June 3, 2013
By Mark A. Williams, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, Director of Business Development, HKS Sports & Entertainment Group

When I was asked to be a featured presenter at the PanStadia Expo in Amsterdam, it gave me an opportunity to share what the HKS Sports & Entertainment Group has developed in designing some of the most versatile and successful entertainment venues in the world.

Our integrated approach to design has broadened the game-day experience for patrons and distinctly addresses the needs of our clients and their respective fan bases.

One of the classic first steps in design is the creation of a facilities program. Each space within the facility is addressed and codified regarding its adjacencies, technical requirements and other significant design drivers. Through the years, this has become a substantial process that has a profound impact on the design.

This approach helps to design a facility, maybe even a good one, but it leaves many important factors unattended.

At HKS, we undertake a journey of discovery with our clients, and expand the plan for a venue to encompass factors that ensure it is distinctive to its team and market and is attractive for events and sponsors. We push ourselves to discover unique information and opportunities. The HKS integrated approach produces a physical form poised to create memorable successes that embody the vision of the clients, fans, users and sponsors.

We liken our intense search for the tangible and intangible brand factors that inspire the new facility’s success to archeology. We dig just like scientists who excavate. Our exploration focuses on the past, incorporates present needs, invents new options and takes advantage of new technology.

The design team delves into the project using the HKS integrated approach, thoroughly investigating these factors:

  • Brand research: Our project team amasses information on the team brand, both the tangible brand equity elements and the intangible attitudes. We immerse ourselves in the team history, culture, memorable moments and legendary personalities. We explore fan traditions, preferences, activities and demographics. This deep dive tells us what’s truly relevant and ensures that loyalty ultimately creates added revenues.
  • Market research — The history, traditions, demographics and sensibilities are huge factors as well. Where do fans live? What are their spending tendencies and what environments do they desire? Research determines the ultimate seating inventory.
  • Configuration/premium product is developed based on our research and the market. Being innovative and creating additional levels/options for seating/entertainment can increase fan loyalty and revenues greatly.
  • Sponsors no longer focus on “what they’ve always done” at other sports venues. They want to interact with fans before, during and after the game: in concourses, sponsored premium spaces and high-tech digital fan play. Thinking out of the box, into the future and all over the facility yields a much higher investment by partners.
  • Invented product pushes the particular brand/market specifics to create new options, often firsts and capitalizing on traditions. Increased fan access to players via new seating/entertainment options can encourage fans to engage at higher levels.
  • Image of the team, its fans and its home area dictate the design of the venue. To create an iconic facility that symbolizes the beloved team and its home, it must incorporate the entire discovery and assimilate it in the physical facility.

Through our discovery process, ideas, innovations and inventions thrive — and appear as a design. Here are three examples of the process:

The goals were clearly defined: Create a design to which all future sporting venues are compared and that changes the game-day experience to ultimately create a true paradigm shift.

Design began with establishing the equity found in the team, its identity and the existing venue. The shape and size of the opening in the roof, the star on the field, the international identity of the team and the realization that Dallas Cowboys have always been a team of “firsts” all greatly influenced the design of the new venue. With the Dallas area’s penchant for a world-class image, many innovations and “firsts” for an NFL stadium, including the largest operable glass doors in the end zones, largest center-hung video scoreboard and the largest retractable roof in the world, were incorporated.

The configuration of the stadium provides 12 price points for seating, an increase from the three fan options at Texas Stadium.

We invented new inventory, including the first field-level suites in the NFL and a premium club at field level that includes players’ field access. Sponsor areas were embedded throughout the venue.

The entire venue and site are designed to host destination events of all types, such as the NBA All Star game. Open plazas, end zone decks and operable walls provide flexibility for additional sporting events, concerts, banquets, conventions and even weddings.

The Indianapolis Colts’ new stadium, sheathed in brownish-red brick with Indiana limestone at its base, mirrors historic manufacturing buildings in downtown Indianapolis and creates a striking reminder of the traditional Indiana collegiate stadiums and field houses of the early 20th century.

Lucas Oil Stadium’s distinctive roof design, the only major stadium roof that retracts from side to side, is immediately recognizable as Indianapolis. An operable glass window wall and outdoor terraces to view downtown Indy and other scenery further enhance the openness of the stadium and pay tribute to the original city master plan.

Fans’ desires for non-bench seating, easier stadium access and modern amenities were fulfilled. Spacious, well-lighted 30-foot concourses and four large public plazas surround corner entrances.

For the city of Indianapolis, the design priority was to attract conventions and events of all types to the multi-purpose venue. Our design created a great football stadium that also could host any event. The dynamic seating bowl employs flexible configurations, moveable seating and added platforms for fan accommodations that make it a great venue for football and basketball, including the NCAA Final Four and the Super Bowl.

The venue also contains huge access spaces that can clear, for example, the massive equipment needed for the National Firefighters Association and also provides a base for great architecture.

The design of the new stadium that will be the home of the NFL’s Vikings reflects the international style, driven by climatic response and energy conservation. The interior volume will make it the most versatile, multi-use building in the country, with the most advanced digital-age technology. To be built with craft and form reflected in Scandinavian design, four major influences shaped the functional form and architecture of the building: climate, geography, history of important civic structures and technology.

With a soaring prow, the largest transparent roof in the world and operable doors that open to the downtown Minneapolis skyline, the facility’s openness, and sleek geometric exterior will make it unlike any other stadium in the country. The design reflects the true story of the Minnesota community with its international style driven by climatic response and energy conservation.

With a transparent roof on its southern half, visitors will feel like they are sitting outside – without exposure to the elements. Sustainable characteristics will be used to produce lower operating costs in winter and summer. The stadium’s sloped roof will be extremely efficient, an engineering feat considering the snow-loading requirements of the Minnesota climate.

The interior volume of the venue will provide the capability to host more events than any other large stadium in the world, including baseball. Despite its versatility, the stadium’s football configuration will put the fans closer to the field than in any other NFL stadium.

Just as important as the experience for all users is the building’s impact on economic development. With the building sited with a massive outdoor room as a counterpoint to the interior space, it encourages connections to downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, serving as a destination rather than a barrier. The design, glass, light and transparency will make it a strong candidate for hosting world- class events.

HKS Sports & Entertainment’s integrated discovery doesn’t produce designs that shout the HKS name. Making the effort to dig into the discovery of design—to go beyond basic facilities planning and research to dig deep for real answers and invent new solutions—results in a one-of-its-kind venue that meets and exceeds the vision of our clients. The ultimate results yield fan delight, pride of team, honor of place, sponsor support, multiple uses and profits to support the future.

For more information, contact Mark Williams at mwilliams@hksinc.com.

Posted in All Markets, Sports & Entertainment
Tagged branding in sports design, Mark Williams, sports design