Pan Am Games: Creating Neighborhood Stadiums

  • July 21, 2015
  • Author: Robert Fatovic

Integrated Stadiums

Sports stadiums across North America may differ in seating capacity, video board size or the retractability of their roofs, but they are typically large complexes surrounded by a sea of parking and detached from their surrounding communities and cities. While this model has created legendary facilities, it is a dated view on the impact and value these venues can offer. Fortunately, we’re beginning to see visionary planning that positions leading international stadiums as engines for economic growth, cultural renaissance and urban development.

A view of the Hamilton Stadium from inside the public concourse area.A view of the Hamilton Stadium from inside the public concourse area.

At the center of this positive trend in stadium development is Canada, a nation that has recently become a hotbed for global sport. In 2010, Canada showcased the Richmond Olympic Oval, the signature venue of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games and the first Olympic speed skating oval ever designed for legacy use. Now five years after the games, the ROO lives on as a valuable community center and recreation outlet for the City of Richmond and surrounding region. The facility has spurred the creation of a new urban waterfront neighborhood and continues to nourish and support it as an engine for economic growth. This summer, Lansdowne Park’s TD Placed hosted Women’s World Cup matches and earned distinction as a Stadium In the Park that departs from the traditional notion of a stadium as an inert building and instead integrates itself into a historic urban park. Furthermore, the new Hamilton Soccer Stadium hosted events during the 2015 Pan American Games and is designed as a flexible “neighborhood stadium” capable of hosting professional and amateur sports, cultural events and prestigious competitions.

These successful venues in Canada point toward a purposeful new direction for stadium design across North America. Still, taking on such an effort can seem daunting. Here are five key ideas/themes to consider for your next stadium effort.

Be an Advocate for the Bigger Picture.

One of the first key steps in creating a valuable modern sports venue is recognizing the stadium is part of a much larger civic plan. When working on the Hamilton Soccer Stadium, our teams spent extensive time reviewing the City’s Strategic Plan and Vision 2020. This research helped us identify key criteria that guided our design efforts from the outset. For example, the city of Hamilton’s plan is rooted in a focus on creating compact and healthy urban communities, strong environmental systems (land, air and water), balanced transportation networks and financial stability across a growing and diverse economy. Understanding these core civic goals and values informed our work and we created a stadium that offers key community gathering spaces, strong connectivity to public transit and is in pursuit of at minimum, a Canadian Green Building Council LEED silver rating.

Create Space for the Community.

Forwarding thinking stadium design means more than simply finding a way to embed stadiums in settings devoid of extensive parking lots. Stadiums need to create inviting space for the community to enjoy. For the Richmond Olympic Oval, this meant strategic programming and the creation of a remarkably flexible interior space capable of hosting community meetings, ice sport and multipurpose activity courts all at once. With Lansdowne, this translated to a creative public space/stadium concourse that encircles the stadium and provides the public with opportunities to flow through the stadium structure while still in the park. In Hamilton, tree-lined sidewalks surround the venue and all four corners are designed as public gathering areas. The South Plaza is specifically designed to be a community gathering space that can be used as a pre-event space or in general as wider community resource, hosting events, farmers markets, community organizations, etc.

The remarkably flexible interior of the Richmond Olympic Oval offers activity spaces community members seek out and want to use.The remarkably flexible interior of the Richmond Olympic Oval offers activity spaces community members seek out and want to use.

Thing Big but Temporarily

One of the historical challenges of creating major international sports venues is they need to accommodate massive crowds during the competition, but much smaller audiences during less globally significant events. It’s key for design teams to find creative ways to allow stadiums to expand and retract in size to ensure the venues don’t become large and burdensome for the community.

Lansdowne Park’s TD Place stadium is strategically designed to provide 24,000 seats for its regular events but can temporarily expand to 45,000 seats for major national and international events. Likewise, the Hamilton Stadium has a temporary seating capacity of 40,000 seats allowing it to host events like the Grey Cup. These flexible capacity venues need to be created with careful strategy, it’s about much more than simply creating space for additional seats. The venues also must be equipped with the necessary support spaces, signage and concourse paths to comfort that many people.

