Missouri's football fans are savoring plans for a new NFL stadium in downtown St. Louis, but it remains unclear if the HOK-led designs will be enough to keep the Rams from leaving. In January fans of the St. Louis Rams got new reason to fear their football team might depart when owner Stan Kroenke announced plans to build an HKS-designed 80,000-seat stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood. Twenty years after the NFL team left L.A. in the first place, they may well move back—but not if St. Louis officials and fans have their way. New renderings released in March give more substance to plans that could woo the Rams into staying: a football and soccer stadium on the banks of the Mississippi River designed by St. Louis–based HOK. The National Football League has said no team relocations will happen this year, but either stadium plan could be ready for construction in 2016.
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“Jock tax” could fund new stadiums for Milwaukee Bucks; Populous, HNTB, Eppstein Uhen shortlisted to design
Wisconsin's NBA team, the Milwaukee Bucks, are getting a new stadium designed either by Populous, HNTB, or Eppstein Uhen, owners announced last week. Populous is an MVP of sorts in the world of stadium design, with the 2012 London Olympic Stadium to its name. Kansas City's HNTB designed the San Francisco 49ers' new stadium. Local firm Eppstein Uhen is known around Milwaukee for their redesign of Miller Park, among other projects. Basketball fans could attend games in the new stadium as soon as fall 2017 if all goes according to plan. But the project needs money, potentially from a controversial proposal to sell $220 million in state bonds still in limbo. Bucks owners have said they will provide at least $150 million, while former owner and former Sen. Herb Kohl has pledged $100 million. But Wisconsin Governor and likely Republican presidential contender Scott Walker has faced opposition from both sides of the aisle for his proposal to finance the private construction project in part with public funds. Liberals point out his willingness to slash state funding for higher education, social services, and renewable energy programs belies his poor priorities, while the conservative group Americans for Prosperity expressed worries about the Bucks bond deal's risk to taxpayers. The new stadium, intended to prevent the Bucks from leaving Milwaukee when their contract runs out in 2017, is estimated to cost $450 million to $500 million. If the legislature approves Walker's proposal, city and county financing is likely to make up the remaining money. Walker said if the Bucks leave the state, they'd take with them millions per year in income tax collections alone, reported ESPN:
Under what Walker called a "first-of-its-kind" plan, the more than $6.5 million that's collected from taxes on the salaries of the Bucks and visiting NBA players would continue to go to the state's general fund. Walker said that figure is expected to grow due to rising salaries and revenue from the NBA's TV contracts, so any money above $6.5 million would be used to pay off the bond by 2046.Representatives for the team have said they hope to have a plan for a new home in place within the next month. Should the project go forward (with funding from state bonds or without), the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's critic Mary Louise Schumacher calls for thoughtful design: "Nothing will define the project — and its impact on Milwaukee — like the design."
Are you ready for some football stadiums? Los Angeles gets even more proposals for its yet-unsecured NFL team
Just when we thought Los Angeles' football stadium craziness had cooled down, the owners of the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders have unveiled plans for a 72,000 seat, $1.7 billion stadium on a 168-acre site in Carson—which should soon be on that city's ballot—while Inglewood City Council approved a measure to build a stadium for the (for now) St. Louis Rams, originally floated by Rams' owner Stan Kroenke. The firm behind the Carson stadium, MANICA Architecture, is also designing a new arena for the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco's Mission Bay. The architect of the Rams' stadium is HKS. That office's plan would include an 80,000 seat stadium and a 6,000 seat performance venue, both part of a mixed-use development on the site of Hollywood Park. Showing how serious it is about moving an NFL team to LA, the NFL has launched a "Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities," to "oversee the application of the relocation guidelines in the event that one or more clubs seek to move to Los Angeles. A half-dozen Southern California stadium proposals have been pitched in the past three years, although only the two most recent are attached to specific teams. Other proposals have been suggested for City of Industry, Downtown LA, Elysian Park, the Rose Bowl, and the Los Angeles Coliseum. The NFL has not had a team in Los Angeles since the Rams and Raiders both left after the 1994 season.
