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#FluentInDesign with Tracy Tapp

As we strive to be more #FluentInDesign – connecting building users, designers, and manufacturers to help them understand each others’ needs — we continue to seek insight from those we work to inspire and those who inspire us. Recently, we connected with Tracy Tapp, Associate IIDA and Principal with global architectural firm, Populous, to discuss stadium architecture and design, sustainability and more.


Hunter Douglas Architectural: In 2010 we interviewed you on the future of sports design, how has sports design changed in the last five years?

Tracy Tapp: With the emergence T-Mobile Arena_Bunker Suiteof millennials comes significant generational difference in terms of the experiences they look for in the places they visit, and the growing importance of technology. Sports design has become more hospitality driven, with a greater focus on the social aspect of the space. Millennials look for more active experiences rather than passive ones, with a broad range of options. The food and beverage markets have also become more competitive, with the involvement of chefs and mixologists becoming commonplace for facilities to enhance dining programs.

HDA: How does branding factor into stadium design and architecture?

TT: Whether the facility is the home of a team, teams or is a multi-use venue, it needs to be an extension and reflection of the brand. The brand may be a team, a city or a region. The most successful brand integration is the most subtle and natural, focusing on developing deeper brand defining elements than logos. For example, architecture style, furniture style, font style, messaging, signage design, use of color, graphic elements should be brand consistent. Being authentic to ‘place’ is critical to the success of the overall design story.

HDA: Previously you spoke about sponsorship opportunities for revenue opportunity. How do you accommodate these needs into new designs?

TT: Sponsor’s reach has grown exponentially in the last five years. Populous designs public and private club spaces with future sponsorship in mind by identifying meaningful, layered opportunities woven into environments. We understand what sponsors are looking for, in what spaces, at what scale, visual presence and marketing reach. Since sponsors can come on board later in the process, usually after spaces are designed, we design each and every space with them in mind. Everything from the finishes and lighting level to the drinks being served can be reflective of that respective sponsor’s brand. In some cases, certain design aspects have to be revisited, making small adjustments to provide a cohesive ‘on brand’ experience.

HDA: How important is it to tie stadium design to the local community and economy?

T-Mobile Arena_Suite Level BalconyTT: Successful venues look outward as much as they do inward. Creating entertainment districts around these projects has become a norm. The need for multi-functional spaces has grown, and drawing from the city and surrounding area for design and functionality is vital.

HDA: For your work on the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, it was written that some of the design was driven by a FOMO fearing millennial crowd. How do you incorporate social and experiential designs into stadiums to allow event goers to become a larger part of the event?

TT: The interior club features are emerging as key components to successful interior design, blending social spaces with the expansive views offered by balconies. These upper-level balconies transform poor sightlines into revenue generating, first of their kind spaces. These spaces are less uniform than traditional bowl-facing seating and are more open, providing new generation consumers the social capability they seek.

HDA: How do you design for the different audiences in a stadium (premium spaces vs. general)?

TT: We provide a wide range of experiences for both public and premium spaces. Public spaces have more durable materials simply as a result of the quantity of people; whether it is a floor surface or type of barstool, items found in public spaces need to be more durable than those in a premium club for 180. Circulation, furniture layout and types, and food service operations are very different for public vs. club environments. The continued popularity of craft beers and handmade coLouisville Arenacktails drives types of bars found throughout the building and there is something for everyone as an upgrade to typical concession offerings. In addition to different audiences in a facility, there may also be multiple tenants. Programmable multimedia, digital menu boards and color changing lighting can cater to multiple tenants and events.

HDA: In what ways do you see green and sustainable design elements being incorporated into the total design of a project?

TT: Designing with sustainability in mind is a focus for Populous, and since 2010, we have had 23 LEED-certified facilities open. The use of materials and furniture that are sustainable and safe has become increasingly important. From a design perspective, we want to utilize materials with a long lifespan that wouldn’t need to be replaced often to keep maintenance and operations costs down and construction materials out of landfills; 25-40% of our landfills are construction materials.

HDA: It seems that stadium design is moving away from being just a short term facility but toward a year round destination for events. How does that change the design process?

TT: Creating fleT-Mobile Arena_Tower Clubxible environments for multi-use is critical for year-round utilization and revenue generation. A party deck level that may be a public bar and standing-room-only space for an event may also need to function as a banquet space. For each multi-use space the layout, circulation, arrival route, storage, furnishings, lighting, finishes, and food and beverage amenities have to accommodate both uses. Larger spaces are sometimes designed to partition into multiple smaller spaces for specific events. More moveable furniture elements are used for flexibility and conversion over fixed furniture or millwork.

HDA: What impact has technology has on stadium design?

TT: Audience expectation of current and innovative technologies drives advances in wireless support and premium sound from both acoustic and speaker layout. There is a large movement toward incorporation of media mesh, multimedia LED walls, and programmable content to communicate future events and act as sponsorship opportunities. The growing use of digital signage combined with affordable tech developments makes changing advertisements and event promotions much easier. Electronic menu boards are also growing in popularity and offer flexibility of change from event to event.

 HDA: What excites you the most about the current state of sports design and the direction it’s going?

TT: I love the increasing range of hospitality and entertainment environments we create in order to enhance the fan experience, successfully engaging a wide range of fans. I enjoy pushing the ‘food and beverage’ envelope; so much of our social experiences center on food and beverage, it can make or break an experience.


Images courtesy of Populous

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