Wow Factor: SoFi Stadium
It was a bittersweet moment for Mark Williams as he sat in an empty SoFi Stadium for the Los Angeles Rams’ first game on Sept. 13. But as one of the few people allowed to watch the Rams take on the Dallas Cowboys in person, Williams, the head of sports business development at HKS, was still enthralled with the $5 billion stadium’s opening night.
“Seeing the beauty of that venue and watching it perform, and the video board and all that, was just amazing,” Williams said.
The sheer scale of the project is a showstopper, from the massive video board to the sprawling roof canopy that stretches over the stadium and beyond and is designed to protect fans from the heat and allow the Southern California breezes to drift throughout the structure.
It’s a stunning addition to a market that knows all about glitz and glamour. And the project tested everything from engineering capabilities to how best to navigate the needed approvals to make it a reality.
“From a construction and design perspective, just the pure complexity of the building, SoFi Stadium, the roof structure and canopy that goes over American Airlines Plaza and the 6,000-seat performance venue, all three of those are venues in themselves, under one roof, and then with it located under the LAX flight path and having to dig down a hundred feet into the ground was challenging,” said Jason Gannon, managing director for SoFi Stadium and the adjacent Hollywood Park mixed-use development.
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Arguably the centerpiece of SoFi Stadium is the video board, which was also designed by HKS. Coming in at 2.2 million pounds and featuring 70,000 square feet of LED screens, it is the largest video board ever created, and the only dual-sided, center-hung video board ever created.
By the numbers
$5 billion cost to build
70,000 capacity (expandable to 100,000)
13,000 premium seats
12 premium clubs
3.1 million square feet stadium footprint
1 million square feet pan of canopy roof
2,500 LCD displays
2.2 million pounds ideo board weight
10,500 on-site parking stalls
12+ million onstruction worker hours
Source: SoFi Stadium
Then there’s the canopy, which has led to the Rams billing SoFi Stadium as the NFL’s first indoor-outdoor stadium. It’s made of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), a lightweight and transparent plastic that covers the venue’s seating bowl, the 2.5-acre American Airlines Plaza and the performance venue.
Williams — who designed SoFi Stadium and the video board with HKS architect Lance Evans — said the mindset of the stadium and its ancillary 300-acre Hollywood Park development, pushed by Rams owner Stan Kroenke, was what he enjoyed the most about working on the new home of the Rams and Chargers.
“When I first went to this site with Mr. Kroenke, we talked about the Southern California aspect, being the entertainment capital of the world,” Williams said. “We talked about this 300-acre site, and the visibility of it from both of the flight paths into LAX, and we talked about the power of the NFL, arguably the most-watched sport in the world, and the fact that this whole campus was really a global stage.”
In designing SoFi, Evans said HKS was influenced by the firm’s prior projects, including AT&T Stadium’s video board.
“I think the evolution was the double-sided scoreboard and it was really mostly based on our drive to connect people to more information and it’s about bringing content as close as we can to the fans,” Evans said. “That’s why it stretches from end zone to end zone, sideline to sideline, and it has the ability to present multiple avenues of content on the board but at the flip of the switch it can display one singular message.”
The companies behind SoFi Stadium
■ Architect: HKS
■ Project Manager: Legends Global Planning
■ General Contractor: Turner and AECOM Hunt
■ Operations Contractor: Stadco L.A.
■ Engineer of record: Henderson Engineers (stadium and Hollywood Park)
■ Naming Rights Partner: SoFi
■ Walter P Moore Engineering
■ Designer: HKS
■ LED Technology Provider: Samsung
■ Audio Provider: Harman brands
■ Audio System Designer: WJHW (Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams Inc.)
■ Audio System Contractor: Pro Media Audio and Video
■ Google Cloud
■ Legends (general and premium)
Team Store Operator
■ American Airlines
■ Pechanga Resort Casino
■ Pechanga Resort Casino (Pechanga Founders Club, Pechanga Cabanas, Pechanga Zone, Pechanga Resort Casino VIP Entrance)
■ SoFi (SoFi VIP Entrance, SoFi Social Club, SoFi Cabanas, SoFi Circle)
■ Constellation (Corona Beach House)
■ American Airlines (American Airlines VIP Entrance, American Airlines Plaza)
■ Samsung (Video board branding)
■ Pepsi (Pepsi Zone)
■ Cedars-Sinai (Cedars-Sinai Zone)
HKS’s design team also took cues from AT&T Stadium’s standing-room fan zones and have advanced the concept with putting them in different tiers and sides of SoFi, Evans said.
“The other really great thing about our products in the bowl, is that we’ve taken the corners of the stadium and have introduced two new club products,” Evans said. “On the north side of the stadium we have the perch suites and on the south side we have a three-level club.”
Another takeaway from AT&T Stadium and expanded upon at SoFi Stadium is the venue’s field suites.
