Distinct Desert Design

University of Phoenix Stadium

  • Glendale
  • 2006

CHALLENGE. Populous’ work on the new home for the Arizona Cardinals allowed the firm’s design team to think differently about NFL stadium design. For one, the team was afforded the opportunity to collaborate with New York architect Peter Eisenman, who had never before designed a football stadium, yet was an avid fan of the game. Second, the multipurpose aspect of the stadium allowed the team to reevaluate what NFL facilities can provide for their communities.

INNOVATION. University of Phoenix Stadium was the first in North America with both a retractable roof and retractable field. The roll-out natural grass playing field weighs nearly 20 million pounds and travels a distance of 740 feet in less than an hour. The field allows football to be played on natural grass indoors – a feature that has to be given special consideration in the desert climate. It remains outside the stadium in the sun until game day, getting the maximum amount of sunshine and nourishment, while eliminating humidity problems inside the stadium and providing unrestricted access to the stadium floor for events and staging.

The facility also boasts the first completely retractable roof in North America to operate at an incline. Rolling on the same type of steel rail as the retractable field, the roof panels have a combined weight of one million pounds and travel 180 feet in 12 minutes.

Two 700-foot long trusses provide primary support to the retractable panels and are the dominant visual element. The exterior of the stadium is comprised of metal panel and glass in a form resembling both a barrel cactus and a coiled snake – two shapes very true to the stadium’s desert surroundings.

IMPACT. University of Phoenix Stadium has garnered notable recognition throughout its short life, including Event site of the Year by Event Solutions Magazine in 2007,

Best NFL Facility by Sports Business Journal and Sports Business Daily in 2006 and 2007, NFL’s best playing surface in 2008 in a Sports Illustrated NFL player poll, and Best New Venue of the 2000s by SportsIllustrated.com

The design, functionality and overall wow factor of University of Phoenix Stadium kicked off a movement of 21st century sports facility design. Not only did University of Phoenix Stadium give the Arizona Cardinals their first permanent home – something the team had been lacking for many years – it also gave the Glendale, Arizona community an additional revenue generator as well as a new source of pride.