North Carolina company lands event design work for College Football Playoff
The College Football Playoff will have a new firm handling its event design for the championship game in New Orleans, but a familiar face will be taking the lead.
The CFP has selected Stewart, a North Carolina-based architectural firm, to design all of the behind-the-scenes spaces at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, ranging from media areas to hospitality spaces and ancillary events.
Populous had managed the event design responsibilities for the first five years of the CFP championship. The CFP did not give a reason for issuing the RFP or disclose if other companies bid on the business.
Tim Larkin, a senior event director and associate vice president at Stewart, will run point for the firm. He’s a well-known figure to the CFP staff: Larkin formerly worked at Populous and ran its CFP business during his time there.
Event design, or design overlay as it’s called in the architectural industry, means designing everything that’s considered “back-of-house,” said Bill Hancock, the CFP’s executive director.
For example, the Superdome’s press box seats 200 people, but the CFP has needs for 1,500 people. It’s Stewart’s role to work with the CFP to find the space, design it and direct members of the media to it.
Stewart also will support the CFP and local officials with routing foot traffic, team traffic, planning décor, food services, hospitality areas, designating dropoff points for buses and any other aspects of preparing for the game that bring Stewart’s design and engineering expertise into play.
Wherever there’s a gap between what the Superdome provides and what the CFP requires, Stewart’s job is to fill it.
“It’s our job to help the CFP and the venue with whatever they need to operate and produce the championship,” Larkin said. “They make the decisions, and we lay out the area.”
Larkin left Populous, where he was a venue manager, to go to Stewart in 2017 to work with the United 2026 bid that will bring the FIFA World Cup to North America. He has been instrumental in helping build a growing Sports & Event practice at Stewart. Senior Vice President John Jenkins leads the practice, which found early success designing the PGA of America’s major events — the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup.
Winning the CFP championship game “was gigantic,” Larkin said. “There aren’t a lot of firms that do this kind of event overlay … so, the CFP probably wasn’t sure if they had options until they looked around.”