Full Experience for Fractional Cost: the Modular Stadium

March 16, 2018 / Thom Chuparkoff

“How can I build (or renovate) a low-cost stadium while entering the league and trying to build our brand and fan base successfully?”

This is one of the first questions we hear from sports teams who are exploring, but skeptical about, building their own stadium. For teams in lower division soccer leagues and Minor League Baseball, whether they are new-to-market or existing, a home stadium would offer a lot of benefits, but cost is always the greatest deterrent. If we take a minute to consider the franchise fee, player and staff salaries, sponsorship deals and fan-focused amenities, it is easy to understand the apprehension.

So we asked ourselves, what is the alternative? How can we meet these teams halfway in order to give them what they need? Populous recently unveiled a smarter stadium solution for our 1904 FC clients in San Diego that is scheduled to open in 2019. By merging the ability to customize large-scale events with the infrastructure of a full-scale stadium, we’ve developed a more adaptable, efficient and sustainable option that offers the same game day experience that fans love. Using this new method, we are able to give our 1904 FC clients a proper 9,500 seat, multipurpose soccer stadium with the full fan amenities desired for close to $15 million. The stadium will include fan benefits such as VIP opportunities and a great vantage point to the pitch.

Experiential and Efficient

There are a lot of factors to consider when designing a stadium. It needs to be financially and environmentally viable while meeting the needs of teams and their communities. It also needs to be customizable and flexible, or modular, by design. This often leads us to a discussion on industrial steel shipping containers. The problem is that the containers’ cold, dense steel can work against with the welcoming first impression venues need. While the steel shipping container stadium has been explored several times over, permanent modular construction (PMC) is a new and improved concept.

While working with 1904 FC, PMC allows us to build the team’s identity for a fraction of the cost. This method means that components, or “pods,” can be assembled off-site, eliminating weather delays and allowing simultaneous preparation of both the site and its pods. As a result, these facilities can be built in half the time of a traditional stadium and can be disassembled just as quickly. This rapid construction rate allows teams to move in and start training sooner while owners begin utilizing revenue streams quicker.

From a design standpoint, PMC enables us to organize pods within the grandstand system of 1904 FC’s proposed stadium that lets fans grab food from the concourse or use the restroom without missing more than a moment of the on-field action. Beyond keeping fans connected to the game, this also allows fans to watch their teams play sooner and for less money. While this type of prefabricated design offers a more efficient venue solution, rest assured that it will not render architects obsolete. Organization, placement and structure of the pods still require careful and strategic design.

Semi-Permanent and Sustainable

Because modular stadiums are semi-permanent, these facilities can be partially or completely broken down and reassembled elsewhere. This means that the site is easy to repurpose and there is less waste altogether.

After a stadium moves or is disassembled, the site can become a year-round community asset. The restroom and concessions fixtures can even be repurposed as park amenities or anchor points for a new facility. Fort Bragg Field, the temporary ballpark from Major League Baseball’s 2016 Fort Bragg Game, is a great example of the post-venue potential for semi-permanent design. Following the 2016 military tribute game, the ballpark was transformed into a recreation complex for troops stationed at Fort Bragg.

Adaptable

From 1904 FC games to graduation ceremonies to concerts, Modular stadiums boast all the community event capabilities of a conventionally constructed venue with even more adaptability. This type of venue is also an ideal solution for teams experiencing a steady increase in ticketing demand. From a revenue-generating standpoint, the modular stadium allows owners to adjust fan amenities from one season to the next in less time and at a lower cost than permanent stadiums. This is also true for sponsorship opportunities, as branded spaces can be easily swapped overnight.

The modular stadium opens a world of new possibilities, especially for new baseball and soccer teams and their fans. This solution is a cost-effective way to help franchises launch their brands while doubling as first-class entertainment venues for the local community. This is just the beginning for modular stadiums. Ultimately, we have figured out how to retain vital fan, team and operational functions in a much more efficient way.

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Meet the author

Thom Chuparkoff

Architect, Senior Associate / Kansas City

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