Watching Super Bowl XLIX? 5 Features of University of Phoenix Stadium Not to Miss

January 30, 2015 / Jeff Spear

Populous’ event staff, who has planned the last 31 Super Bowls, is in the process of preparing University of Phoenix Stadium – designed by Populous and Eisenman Architects – to host the United States’ biggest sporting event… Super Bowl  XLIX. Whether you’re watching on TV or traveling to Phoenix to see the spectacle in person, here are a few features not to miss from those of us involved with design of what’s been called “the best American sports venue.”

  • The Retractable Field
    University of Phoenix Stadium was the first stadium in North America with both a retractable field and a retractable roof, and without a doubt, these two features catch everyone’s eye – and interest. The field, which weighs 19 million pounds and uses 466 steel wheels to slide in place, is a feat of engineering. What might be most surprising is moving the field into the building is actually rather simple – you simply plug the mechanism in and use a remote to move the field into place, as it rolls on train tracks. We designed a 230 foot slot in the end zone that allows the field to slide into the building. Typically, the field spends about 7 days a month inside and is outside for the remainder of the time.
  • The Retractable Roof
    The roof is equally complex – in both design and engineering. When built, it was the longest span structure in the United States – with the trusses alone measuring 700 feet by 90 feet deep. When the building was being constructed, the roof panels and structure were constructed on the ground and lifted in one giant lift – requiring more than 120 engineers and steel workers – which is still, to date, the largest single lift in North America. The design of the roof is a mix of hard roof and fabric, with a Native American “ray” pattern. The roof is the first retractable structure to move at an incline and travel time, for the roof to close or open, is 12 minutes.
  • 360 Degree Concourses
    University of Phoenix Stadium is known for its atmosphere – part of which is created by a design that provides constant connectivity to the game with a 360 degree open concourse. Regardless of where you are in the stadium, or how many times you get up for concessions, you have a view of the game.
  • Red Zone Bridge
    The Red Zone Bridge was designed for function, but became an integral attribute and a popular spot. In order to allow space for the field to roll into place, traditional seating wouldn’t do. The bridge connects the concourse, allows space for the field to retract under it, but also provides a completely unique seating experience. Fans can perch on the bridge and get an incredible view of the game, or simply walk through and take part in a standing room only experience.
  • Continuity of Design
    Whether you’re in the stadium for the game or watching on TV, the story behind the design is unique to Arizona. The exterior structure, designed by Peter Eisenman, was inspired by a barrel cactus wrapped by a snake. There was a Native American “ray” pattern incorporated in the roof design, forming 21 glazed slots in the skin. This same pattern extends to the seats inside, creating consistency and telling a clear story about the region.  Clad in more than 10,000 metal panels, the exterior allows for bursts of light in the slots, from both inside and out.

When the stadium comes alive for Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, it will mark the second time in eight years the building has hosted the event – a testament to the impact and success of an impressive structure.  Learn more about Populous’ involvement with the Super Bowl and follow the conversation on Twitter with #PopulousExperience.

Meet the author

Jeff Spear

Principal, Senior Architect / Kansas City


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