resource available to me,” Santee said.

Settling into a city’s culture has been invaluable for Santee while he’s developing ideas for its sports stadiums.
Photo: adam vogler

The result of all the work, ideally, is a comprehensive set of grassroots fan and local citizen data that either confirms what is coming from a team client in the form of specific wish lists and design specifications, or enhances it significantly.

While for many years a part of Santee’s method, this personal embedding in a market has only grown more important recently as fans have grown more migratory in a venue throughout a game. Rather than sit in a standard seat for three hours, many fans now prefer to roam freely around a facility and socialize in what Santee calls “the three-inning tour.”

Santee himself similarly doesn’t sit still when attending a game, and he remains in a constant research mode observing fan movement patterns such as where lines are forming and how facility ingress and egress is flowing.

“When I’m in a building, I’m walking and I’m watching and observing,” Santee said. “And you can often see what people want when you see where the lines are. That tells you the truth.”

Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter said Santee’s methods and his ability to relate to local officials and local culture helped deliver a Target Field design that was truly unique to the Twin Cities.

“We’re really proud about so much of the building,” St. Peter said. “But I’m perhaps most proud of the unity that we had around this and that we were all ultimately of one voice, and created something that truly reflected who we are. And Earl had a big hand in that.”