Complex Planning

The City of Grand Junction, Colo., has a football complex that serves almost every user group in the mid-sized town. The facility is a model in maximizing the use of the central park location. Stoker Stadium and adjacent Suplizio Field host local high school sports, including football, soccer, track and baseball. Nearby Mesa State College plays football and baseball, and hosts track meets in the facility. Every June for two weeks, the stadium is the site of the Junior College World Series. The stadium complex is managed by the city with help from all of the stakeholders.

The managers of the complex recently hired the company of Sink Combs Dethlefs (SCD) to help them expand and improve the facility. The stadium complex, like many municipal facilities, had been expanded many times over the years, and faced challenges in providing a better experience for fans and participants. The facility also had deficiencies in complying with the ADA.

SCD worked closely with all of the stakeholders to come up with a plan that would enhance spectator and competitor experiences, and at the same time upgrade many aspects of the facility to comply with modern codes, including ADA accessibility, concessions and restrooms.

The unique solution for Lincoln Park involved tearing out a portion of the outdated bleachers and replacing them with new facilities that brought the spectators for both baseball and football closer to the action. This approach added new restrooms and concessions in an interior concourse that was much closer to the spectator seating.

Planning a new facility or considering a renovation of an existing facility can be a complex process, with a real cost impact. Hiring the right design professionals to lead you down this road is a great first step in completing the ideal complex.

If you are considering building a new stadium complex or perhaps renovating an existing facility, where do you begin? Let’s start by identifying the critical items that will lead toward a successful stadium complex design.

Identify Potential User Groups

First, who will be utilizing the facility? Who will the spectators be? Have you considered shared uses?

In current economic times, shared use may maximize the number of event days and funding available for a facility. Multiple organizations can utilize new facilities, which is beneficial to all parties. Second, what events will take place at the facility? Will it host events only or practices as well? Is the venue available for rental or only to be used by the tenants?

Then consider possible tenants:

* Organized sports leagues (football, baseball, softball, soccer, etc.)

* Recreational users (exercise programs)

* High school athletics (football, soccer, track, baseball)

* College athletics (intramural, athletics)

* Tournaments (any sport)

* Concerts

Site Selection

Site issues are also important, for facilities can have a big impact on infrastructures. The appropriate design professionals are imperative to help you deal with these important issues:

* Land availability

* Utility services availability

* Parking and access

* Zoning and land use

* Environmental impact

Spectator Considerations

It is important to establish goals for how spectators experience the sporting activities in a complex. One of the most important considerations is easy access to well-planned restrooms and concessions. Distribution of these amenities is critical--the more distance spectators have to travel for services, the less satisfactory they find the overall experience. Suites and club seats provide an upgraded experience for patrons and an excellent revenue source. The most critical guideline for seating is to maintain site lines for clean, uncompromised views of the events.

* Type of seating (fixed seats, bleachers, individual seats, club seating, suites)

* Covered or open air seating

* Access and/or separation (fencing, etc.)

* Ticketed or free access

* Adequate restroom facilities (code-minimum versus upgraded)

* Concessions (adequate distribution of point-of-sale locations)

* Liquor sales and distribution

* Menu expectations

* Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility

Competitor Issues

The organization of the complex is in large part dependent upon how competitors use the facility. Support facilities and their access are important. Is parking required for the athletes or will they arrive by bus? Will work out/training facilities be located in the complex? Will there be multiple locker rooms for tournaments?

* Effective combining of track and football, track and soccer

* Broken-back track versus traditional track

* Sightline issues in track and soccer (football players block spectator views)

Athletic Facilities For Competitors

* Lockers rooms (home and visitors)

* Training spaces

* Referee/umpire facilities

Facility And Maintenance Considerations

Don’t forget about the people and spaces needed to keep the facility running smoothly. The old adage still applies: “You can never have enough storage.” Plan spaces for all of the necessary support services:

* Sound systems

* Public address

* Press-box design

* Broadcasting needs (print media, TV)

* Coaching facilities in the press box

* Maintenance offices

* Storage of supplies

* Grounds storage and facilities

Steve King is an architect and Senior Associate with Sink Combs Dethlefs, Sports Architecture located in Denver Col. He has more than 20 years experience in architectural design and has been with the firm for 10 years. He recently served as project manager for the University of Colorado Folsom Stadium Expansion and the Silver Cross Field for the Joliet Jack Hammers.