Flexibility is Key to Gold Medal Stadium Design, from Tokyo to LA
- Selwyn Crawford
- Naheed Rajwani
Japan’s decision not to allow spectators at the 2021 Olympic Games because of the COVID-19 pandemic means that fans won’t be able to witness the Summer Olympics pageantry in person until 2024 in Paris.
But if France is still a bit too far American fans to travel, take heart. The 2028 Games will be held in Los Angeles with HKS-designed SoFi Stadium serving as the host venue for the elegant splendor of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Although the massive stadium will rightfully garner more than its fair share of attention as the spectacular new home of the National Football League’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, SoFi Stadium — and the venues around it — are much more than that.
The SoFi Stadium campus is a world-class entertainment destination that is at once both a tourist attraction and revenue driver. It is a site that will cater to sports and non-sports fans alike, with the ability to host events ranging from soccer matches to concerts to high-profile award shows.
But that’s not all. The unique architectural design provides unmatched user flexibility including for nearby Inglewood residents who can use it daily to simply bike or jog around 25 acres of parks and open space, or for local officials who can use it for a bevy of community activities such as a voting precinct or temporary medical care spot.
In many cases, this smorgasbord of activities can take place simultaneously. While a football game is being played inside SoFi Stadium, a concert could be happening inside the 6,000-seat YouTube Theater while non-sports or concert fans frolic or picnic at Lake Park. Or at times, the venues within the 298-acre space could work in unison to host a single massive event such as an Olympics.
The crown jewel of the site, though, remains the 70,000-seat SoFi Stadium. Designed and built to provide the ultimate fan experience, those inside SoFi will experience an array of 21st Century sights and sounds including the world’s largest videoboard, a circular dual-sided operation that weighs 2.2 million pounds, features 80 million LED pixels and at 120 yards in length, is longer and wider than the field below it. In addition, the stadium’s sound system will use 260 speakers that are the equivalent of 1,500 home entertainment systems. And even in the unlikely event of rain, patrons and athletes will be protected by a roof made of ETFE held down at four corners to create the world’s first true indoor/outdoor stadium.
And fans on the ground inside the stadium won’t be the only ones who get to personally witness the festivities. A system of LED “pucks” embedded in the stadium roof allows passengers flying into or out of nearby LAX to watch whatever event is taking place under the roof in real-time.
Taken together, SoFi Stadium and the surrounding Hollywood Park — the largest mixed-used development under construction in the Western United States — will revitalize the city of Inglewood, where it’s located. It will provide thousands of jobs and opportunities while boosting overall tourism for the Los Angeles area by attracting world-class events year-round.
And while the 2028 Olympic Games will give the world the chance to see and experience the range of SoFi Stadium, there are several other stadiums around the globe whose user flexibility highlights the fan experience and revenue-generating capabilities that are now the hallmark of the HKS Sports Design Team.
Chengdu Phoenix Hill Sports Park is one such international venue designed by HKS with flexibility and scale in mind. While many new sports venues in China sit inactive after big competitions, HKS envisioned Chengdu Phoenix Hill Sports Park as a state-of-the-art venue for major global sporting events and a public place where the community can gather throughout the year.
The team designed a massive sports center and a public square or “urban living room” that can accommodate a variety of outdoor events throughout the year including parties, exhibitions, concerts and festivals. The venues can also handle a full range of sporting events including soccer (football), basketball, ice hockey, badminton, table tennis, handball and gymnastics. And those venues can provide retractable seating and stage options. The sports park is set to host the 31st World University Games’ basketball competition in 2022 and the 18th Asian Cup in 2023.
Perth, Australia is the site of HKS-designed Optus Stadium, which hosts a variety of events including cricket and soccer matches, major concerts and, of course, Australian Rules Football contests. The pitch is oval-shaped to accommodate cricket matches in addition to other types of sporting events. Designers also lowered the seating bowl to give fans exceptional views and bring them closer to the action on the field.
Non-sports enthusiasts who visit the area around Optus Stadium will have access to an amphitheater, children’s playgrounds and picnic areas. There are wheelchairs positions at every level and more than 70 universally accessible toilets throughout the facility for disabled fans.
In León, Guanajuato, Mexico, the new Estadio León and its nearby multi-use development will host up to 35,000 professional soccer fans when it opens 2023 to replace the former Estadio León built in 1967. The new stadium, which is designed to honor the region’s connection to the leather tanning industry, is expected to become the home of the Club León football (soccer) team.
Another HKS-designed international venue is Mosaic Stadium in Saskatchewan, Canada. The home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League has built-in flexibility to accommodate concerts, FIFA soccer matches and a variety of cultural and entertainment events with a 33,000-seat capacity that is expandable to 40,000 seats. The design of the roof form and the location of building massing were sculpted to shield fans and players from the prevailing northern winter winds and to shed snow accumulations. The playing surface was set below grade to aid both the climatic response as well as the visual impact to the surrounding developments.
Reaching Back to the U.S.
HKS designers have also created iconic stadiums and facilities back in the United States that have or will serve as hosts for some of the world’s most iconic sporting events. AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis have all hosted NFL Super Bowls. And SoFi Stadium will join that illustrious list in February 2022 when it welcomes Super Bowl LVI.
Meanwhile, just down the street from AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Field — the new home of Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers — served as the single site for the 2020 World Series. Major League Baseball, because of COVID-19 concerns, chose to hold its Fall Classic at the stadium, which features a 240,000 square-foot (22,297 square meters) retractable roof and an 8,700 square-foot (808 square meters) right-field scoreboard that sits over the field of play. It is the only such arrangement in MLB.
The United States Tennis Association National Campus near Orlando features dozens of modernized courts with various surfaces, a training center, housing facilities and administrative office space for the United States Tennis Association. More than two dozen PlaySight SmartCourts have video cameras, and a kiosk allows players and coaches to stop practice and watch instant replay or monitor stats from every match or drill.
The campus, which hosted the 2019 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships and will do so again in 2022 and 2023, attracts tennis players from the United States and around the world to plan and train at the high-tech site.
And in Grand Prairie, Texas, in the shadows of AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Field, HKS is designing Major League Cricket’s first major stadium in the U.S., with the hope of building other cricket facilities across the country as the sport seeks to expands its reach in the United States.
HKS designers will convert a former minor league baseball stadium in Grand Prairie into a cricket ground and the USA Cricket headquarters. Once complete in 2022, the venue will be able to host international cricket matches and related events. And those contests could be the prelude to moving the sport to an even bigger stage. The International Cricket Council (ICC) is lobbying to have cricket, which is extremely popular internationally, added as an Olympic sport during the 2028 Games at . . . SoFi Stadium.