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Stadia Design & Technology Expo 2012 Conference speaker in focus: Dale Koger, vice president of Turner Construction Company

Dale K. Koger, vice president and general manager, Turner Construction Company – Sports Group, reveals how a real passion for the industry translates into successful stadia

 

Dale Koger is probably the biggest sports enthusiast you will ever meet. A man who used to dream of becoming a major league ballplayer and a self-confessed ‘24/7 sports fan’, Koger was destined for a career in the sports industry.

His father was a construction superintendent and Koger grew up working with him during the summers – a pastime that inspired him to get a degree in building construction. After nine years in the steel construction industry and another 10 years in the commercial general contracting business, he was asked by his then current employer to initiate a sports facility construction division within the firm. “I’m still not sure why they chose me for that start-up division,” he muses. “But I think it may have had something to do with the fact that my briefcase was an old Rawlings equipment bag and I wore eyeblack to the office during the summer months!”

About four years into this endeavor, Turner, the largest general building contractor in the US, recruited Koger to establish a nationwide, sports-specific market segment group for them. “I saw this as the ultimate marriage of local market presence and specialised national sports resources to grow a market-leader in the construction of major sports venues,” he admits. In his current position as General Manager of Turner Construction Company’s Sports Group, Koger is responsible for directing Turner’s marketing and business development activities, preconstruction services, construction management services and human resource pool for major sports projects in North America, and other markets around the world.  

Koger’s passion for the industry compliments his expertise. “My energy – each day, each week, each year, is derived primarily from three aspects of the business,” he says. “1) The people, 2) the excitement of being involved in the sports industry, and 3) the challenge of playing a role in the creation of some of the most recognisable buildings in the world.”

Amongst the numerous successful sports construction projects that Koger has been a part of during his career, there is one accomplishment in particular that makes him especially proud: “In a 29-day span in the fall of 2003, Turner completed and opened nine new or significantly expanded football stadia; four NFL venues and five collegiate stadia, he remembers. “This is a feat that had never been accomplished previously by a US construction firm, and I suspect will never be accomplished again.”  

Koger’s current challenge is the Madison Square Garden Transformation project. “With a construction budget in excess of US$600 million, there is a mandate that no NBA or NHL games be missed during the three-year renovation schedule,” he explains. “With the building ceasing all events for only 4-5 months during each of the three summers to allow for ‘all out’ demolition and reconstruction activities, I consider this the highest risk sports project ever undertaken in the US. We successfully completed the first of three phased openings of the project last autumn, and are busy preparing for the second ‘dark summer’ period, which is only a few short months away.”

Looking towards the future, Koger expects that broadcast networks, major entertainment content promoters and major sponsorship entities will exert more and more influence over the planning and design of new venues. “The live audiences in the stadia, ballparks and arenas are but a very small percentage of the viewing audiences”, he explains. “By far, the largest penetration of the consuming public is through television and online streaming. From this aspect, the venue is more akin to a broadcast studio than a competition venue. To attain the greatest exposure for sponsorship recognition and overall viewing enhancement via TV or on-line, certain potential enhancements in design will need to be weighed against the more traditional athletic layouts of our current designs.”

In addition, this construction expert foresees sustainable design as a leading consideration for future stadia. “Ease of convertibility for multi-use venues, such as arenas, will help reduce operators’ labour costs and allow for scheduling of more events,” he speculates. Also, he predicts that “the demand for more than a hotdog and a beer will continue to produce an evolution in the food service and fine dining offerings in venues. In-seat experiences, particularly wireless influences, will become a first tier consideration; and finally, security both inside and outside of the facility will become paramount due to the increasing need for fan and player safety.”   

Dale Koger will be one of the experts taking in part in Session 4: A contractors’ roundtable discussion, at Stadia Design & Technology Expo 2012, Tuesday 8 May (15:45-17:00hrs)

 

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