Smarter stadium design beckons Multipurpose era could return, reshaped by HOK

July 12, 1998|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As a company, HOK Sports Facilities Group has profited handsomely from the national trend toward single-sport stadiums.

But with costs rising, the architectural firm has put itself into position to benefit from a swing back to multipurpose facilities -- if it ever comes.

HOK has created a conceptual design it thinks may resolve many of the design contradictions that have driven America's premier outdoor sports away from one another.

The "Smart Stadium" features a complicated system of moving seats and retractable decks that can be converted quickly from a football to a baseball configuration.

"The best of all worlds is two separate stadiums," said Ron Labinski, senior vice president of HOK.

But the NFL asked the company to take another swing at what many designers had thought impossible: accommodating the drastically different capacity and sightline demands of the two sports.

Unlike earlier multipurpose stadiums such as Cincinnati's Riverfront, which merely rolled decks of seats around in an essentially round building, this one would see entire sections of seating rise from storage and change the park from a "V" shape for baseball to a rectangle for football. Seating capacity could expand from 45,000 to 70,000, and then go back.

"It's not something we went out and sold. We were interested in helping the league," Labinski said.

So far, there have been no takers for the patented Smart Stadium, but HOK has received inquiries from Detroit, Minneapolis and other cities.

HOK figures the stadium could be built for $270 million, or $70 million to $90 million over the cost of a single-purpose park. Besides saving money, it could prove useful in an area where, for example, land is at a premium, he said.

"It might work in the situation where you had the same owner and there was a large private investment," Labinski said.

"There's got to be a need for it. I think it solves the physical problems. It doesn't solve the other issues -- the scheduling issue, the ownership issues," he said. "It's a fall-back position.

"In the ideal world, everyone would have their own stadiums and keep all the revenues," he said.

Pub Date: 7/12/98

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