It’s Okay to Fit In

The creation of a new stadium is an exciting time and teams often become focused on finding ways to stand out from historic venues. It’s fine to look forward, but design teams should also look around at the surrounding communities. It’s important to incorporate common materials, colors and massing in order to deliver something that fits into the existing environment. Across all three key venues mentioned in this article, our team looked for ways to visually blend the stadium into the community and/or natural setting surrounding it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Design Differently.

Major stadium design needs big thinking and bold ideas on how we can further make these venues assets to their home communities. Choosing to create the Richmond Olympic Oval as a speed skating venue that could also have legacy value was a big shift at the time, but the value the building continues to drive is evidence it was the proper direction. In Hamilton, the new soccer stadium replaced a local landmark that had been part of the community for over 60 years. It took courage to create a stadium that pays tribute to this heritage but also moves in a new direction. One specific example of this was choosing to orient the stadium North/South in the city (A change from its previous orientation).This strategic design change made competition easier for athletes, reduced shadows cast on the surrounding neighborhood and allows the venue to fit more comfortably in the site – reducing visual and physical impacts to the surrounding area.

Creating stadium venues that can’t adapt for future uses or flex for international events is a dated approach. It’s time to build on the momentum set by recent Canadian venues and continue to find creative ways to make our arenas and stadiums both visually impressive and culturally impactful.

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Heritage and Future Collide: Women’s World Cup Matches Offer Peek into Famous Canadian Sports Venues

  • July 2, 2015
  • Author: Robert Fatovic

This summer’s Women’s World Cup (WWC) has showcased the premier female soccer players in the world and the best of Canadian sport and competition venues. Every match and round of the WWC has been held in premier stadiums and leading Canadian cities – it has proven a remarkable success for the entire nation.

Building on that momentum, the WWC semifinals and championship match are hosted by three of Canada’s most historic and accomplished stadiums: Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton and BC Place in Vancouver. Each of these venues has built a reputation for sports excellence by consistently hosting professional and international competitions. Still, the challenge of hosting WWC matches required each of these venues to adapt and evolve. Here’s a brief look at the history of these facilities, and the changes they made to help make the 2015 WWC a success.

Stadium Shot - Feature

Olympic Stadium in Montreal

Originally built for the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics, Olympic Stadium in Montreal (or the “Big O” as its often fondly called) has stood as a symbol of international sports and competition in Canada since its introduction. The venue has welcomed more than 67 million visitors to date and remains the only covered amphitheater in Quebec, with more than 56,000 seats. The stadium was designed by French architect Roger Tallibert and includes a large tower to supports its retractable roof. During the 1976 Olympics, the stadium hosted athletics competition and the opening and closing ceremonies. Olympic Stadium’s multipurpose design has allowed professional sports teams to use it since the games.

Even with its history and successful track record of hosting these key events, Olympic Stadium needed to relocate its media and broadcast areas for the WWC and also invest in new signage to reflect the uniform image desired across all venues.

Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton

Now home to the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Edmonton Eskimos, Commonwealth Stadium opened in advance of the 1978 Commonwealth Games. Equipped with multipurpose functionality, the venue has hosted four Grey Cups, nine FIFA World Cup qualification matches, the 1996 CONCACAF Men’s Pre-Olympic Tournament, the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship and the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. The venue can seat up to 60,000 fans for major events.

Commonwealth Stadium recently underwent significant renovations and enhancements including the creation of a new field house, locker rooms and office space. The venue also added a community recreation center equipped with aquatic facilities and expanded fitness and training areas. Furthermore, after hosting the 2010 Grey Cup, Commonwealth Stadium replaced its outdated bench seating with new and wider seats that WWC fans have enjoyed this summer.

Renovated concourse at  BC PlaceRenovated concourse at BC Place

BC Place in Vancouver

The youngest of these three famous venues, BC Place opened in 1983 as a key component of the 1986 World Fair. The venue is now home to the CFL BC Lions and Major League Soccer Vancouver White Caps and has hosted key events including a 1984 papal visit, nine Grey Cups, NFL games, baseball games and the 2014 NHL Winter Classic. To prep for both the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games (it hosed opening and closing ceremonies) and now the Women’s World Cup, BC Place replaced its interior seating, added permanent turf, renovated its corporate suites and concourses and also introduced a brand new wayfinding and signage program.

