How to Blend the Best of Other Markets into Your Collegiate Venue’s Design

April 13, 2020 / Sherri Privitera

From the Power 5 to the mid-major ranks, our collegiate clients face a sports market in the midst of transformation. So let’s look at the ways athletic administrations can look outside their collegiate ecosystems to innovate their offerings. We take pride in serving up these fresh perspectives to our clients – and do so by tapping into a reservoir of cross-market expertise in three areas:

  • Regions: Headquarters in the US, UK and Australia provide you a truly global perspective.
  • Industries: We touch not only the traditional sports realm – collegiate and professional – but other types of entertainment from esports to events.
  • Venues: Our decades of design include a broad range of public facility types from arenas to convention centers demonstrating a range of user expectations.

Altogether, this experience helps us answer some of the most complex questions facing college administrators today. How do we appeal to new generations of fans? How do we compete with the professional ranks’ entertainment product? How do we convince fans to come earlier and stay longer?

To answer these questions and others, it requires a certain appetite for risk. It takes learning from not only direct but indirect competitors across the sports landscape. Keep reading for three examples of this approach in action.


Whenever we kick off any project, we make sure of one thing: the project team includes a diverse range of design experiences. The most recent example entailed a Power 5 university looking to take its football fan experience to the next level. Tapping into each of the three areas of expertise above, we considered three innovations for their upcoming facility expansion and renovation:

Regions > Europe > Safe Standing

  • More than 4,000 Orlando City supporters fill Exploria Stadium's safe standing section

Collegiate student sections are synonymous with standing, so this was an obvious innovation to explore. Safe standing sections first gained a foothold in soccer stadiums across continental Europe during the 1990s. Since then, we’ve helped import the experience to the United States, first with Major League Soccer’s Orlando City SC. When the club’s Exploria Stadium opened in 2017, its safe standing section was the end result of extensive collaboration between our American and European staff.

Industries > NBA > Food & Beverage

  • Warm tones and local options highlight the F&B experience at Fiserv Forum

Fresh and farm-to-table offerings are growing increasingly popular in the professional ranks. In order for collegiate facilities to up their game in this space, they need both a keen awareness of local culinary tastes and the foodservice support to make these inspired menus a reality. Collegiate administrators can look to the new home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks for a blueprint. Fiserv Forum’s concourses and concessions follow the lead of the city’s famed Milwaukee Public Market, serving up an eclectic mix of dishes and drinks.

Venues > MLB Ballparks > Seating Neighborhoods

  • The home of the Atlanta Braves boasts a variety of seating neighborhoods

This is a prime example of one market being well ahead of the curve. Thanks to the slower pace of the game itself, ballparks like Truist Park in Atlanta have evolved by encouraging fans to get up and explore distinctly different neighborhoods throughout the venue. From beer gardens to zip lines, each inning becomes an adventure in its own right. Kyle Field at Texas A&M University was one of the first to bring this trend to the collegiate ranks with four activation towers and a diverse inventory of seating neighborhoods.


By no means are these three kinds of markets silos either. We often find ourselves fusing together two in the name of innovation. Take Syracuse University’s new Barnes Center at the Arch. This project blends together the recreation center building type and rapidly-growing esports industry. It’s yet another example of a university drawing inspiration from other markets to transform their own. To help them get there, our cross-market designers provide diverse insights to deliver new ideas.

Meet the author

Sherri Privitera

Senior Architect, Senior Principal / Kansas City

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