Brian Mirakian SXSW, SXsports 2015 Recap: The New Cathedral – Sports Stadiums

March 17, 2015

Two weeks ago, I shared a preview of my upcoming talk at SXSW / SXsports, titled “The New Cathedral: Sports Stadiums.“  Two weeks have come and gone and the presentation this past Sunday was a great start to a much bigger, more complex conversation about the stadium of the future. We discussed the state of the industry; the rapid convergence of sports technology, culture and the innovations that will impact the fan and athlete experience;  and everything in between with a passionate crowd early Sunday morning. For those who weren’t able to join us, below is a recap.

It all starts with the notion that people inherently want to share a social experience together. While technology continues to evolve and influence design, our fundamental desire to be with one another is consistent. The physical architecture, experiences within, and surrounding cities will evolve, but stadiums themselves will continue to be as relevant. It’s also important to recognize that meaningful buildings are about place. They evoke emotion, they capture spirit and they inspire tangible excitement. In forecasting trends and looking at future stadia, we identified 10 things shaping the design:

  1. The new cathedral is… the same as the old cathedral.
    In the same way that the Roman Coliseum was a symbol for the community and captured a distinct sense of place that brought people together, the future stadium will communicate the spirit of its city and its culture.
  2. The new cathedral is… designed for the experientialist.
    The experientialist is less interested than the traditionalist in staying put in their seat and is content to spectate an event.. The next gen experientialist fan wants to participate, explore, interact with brands, socially congregate in areas connected to the action and make memories with friends beyond the seating bowl. Fun and adventure are key to connecting experientialists to the future stadium.

  3. The new cathedral is… embedded and reactive.
    As the real and virtual converge, technology will allow fans to engage in a way they never have before. Our buildings can actually become responsive to fans – whether through reactive surfaces or embedded architecture (like we saw in the London 2012 Main Stadium) or the future use of augmented reality technology.
  4. The new cathedral is… a place that interconnects fans and athletes.
    We’re moving rapidly from a spectator culture to participant culture, and the next generation fan wants access and interaction with the athletes on the field. By using next generation data analytics, it’s not hard to imagine that fans will be able to capture, follow and experience what their favorite athlete experiences in a game.
  5. The new cathedral is… home to a global audience.
    More sports fans than ever before will follow a team without ever entering their stadium. 93% of NFL fans will never step foot in an NFL stadium … which means franchises now have to understand their fan base and brand exists everywhere and must challenge themselves to engage a global audience of fans who aren’t in the building.  The NBA and NHL are now embarking on game broadcasts that are streamed in Virtual Reality.  An NBA fan in China may never have the opportunity to physically step foot in Madison Square Garden, but these types of next gen technologies are going to allow a growing global fan bases in the far reaches of the world to share these experiences together.
  6. The new cathedral is… adaptive and transformable.
    The stadium of the future will be physically transformable to host a greater variety of events – it will adapt to the environment and respond to the needs of the team and fans to create more intimate, personalized experiences.
  7. The new cathedral is… a 365 day a year entertainment destination.
    Gone are stadiums that are operated for just ten games a year. The future stadium will be surrounded by mixed-use developments, functioning as highly integrated retail, lifestyle and entertainment destinations. These stadiums are the anchors of our cities and will be reshaped as the focal point of city building, embedded into the heart of cities.
  8. The new cathedral is… home to the future athlete.
    The future athlete is also more plugged into technology and is interested in being wowed – particularly on the the ever increasingly competitive collegiate landscape. An immediate first impression and tapping in the psyche of 17 year old is essential.  Projects like Texas A&M’s Bright Football Complex are shining examples of how stadiums and training facilities can respond to evolving communication and training trends in sports that can also help recruit elite athletes and build the next generation of high performance athletes.
  9. The new cathedral is… built on a high performance economic platform.
    As we look to future venues, we have to understand that the best solution for driving revenue in the building type will be combining innovative design thinking with a maximized visitor experience. This is already happening across the nation, as we have redesigned underutilized portions of a stadium to create unique spaces that generate revenue – the North End Zone at Everbank Field is a perfect example. I can imagine that in the future there may be less seats, similar capacities and more interesting spaces to congregate.
  10. The new cathedral is… always future driven.
    We have to continue innovating, understanding that design thinking and an imaginative approach is paramount to the future stadium experience.  We must continue to design more powerful experiences.

Feel free to click through the gallery above to see some of the content shared during the presentation, or download all the slides here. We’d still love to get your thoughts on what YOU want in the stadium of the future or answer questions for those we weren’t able to touch base with while in Austin. Talk to us on Twitter @Populous or leave a comment on our Facebook page or pose a question here on the blog.  Grab this image and help us fill in the blank… what do you envision in the new cathedral? While the presentation may be over, the conversation certainly isn’t.


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