As the world tunes in to watch the final matches of the 2015 WWC this week, it will be taking a peek into three legendary sports venues that stand the test of time. These venues continue to help Canada shine thanks to consistent innovative thinking and strategic planning for the future.

Creating a World Cup Experience – and Enjoying Every Last Drop of It.

  • June 25, 2015
  • Author: Robert Fatovic

For sports lovers, spending a day surrounded by energized fans watching the games and athletes we love is never a bad experience.

I had the good fortune of such an experience last week when I traveled to Lansdowne Park in Ottawa to enjoy a Women’s World Cup match on a beautiful 75 degree day. Having been part of the CannonDesign team that worked both to create Lansdowne Park and help Canada prepare for the Women’s World Cup across the country, the day proved truly rewarding.

Lansdowne Park Field

Hosting a major international sporting event is always an exciting challenge for a nation. Looking back, there were key challenges and steps we took along the way that have truly helped the 2015 Canada WWC become a successful reality.

Creating Soccer Space in Venues Not Designed for Soccer.

One of the key challenges associated with hosting a world cup event is that you’ll need to transform venues originally not designed to host soccer matches or international competitions of this scale. Having worked previously on the FIFA Men’s World Cup in 1994 and the Summer Olympic Games in 1996, I was able to bring strong experience to this challenge with our work in Canada. Our team identified all the challenges of working with existing football stadiums – they often have insufficient field dimensions; they lack appropriate TV and Media facilities; hospitality and spectators facilities need to be upgraded – and developed ways to strategically address them. These are just some examples of how signature events like a WWC change the ways venues operate.

View from across River
Fortunately, there wasn’t much challenges in Ottawa as we’d designed Lansdowne Park from the outset to meet FIFA requirements. The revamped Lansdowne Park proved a strong selection by the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) as it is both a new venue and fully integrates itself into an emerging mixed use urban development. It also doesn’t hurt that the stadiums is located in the province’s capital city.

Unique Plans for Every Venue

Events like World Cups and Olympics require multiple venues across an entire country.  The CSA was clear that it wanted to have a key venue in each of the provinces. Once the locations were selected, the CSA asked CannonDesign’s Sports team to plan and layout all of the six venues from Vancouver to Montreal and Moncton. This effort included programming and space planning of the FIFA program and the creation of a technical playbook on how a typical venue would work for a World Cup. One of the key challenges of this work was diagramming out the different routes everyone would take at the venue as there could be no blocked or conflicted pathways. We successfully partnered with FIFA on planning for this specific piece. The results of this effort led to many successful renovations to make the facilities stronger for the WWC and also as legacy venues.

Enjoying the Matches

Looking back, it was a great deal of work to help Canada and Lansdowne Park prepare for the Women’t World Cup, but it’s always rewarding. Knowing that Lansdowne Park will host not only opening round matches but also knockout rounds featuring the USA, China and other leading teams is awesome. I hope everyone who attends the matches enjoys their day as much as I enjoyed mine last week. It was pure delight to walk around, soak in the atmosphere, take in the crowds and feel the excitement. That’s why we do the work we do – to create invigorating experiences for fans, athletes and entire countries.

From Women’s World Cup to Olympic Games: Canada Becoming a Hotbed for Global Sports.

  • June 12, 2015
  • Author: Robert Fatovic

2015 Women’s World Cup

As soccer lovers across the globe tune in to the 2015 Women’s World Cup (WWC), they’ll also be turning their attention to Canada – a country proving itself as a mainstay in the epicenter of global sports.

Just five years removed from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, Canada is set to host the largest Women’s World Cup in history with 24 teams playing 52 matches across six different cities from Moncton to Vancouver. Next month, the 2015 Toronto Pan American and Parapan American Games will be the largest multi-sport event the country has ever hosted – drawing more athletes and sports than even the 2010 Olympics.

While Canada is certainly not the largest country in the world by population, it’s proving itself one of the most equipped to host the world’s best athletes. It’s no mistake Canada is consistently awarded these opportunities as it has some of the most innovative and valuable sports venues in the world.