St. Louis' NFL franchise, the Rams, left Los Angeles in 1994. Twenty years later they're mulling a move back, but not without a fight from the residents of their new Midwestern home. Last week plans for a new arena on the banks of the Mississippi River upped the ante, promising Rams fans 64,000 seats and an open-air stadium designed by HOK and 360 Architecture that a city-appointed task force called “the crown jewel of the reinvention of St. Louis’ city center”. L.A., where the Rams were founded and played for nearly 50 years, offers an 80,000-seat stadium designed by HKS. The Associated Press said last week that billionaire Rams owner Stan Kroenke wasn't returning calls from St. Louis city officials. In November Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon appointed Former Anheuser-Busch President Dave Peacock and Attorney Bob Blitz to lead a task force on the new stadium proposed for the North Riverfront area of downtown. Their plan, released Friday, said “the new stadium will impose no new tax burden on taxpayers in the local region or the State of Missouri”. It proposes bridging I-44 to link the Edward Jones Dome with St. Louis' Great Rivers Greenway network and the CityArchRiver grounds, where the city's iconic Gateway Arch and Museum of Western Expansion are undergoing a massive renovation and expansion. If approved, the stadium, which would also play host to Major League Soccer games, would start construction in 2016 and be ready for games in 2020. That is, if St. Louis still has a team; The National Football League has said no team relocations will happen this year.
Nike has covered a basketball court in Shanghai with LED sensors and the result looks like a live-action video game. The court is called the “House of Mamba”—not to be confused with the new “House of Vans” in London—and it's topped with reactive sensors that track players' every move. The House is part of Nike’s “Rise Campaign,” which the company described as “the first social basketball documentary drama in Greater China to inspire young people with a passion for basketball.” The House opened this summer with an appearance by Kobe Bryant, for whom the stadium gets its named—“House of Mamba” plays off Bryant’s nickname “Black Mamba.” Gizmag has a helpful breakdown of how exactly this court works: “It has a wooden base layer platform to provide a natural bounce, followed by a layer of over a thousand 2 x 2 ft (0.6 x 0.6 m) interlaced LED screens, a layer of thick glass on top of the screens and an adhesive basketball surface that provides bounce and grip covering the glass layer.”
San Jose Mercury News columnist (and frequent AN contributor) Alan Hess took on HNTB's Levi's Stadium, the new $1.3 billion home of the San Francisco 49ers. Hess compares the "starkly utilitarian," 68,500 seat stadium to Silicon Valley's high tech environments, and even to its high-end gadgets. The building "translates the high-def experience of a game we see on TV—the roaring crowd, the superhuman action of the players, the intense color of the grass under the TV-studio lighting, the camaraderie of loyal 49ers fans celebrating (or commiserating) en masse—into an enormous three-dimensional architectural spectacle," Hess wrote. Innovations include club seats (including 170 luxury suites) separated from the rest of the stadium bowl (and a lacy steel skeleton) to bring everybody closer to the field; food service via every smartphone; and a variety of viewing environments, including nine clubs. Of course it's all located inside Santa Clara's Great America Parkway, a "multiuse city of workplaces, entertainment, theme parks, convention center, schools and hotels, stitched together with light rail and cars." Other outlets seem to be equally impressed, at least with the stadium's novelty and gizmos. Time magazine called the stadium the "most high tech sports stadium yet," illustrating partnerships with tech companies like Sony, giant LED displays in both end zones, and wifi and 4G access for all fans. USA Today called it "massive and luxurious," a shiny new antidote to "grungy" Candlestick Park, the Niners' former home, with its "wide concourses and expansive views of the South Bay." And SFist, a little bothered by the lack of shade, liked the solar panels that will power the stadium for all of its home games. But the same reporter, Daisy Barringer, had an interesting comment. Unlike Candlestick Park, which had a decidedly unique mid-century character (and flaws), the new stadium feels a little more, well, normal. "It's just another NFL stadium," said Barringer. Click here for a live view of the stadium.