“The invention of that product type at AT&T was about the maximum utilization of the first row of seats in an NFL stadium where they are traditionally raised at a certain level to get visibility over the players on the sideline. So with that, we thought, what if we created this ultimate social gathering space for fans on the field level so they feel like they’re a part of the action of the team, so they can hear the banter of the players, see the camaraderie, but when they want to watch the game, their seats are in the lower bowl,” Evans said.
“At SoFi we took that to the next level, where on the end zones we introduced these bungalows that are on the same level as the field, and they’re as close as the NFL will allow us to get to back of the end zone. But we didn’t just place a normal seat product there, we introduced a more casual product, so there’s couches literally on the field level of the stadium, where you have this great proximity to a red zone play, or a great touchdown is coming at you.”
In addition to its 260 luxury suites and 13,000 premium seats, SoFi Stadium features multiple branded spaces (see chart). Branding is still to be determined for whiskey, champagne, tequila and wine bars located in the stadium’s 360-degree, 75,000-square-foot Executive Club level.
Hollywood Park’s first phase of development is expected to be finished by the time the stadium hosts the 2022 Super Bowl, with 1.5 million square feet of retail and office space, up to 3,000 residences, a hotel and more than 25 acres of public parks and green space.
On the technology front, SoFi Stadium will connect Cisco’s Wi-Fi 6 next-generation wireless broadband network to 2,500 screens located across the venue’s concourses, suites and concessions areas. Google Cloud will power SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park’s digital innovation efforts. YouTube is the official video streaming sponsor of the Rams, Chargers, SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park.
When it comes to the stadium’s food and beverage program, executives have been relatively mum on what fans can expect. In a prior interview with Sports Business Journal, Legends President and CEO Shervin Mirhashemi said the F&B offerings for premium and general concessions areas will be representative of Los Angeles’ diverse culinary offerings, but he declined to provide details, which he said will be released closer to the date when SoFi can eventually host fans.
Legends will also operate the team stores for the Rams and Chargers at SoFi, with a 7,000-square-foot retail store catering to fans of both teams. “There will be two different floors and obviously we’ll have exclusive items that we’re going to have only specifically at that location for both the teams,” Mirhashemi said.
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Evans, who took in the Rams-Cowboys game in a suite that overlooked SoFi Stadium’s patio club, said it was surreal as he entered the completed venue. From his vantage point at kickoff, Evans could see the Southern California sunlight shine through the stadium’s clear canopy along with feeling the wind flow through the venue.
“It was great to feel the movement, the air, all the design drivers that we set forth with from the beginning, about embracing Southern California and its climate. It was really cool to see that during the game,” Evans said. “Obviously, it was a little bit bizarre with no fans in the stands, but I can’t wait for fans to get in there and see it.”
California officials have not yet determined if SoFi Stadium will be allowed to welcome fans this season. Williams said that when fans can attend, he looks forward to seeing their eyes when they enter through the gates of a venue that he says embodies Southern California’s spirit.
“To be able to sit there and knowing the years of work by thousands and thousands of people to get to that point, it’s just amazing to watch that unfold right in front of me,” Williams said. “It’s usually my favorite day because I just sit and watch the eyes of the fans that come in and oftentimes, they’re just in awe of these buildings and the things that you can do and the scale of them. That’s probably my biggest joy on these projects.”
What they’re saying
“It’s iconic. I’ve tried to run from the word. But this stadium, there was no way Stan [Kroenke] was going to cut costs in any way that would compromise the overall, long-term sense of quality or value. It needs to be like Mount Rushmore.” — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, to the San Diego Union Tribune
“Every time I’m in there, there’s some aspect, some design element that’s just overwhelming. It seems like it’s a hologram. I don’t know what they’ve done, but it’s overwhelming. You feel like you’re in a video game or something.” — Rams GM Les Snead, to the Spokesman Review
“The place is beautiful, gorgeous, stupendous. The four-year journey to its inception is compelling. It’s going to host the 2022 Super Bowl, the 2028 Summer Olympics, and could eventually earn a reputation as this country’s premier sporting arena.” — Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times
“You will be able to see it from SoFi Stadium on a clear day, and the upper concourse offers the most spectacular views. The San Gabriel Mountains to the north, downtown Los Angeles to the east and Palos Verdes Peninsula to the south. And the Hollywood sign to the northeast.” — Josh Peter, USA Today
“It’s a building that befits the entertainment capital of the world. … We now know what $5 billion will get for you.” — NBC’s Al Michaels
“Things will be even busier outside SoFi Stadium on the 298-acre campus, which already has greenery and a man-made lake. Office buildings are going up for NFL Media and other tenants, to be followed by a half-million square feet of retail space, a 300-room hotel and about 314 apartment units.” — Associated Press
“The 70,000-seat stadium, expandable to 100,000 for some events, is huge without seeming vast. The stands rise more vertically than in most places. The Rams say the highest seats are about 50 feet closer to the field than the corresponding seats at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.” — Kevin Modesti, Southern California News Group