Still, a World Cup and the Pan Am Games a month apart… how exactly did we get here?

Stadiums that Strengthen Community

A signature of Canadian sports venue design has been a refreshing focus on the community. Throughout history, stadiums were often designed solely for a specific event. Cities and designers would create remarkable facilities that wowed competitors and visitors but then had little value beyond the competition. Often, these large facilities would become financially burdensome for the region and offer little functional value in the long term. Do a Google image search for “abandoned stadiums” and you’ll see what happened to many of these stadiums.

The Richmond Olympic Oval (ROO), the signature venue of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, is one of the first facilities credited with changing this trend. As the first ever Olympic speed skating facility designed for legacy use, the ROO highlighted a new direction for these large multi-use facilities.

I don’t think this is anything close to an (overstatement)– this building has no equal anywhere in the world,” said VANOC CEO John Furlong prior to the 2010 Olympic Games. “No building in Olympic history looks anything like this and will do anything like this.

The Richmond Olympic Oval was the signature venue of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. The Richmond Olympic Oval was the signature venue of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.
Now, the Richmond Olympic Oval lives on as a legacy venue driving value for its community. Now, the Richmond Olympic Oval lives on as a legacy venue driving value for its community.

Now, years after the games have passed, the ROO lives on as a valuable community center and recreation outlet for the City of Richmond and surrounding region. The facility has spurred the creation of a new urban waterfront neighborhood and continues to nourish and support it as an engine for economic growth.

The visionary community focus of the ROO is echoed in several facilities hosting the international competitions this summer. The Hamilton Soccer Stadium, a key venue for the 2015 Pan Am games, is designed as a flexible “neighborhood stadium” capable of hosting professional and amateur sports, cultural events and prestigious competitions. Lansdowne Stadium in Ottawa, home to several WWC matches this summer, is a “Stadium in the Park” that departs from the traditional notion of a stadium as an inert building and instead integrates itself into the historic Lansdowne Park. The venue sets forth a new paradigm for how modern, urban stadiums are designed, enabling people to exist both in the park and the stadium at the same time. The venue has reenergized the city’s downtown and introduced new retail and commercial development. All of these aforementioned facilities, spanning the entire country of Canada, exist as civic assets rather than burdens.

Evolved Sport Offerings

Just as it has keyed the creation of legacy venues, Canada has also recharged and strengthened its roster of facilities. The Milton Veolodrome features a 250-meter timber track with two 42-degree banks for cyclists to use during the Pan Am games and beyond. The oval-shaped, three-story velodrome is the first of its kind in Canada and only the second meeting top international standards in North America. The addition of such a facility uniquely positions Canada to host international sport competitions and also gives its cyclists, who historically have been forced to train outside – even during the winter months, a new home for training.

The Milton Velodrome is one of only two built to international competition standards in North America. The Milton Velodrome is one of only two built to international competition standards in North America.
Lansdowne Park is one of the key venues for the 2015 Women's World Cup. Lansdowne Park is one of the key venues for the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

Commonwealth Stadium, a venue embedded in Canadians sport heritage and a key venue for the 2015 WWC, has also evolved its ability to host major events. Since the turn of the millennium, Commonwealth has welcomed a new façade, an enlarged concourse, scoreboard, all-weather track and improvements to stadium seating and locker rooms. Moreover, the stadium has also created the Commonwealth Community Recreation Center – equipped with an aquatic and fitness center as a resource for the community.

Even BC Place, the host venue for the WWC Championship matches and the 2010 Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, has been refurbished and renovated to keep it one of the premier global sport and entertainment venues. Through stadium upgrades and investments in its corporate suites and fan experience, BC Place continues to attract leading international competitions. The signature, retractable roof, gives the venue iconic detail and ensures it can host events year round.

Looking Toward the Future

This year’s WWC and Pan American Games are two of many signs indicating that Canada will remain a key player in global sports. Its sports leaders have a powerful vision for how they can evolve and strengthen competition facilities with a focus on community, innovation and sustainability. If its recent past is any indicator, Canada’s voice will be one of the loudest and most relevant in discussions about the future of sports venues. It’s also an indication that it probably won’t be too long before we’re all once again turning our attention toward Canada to watch the world’s best compete.

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