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Rossetti's James Renne on the spectacle of sport
James Renne reveals how sports architecture is evolving in response to current trends and an increased focus on the fan experience
“Seeing people gather for the spectacle of sport always impresses me,” asserts James Renne, the principal and director of sports design at Rossetti. “It is exciting to watch people come together – whether that is on TV or a live event.”
Renne confesses that his passion makes waiting for a project to come to fruition frustrating. “As a designer, I want nothing more than to see that initial sketch through its implementation phase and become active,” he admits. However, the wait is always worth it. “I really enjoy the high visibility nature of the work we do – I love seeing the impact a design can have, not only on the physical appearance of a building, but also the emotional experience that results from creating a sense of place.
As someone who has always had a passion for sports architecture, Renne confesses to being “one of the lucky ones” who began his career in the industry, and progressed to work on stadium projects such as the Ford Field NFL Stadium in Detroit, Michigan. This was not only his first big stadium project, but also the one of which he is most proud.
“Ford Field was a catalyst for the revitalisation of Detroit,” he says. “We successfully wove the complex into Detroit’s urban neighbourhood by planning an appropriate mix of uses that resonated with local residents as well as game-day patrons. The project has been heralded by city leaders for fostering resurgence in the Detroit area and by the National Football League for providing the ‘first true urban NFL experience’.”
Renne explains that Rossetti’s ‘vision’ is based on quantifiable evidence that shows that well-designed sports and entertainment projects drive revenues and urban vitality, which pulsate outward throughout the neighbouring context. “Smart strategic planning produces economic benefits from exciting aesthetics inside the venue and purchasing power generated around the building, especially on non-event days,” he adds.
Rossetti recognises that visitor expectations to stadia have changed, as the focus has shifted to the entertainment value of the event. “Game day is no longer solely about watching your favourite team win,” Renne continues. “With this shift, the opportunities for revenue generation have become endless. We want fans to maintain that great expectation from the time they travel toward the arena, park or exit the train, find and mingle with friends or associates, locate their seats, participate in the event, mingle afterward and head home.”
With this in mind, the firm designs public concourses, plazas and concession spaces that encourage mingling, meeting and exchange; each with their unique branding and revenue-generation options. The areas are designed with floor-to-ceiling window walls, open-bowl views and party decks. “The ‘edge’ of the arena becomes a place to see and be seen as opposed to just a walkway,” says Renne. “It really captures and reflects the excitement of the event.”
This keen sports fan has noticed that operators are finding ways to better capitalise on the energy of fans by providing hospitality and spectator opportunities in adjacent streets, parking lots and squares before, during and after major sporting events. He explains that public hospitality spaces located on the perimeter of the sports facility’s envelope can be designed to attract people 365 days a year, provided that the district has the right framework for urban vitality. A well-designed master plan is essential for this strategy to be successful.
In addition, Renne explains that as technology and fans never stop evolving, each new facility has the potential to debut something new. “Major areas of development are LED, IPTV networks, real-time event operations software and mobile technology,” he says. “Fans are already accustomed to using technology as a means of being involved with celebrities, sports teams and special events. Rather than considering that a detriment or competition to the appeal of live events, we see it as an opportunity to create a hyper-live event experience that is an order of magnitude better than any live experience available to fans a few years ago.”
With these factors in mind, Renne sees the stadium market shifting toward a focus on the fan experience. “Today, the variety of premium seating and hospitality options being developed are as diverse as the premium seating market itself,” he reveals. “Small- to mid-sized businesses and 20- and 30-something trendsetters have become significant markets with unique preferences. Mini-suites, theatre boxes, loft seating and party decks have emerged specifically to cater to these populations. This, in turn, has opened up a wider range of potential sponsorship partners seeking to have their brand incorporated into the hospitality environment.”
James Renne will be one of the experts involved in Session 6: Going global! Lessons learned when pursuing international work, at Stadia Design & Technology Expo 2012 (11:00-12:30hrs, Wednesday 9 May, 2012)