Venue designs cater to wandering attendees
The mobile fan has forced changes to how arenas and stadiums are designed as well as how experiences within them are presented.
The trend has resulted in a host of new options for wandering attendees, including standing-room-only spaces for socializing, drink rails and party decks. Such design elements have shown up from T-Mobile Arena to Fiserv Forum and down to minor league and USL stadiums.
Today’s sports fans want the game to be more than an experience; they want it to be a personal event.
“Fans continue to evolve. People’s tastes evolve,” said Michael Bucek, vice president of marketing and business development for the Kansas City Royals, which has expanded concourses, concessions and social gathering areas at Kauffman Stadium.
Design firm Generator Studio and the Class AAA Fresno Grizzlies just debuted a bar and social area at Chukchansi Park that replaced 1,000 outfield seats.
“You are seeing that a lot in terms of seats being taken out,” said Gary Arthur, senior project manager for Color Art Partners, a design firm whose sports clients include Enterprise Center in St. Louis, which added a new rinkside premium club, new lounges with standing and social areas, and a new atrium via renovations led by Generator Studio that concluded last year.
To help with flow and to allow wandering fans to still watch the game, concourses at many sports facilities have been widened and made 360 degrees to loop the entire venue. Concessions and restrooms have been positioned so they don’t block views or fan movements. Bars and social areas, such as party decks, are designed with views to the playing surface so fans stay connected to the game.
“People aren’t going to sit in their seats for nine innings. They’re not going to sit there for three hours,” said Anton Foss, senior vice president and managing principal for architecture firm HOK, which designed the new $150 million Class AAA Las Vegas Ballpark.
Foss and other designers have taken to creating “neighborhoods” in different areas of facilities that feature different food and beverage options, designs and color themes to appeal to fans and encourage them to explore.
And in areas throughout sports facilities, designers are creating elements that appeal to the desire among fans to share the experiences across social media.
“It is all about creating these different stories,” said Adam Stover, lead designer at architecture firm Populous.
Little Caesars Arena features Detroit Red Wings and Pistons photographs, memorabilia and exhibits throughout the arena. Dodger Stadium, State Farm Arena and CenturyLink Field have installed murals, sculptures and other exhibits that entice fans’ inner influencer. Sloan Park in Arizona, where the Chicago Cubs have spring training, has a replica of the iconic Wrigley Field marquee where fans pose and take photos.
“In a lot of our work we are thinking about where is the selfie moment. Where is the spot where they want to make sure they get a picture of themselves and their friends,” said Dan Meis, a sports architect who designed Staples Center, Paul Brown Stadium and Stadio della Roma in Italy. “There is definitely a strong sense now of not just memorializing the event. It’s really about memorializing that you were at the event yourself.”
Ryan Gedney, national design director for architecture firm HNTB, said creating post-worthy areas is important to keeping fans engaged with the venue and team. “They’re not going to connect without a richer, interactive experience,” he said.
All that will be for naught if buildings don’t have the bandwidth to keep up with demands for wireless connectivity, not to mention the growth in mobile concessions ordering, as well as virtual and augmented reality fan experiences.
Jim Nannini, vice president of building wide systems integration for Johnson Controls, said venues need to look at digital infrastructure the same way they look at physical infrastructure. Otherwise, venues face more frequent major renovations or the need for new builds.
“You are designing for some unknowns,” said Gedney. “You are designing for a day-one opening event but also for a future you don’t yet know.”