In a power play for the world of arena architecture, HOK has announced it will acquire Kansas City's 360 Architecture. Their union marks HOK's return to the world of sports and entertainment facility design, possibly to compete with Populous, another Kansas City-based firm that spun off from HOK Sports Venue Event in 2008. HOK started HOK Sports in 1983, but that firm (now called Populous) no longer has any affiliation with St. Louis-based HOK. The global design firm's merger with 360 creates the largest architectural firm in Missouri. “Joining HOK enables us to take advantage of an exceptionally strong global platform and to expand our sports facility design practice while offering our clients additional expertise in other markets,” 360 Principal Brad Schrock said in a statement. “This also brings HOK, a global design leader in many building types, into the heart of Kansas City.” 360’s current projects include the Rogers Place arena for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, and a new stadium for the Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes. Major competitors for the new HOK sports design giant will likely remain Dallas-based HKS and Seattle’s NBBJ. The two had been short-listed to design a major new stadium for the Detroit Red Wings, but developer Ilitch Properties selected none other than 360 Architecture as lead designer and architect of record on that project. Meanwhile HKS is tackling a new Vikings arena in Minneapolis, while NBBJ fields Lexington, KY’s storied Rupp Arena.
Chicago’s Wrigley Field turns 100 years old this year. To many neighbors and architectural historians, however, the ballpark’s centennial celebrations are an afterthought to the real action: the years-long debate over how to update the landmark park without corrupting its beloved 1914 character. At a community meeting Monday, Lakeview residents expressed concern over proposals including five new outfield signs and two video scoreboards. The plan goes to the Landmarks Commission on Thursday, but local Alderman Tom Tunney said he will not support it. In 2013 Chicago’s Landmarks Commission laid out guidelines for Wrigley upgrades, which its owners and operators maintain are necessary to help pay off structural renovations and modernize the country’s second-oldest ballpark. But opposition has been strong from wary neighbors and the owners of adjacent rooftops, who say new signage will kill their business renting out their ersatz outfield seats. The plan debuted this week differs from the blueprint approved by Landmarks last year. Repeated delays and neighborhood opposition have scuttled plans from owner Tom Ricketts to add a Starwood hotel, 40,000-square-foot gym and open-air plaza in the areas surrounding Wrigley Field. Residents of Wrigleyville now face a dilemma: call Ricketts’ bluff over moving the team to suburban Rosemont, risking the loss of an economic engine, or cave on design guidelines they say are necessary to preserve the character and livelihood of their prosperous North Side community. Unsuccessful bids for development around Wrigley Field go back years. In 2010 developers proposed a mixed-use complex wrapping around the southeast corner of Clark and Addison Streets that never happened. Last year AN contributor Edward Lifson hosted a discussion at Moe's Cantina in Chicago with Elva Rubio, Bill Savage, Dan Meis, and Jonathan Eig “to discover why design matters (even if it might not help the Cubs win the World Series).”
Earlier this month, workers broke ground on the largest Twin Cities real estate development project in two decades. Budding off a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, designed by HKS, locally based Ryan Companies saw an opportunity to redefine the Minneapolis neighborhood of Downtown East. Their five-block mixed-use development will include two 18-story office towers for Wells Fargo, six levels of parking with more than 1,600 spaces, about 24,000 square feet of retail space, 193 apartments and a four-acre urban park near the new stadium’s northwest corner. Wells Fargo currently has 5,000 employees scattered across more than a dozen offices throughout the area. Bordering the Mississippi River, Downtown East is already home to the Guthrie Theater, whose form mimics the defunct flour mills that comprise much of the area’s post-industrial building stock—a heritage celebrated by the Mill City Museum, also in Downtown East. And while some residential development has followed those cultural attractions, the neighborhood has so far missed out on the artistic cachet that has enlivened nearby areas like North Loop and Northeast. The New York Times took a look at what the Downtown East development could mean for the city and state, which wrestled with financing for the new Vikings Stadium before ultimately approving partial public funding. While officials are quick to tout the project’s economic potential, some residents blast its lack of low-income housing. From the Times article by Christina Capecchi:
