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The future according to EwingCole
Craig J. Schmitt, principal of EwingCole, explains the company's beginnings in racetrack design, why trust is a crucial part of a successful project and how new technologies are changing stadium design for the better
What services does your company offer to the industry?
EwingCole is a fully integrated, architecture, engineering, interior design, and planning firm, currently celebrating over 50 years in practice. The firm has earned a national and international reputation delivering some of sports’ largest venues including the US$1 billion, 82,500-seat MetLife Stadium and the US$370 million, 43,500-seat Citizens Bank Park. From its inception, the firm has been involved in the planning and design of sports buildings for professional and collegiate, public and private, new and renovated.
Our ability to provide all A/E/I/P services and our multi-discipline approach to project delivery result in exceptional service to our clients – from an initial master plan or facility assessment to award-winning design and fast-track delivery of construction documents.
Could you tell us an interesting fact about your company?
EwingCole’s sports design practice grew out of our expertise in designing thoroughbred racetracks. As far back as the mid-1960s – starting with the now extant Liberty Bell Park – the firm pioneered various aspects of racetrack design, which soon after translated into the first of many stadia and arena commissions.
In the early 1970s, the firm acted as the executive architect and master planner for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority’s Meadowlands Sports Complex, executing the new racetrack design as well as completing the schematic design for Giants Stadium, one of the premier football venues of that era.
The firms’ unique ownership structure has enabled it to remain intact for five decades and become recognised as one of the nation’s leading sports design practices.
What trends do you see emerging in your particular sector of the stadium industry?
Technology is ever changing the way we approach stadium design. New technologies can enhance the fan experience, generate new revenue, improve stadium operations, save money and enable greater flexibility for use of the facility. These technologies include more advanced audio/visual entertainment systems, TV broadcast systems, security and surveillance systems and building automation management systems efficiently monitoring the stadium MEP systems. Owners are expecting their facilities to be state-of-the-art and provide greater return on their investment.
Can you tell us about a recent success story for your company?
MetLife Stadium won the 2011 National Design-Build Award – Civic from the Design Build Institute of America. The stadium is one of the NFL’s largest and most technologically advanced stadia with over 82,500 seats and more than 2.1 million ft2. It is the only outdoor professional sports venue in the USA that is home to two teams in the same sport – the New York Jets and the New York Football Giants. The venue can be transformed in less than 48 hours to reflect the colours and logos of the respective home team. EwingCole was the architect and engineer, and also served as the design-build partner.
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in your particular sector of the industry – and how are you overcoming them?
One of our biggest challenges is delivering more services to more sophisticated owners and builders that want things to be done faster and for less money. With today’s technology, ideas can be drawn and tested more quickly, and 3D simulations can help clients better understand the end product, but conceiving, planning, and executing these ideas takes time. The technology makes it look effortless, but manipulation of the software is ever more complex for architects and engineers. Helping our clients understand the process – and setting realistic expectations – fosters a better working relationship. This means we build trust between architect and client, leading to a higher satisfaction rate. This is why nearly 80% of our business is repeat business – a very high percentage in our marketplace.
What new technologies or strategies have you used in any recent projects?
It is becoming fairly common for clients to request assistance from their design professionals earlier and earlier in the project development phase – in particular for help with fundraising, sponsorship and marketing by asking to develop enhanced graphic materials such as video animations with sound.
In addition to 3D drawing software utilised as part of the design phase, EwingCole’s in-house multimedia consultant, Digital Media Group, has been developing high-caliber fundraising videos and other 2D and 3D marketing collateral in concert with our designers to support our clients’ needs to raise capital and move projects forward.
What’s your favourite stadium/sports venue and why?
My favourite venue is Citizens Bank Park. The venue has all of the best features of a modern day ballpark – an intimate seating bowl with great sightlines, open and spacious concourses with a variety of food options and fan amenities, historic displays, iconic architecture with noticeable attention to detail and views to the city beyond. It is a cheerful place for both ardent baseball enthusiast and casual fan. It’s no wonder it is considered by many teams as the new ‘gold standard’ in baseball stadia – why the NY Yankees, the NY Mets, the San Diego Padres, the St Louis Cardinals, the Washington Nationals and the Minnesota Twins all made a point to tour Citizens Bank Park before beginning design on their respective new ballparks.
The team president, David Montgomery, and other Phillies’ top brass have directly attributed much of the success of the team – five straight Division titles, including a World Series victory in 2008 – to the ballpark. The venue has generated new fan interest and significantly increased revenues, in turn enabling the team to spend more on player development.
Where do you see the stadium market in 10 years’ time?
We believe that stadia will cease to be built as standalone structures. Rather, they will be integrated within larger multi-purpose commercial developments. Sport will continue to blend with entertainment and hospitality. Stadium structures will be physically integrated with other commercial venues – hotels, convention centers, restaurants, night clubs, retail and even public parks – providing a plethora of choices for extending the stay beyond the game and providing a return on investment (ROI) to justify private financing. With the stadium acting as the anchor to a broader commercial/entertainment district, they will become a more integral part of a city fabric, not just a place to catch the game when the team is in town, and then sitting empty when not.
EwingCole will be exhibiting at Stadia Design & Technology Expo 2012, 8-10 May 2012. Visit the company at Booths 2024 and 3020