Ben B. Barnert Project of the Year Award

Populous lost Senior Principal Ben Barnert in the summer of 2013 after a courageous battle with brain cancer. Those of us who were fortunate enough to work with Ben knew him in many ways: as a practical jokester, as a talented architect and as a businessman full of vigor. Ben understood the value of building lasting and true relationships with his clients and design teams. Driven by a belief in working hard and having a good time doing it, Ben was known for inspiring our design teams to reach their full potential. Places which helped to build our brand, like Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium, Heinz Field, Bridgestone Arena, PETCO Park, Sprint Center, JetBlue Park and Citi Field are the physical manifestation of Ben’s work, but his spirit comes alive in the millions of fans who take joy every year in these wonderful buildings.

Ben’s inspiring legacy remains a part of daily life at Populous. Today, we keep his spirit, his wit and his leadership alive with the Ben B. Barnert Award. Once a year, Populous leadership selects a project that embodies the true spirit of all for which Ben stood – hard work, humor, character, compassion, relationships, and, above all, excellence.

Ben didn’t leave us with just great architecture in cities all across America; he left us with inspiration to carry Populous into the future. We are proud to honor his legacy with the Ben B. Barnert Project of the Year Award.

McLane Stadium at Baylor University

CHALLENGE. When Populous designers began work on McLane Stadium, they realized this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the university to bring football back to campus in a way that would forever change the face of the university. After playing off-campus at Floyd Casey Stadium for more than 60 years, Baylor University announced in Spring of 2012 plans to open a new, on-campus stadium. Scheduled to open for the 2014 football season and situated adjacent to I-35 and the Brazos River, the new McLane Stadium needed to serve as the front door of the university as it would be visible to the 43 million people who pass by on I-35 each year. The $250 million facility had to visually and physically represent Baylor’s campus, melding with the existing architecture on campus to create a building that could only be home to the Baylor Bears.

The design team for Baylor was challenged to infuse the experiences of campus into the design of the stadium in order to capture the spirit and characteristic traits that make the Baylor campus unique.  The resulting stadium encompasses the university’s short and long-term goals, seamlessly integrating the stadium on campus and within the city of Waco while creating a great fan experience for Baylor football.

INNOVATION. The stadium’s location on campus and the traditions of the university’s football program were the driving force behind the design process for the Populous collegiate stadium architects. The location on the Brazos River provides unique tailgating opportunities and is expected to attract visitors year round with an outdoor amphitheater and walking path that links to the city’s pedestrian trails.  The university’s heritage, coupled with research on the fan base and a unique blend of revenue generation, resulted in a collegiate stadium design that is distinctly representative of the university and is as viable as it is visually appealing. With support from the city of Waco, who recognized the significant impact on revenue and traffic the stadium would have on its downtown, the stadium capitalizes on the specific needs of the university and site positioning of the new stadium. From loge boxes to club seating to a prominent place for the Baylor Line, this strategic approach resulted in a venue that shapes the fan experience for each and every person who enters the stadium while elevating the university’s brand on a national level. The resulting stadium is one of the most beautiful in collegiate football, tying together a campus and a city.

IMPACT. Since the opening of McLane Stadium in the fall of 2014, it has helped revitalize downtown Waco, spur development along the Brazos Riverfront, attract visitors to Baylor’s campus and create a cohesive and unique experience for fans. The stadium has reconnected a region, a city and a campus around the traditions, culture and passion of Baylor’s football program.