Mayor [Betsy] Hodges said she hoped to work affordable housing into Downtown East. “The housing portion hasn’t been fully fleshed out,” she said, “so that’s a conversation we’re having.” Ultimately, Downtown East is a chance to spur the development that the 31-year-old Metrodome failed to generate, said Michael Langley, chief executive of the Minneapolis St. Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership. “This is an opportunity for a huge do-over,” he said.Minneapolis has undertaken a slew of large infrastructure improvements lately, such as a revamp of downtown's pedestrian strip, Nicollet Mall, and public transportation investments to the bike-friendly city that include a long-awaited light rail connection to neighboring St. Paul and an intermodal transit station next to Target Field.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is reportedly considering a plan to boost capacity at Soldier Field, the city’s football stadium, in a bid to host the Super Bowl. But as the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin laid out in a story Sunday, the play is a Hail Mary. Indianapolis’ new Lucas Oil Stadium, designed by HKS' Bryan Trubey [read AN’s Q+A with Trubey here], hosted the Super Bowl in 2012. Indy has also hosted the NCAA Final Four and the Big Ten football championship. The stadium, which holds 70,000 people under its retractable roof, has spurred nearby development and solidified Indianapolis’ position as a Midwest sports Mecca. The ability to seat 70,000 fans is considered a prerequisite for hosting the Super Bowl, so Soldier Field’s capacity of 61,500 falls short. Soldier Field is currently the smallest stadium in the NFL. But an additional 5,000 would still make the home of the Chicago Bears a tight squeeze for spectators of the country’s biggest sporting event. Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman it’s also about other events:
“I know everybody looks at the Super Bowl. But, look at this hockey event [between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins], which we started last year with college hockey. You look at two years ago when we had the Mexican soccer team here. We have Liverpool coming. These things not only sell out. They sell out fast. And it’s clear that you could do more, given these super events and they would be self-financing and self-sustaining.”Dirk Lohan, who led the master plan for the stadium’s expansion, told Kamin he’s not optimistic about the preliminary expansion plans. He said the original renovations had to balance capacity and preservation, leading to a design whose structural system could not be updated today without considerable expenses. [Read AN’s Q+A with Dirk Lohan in the upcoming March issue of the Midwest edition.] Architects Benjamin Wood and Carlos Zapata modernized 1920s-era Soldier Field in 2003, but the Bears’ desire to add more seating lost out to the city’s imperative to preserve Soldier Field’s historic colonnades. The $690 million renovation lost its National Historic Landmark status anyway in 2006. It’s unclear who’s studying the possible expansion for the Mayor, but whoever reviews the plan may have to lock heads with public scrutiny as intense as the stadium’s design challenges.
NBBJ's Los Angeles office will lead design on renovations to Lexington, KY's Rupp Arena and the city's convention center. With more than 23,000 seats, Rupp is the largest arena designed specifically for basketball in the United States. NBBJ, which will be working in collaboration with Lexington-based EOP, elected renovation over expansion or replacement after studying the 3-year-old arena. Renovation, they concluded, would save the city $215 million in construction costs. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said during a press conference that “the state will play some role” in the renovation projects, but did not say how. The University of Kentucky Wildcats draw large crowds to the downtown arena, as do concerts and other events. Designs for the renovation will be finalized over the next four months, the city said, with work expected to begin in late 2014. Construction will not interfere with the Wildcats’ basketball season. Renovations to the Lexington Convention Center will add 100,000 square feet to the facility, complementing Rupp’s renovation and amounting to a downtown arts and entertainment district. “Together, they will become the commercial, sports and entertainment destination that transforms Lexington,” said NBBJ partner Robert Mankin in a statement. Plans for that district last year included other new developments, including retail and housing, but have not secured financing. SCAPE Landscape Architecture was also selected earlier this year to re-imagine the landscape along Town Branch creek running through the site.
Twin Cities sports fans may be most excited about Sunday’s victory on the field, but a twinge of that satisfaction could be due to the team’s new stadium. Minnesota’s Sports Facilities Authority chose HKS architects to design a new home for the NFL’s Vikings. HKS also designed Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and Cowboys Stadium in their home base of Dallas—two of the most high-profile NFL construction projects in recent memory. A decision on the lead contractor for the project has yet to come down, but news of the $975 million stadium’s designer is the latest announcement in a long and at-times contentious political process that subsidizes professional sports in Minneapolis. Face-painted fans turned out to city council meetings as the deal cleared hurdles. With respected stadium architects on board, supporters may anticipate validation for their use of public funds. Those opposed maintain only time will tell, no matter the designer.