Gina: Is sports architecture more than designing stadiums?
Tracy: Sports architecture encompasses more than designing stadiums. Our process starts by working with a community to develop the building site and maximize its long-term influence on the surroundings—the neighborhood, city and beyond. As architects and designers, we are also politicians, promoting the project's positive impact. We become psychologists, recognizing the needs of the team and community to create a unique game-day experience.
Gina: What is a major trend in sports architecture?
Tracy: Branding elements can drive the design of the interior environments, add layers of interest and depth and create sponsorship opportunities. Whether the venue has a professional team or a university as an anchor tenant, their brand, identity and traditions are central to our design approach. Also essential is recognizing the local culture and natural environment.
Some of these branded areas become sponsorship opportunities for revenue generation for the facility. We identify possible sponsors during early design phases in order to provide cohesive environments that are conducive for sponsorship.
For established venues, it is vital to offer a current and fresh inventory to stay competitive in this market segment and economy. Many of our renovation projects address the changing inventory needs of the venue. For example, we may renovate eight suites into a sponsored club space that provides similar amenities at a different price point than a suite.
Gina: Tell us about a recent project that integrated branding.
Tracy: Louisville Arena, which opens this fall, was designed as a centerpiece of downtown Louisville's renaissance. We defined our inspiration as "the 3 B's'": bluegrass, bourbon and basketball. Louisville, Kentucky has a rich history of all three. In two Courtside Clubs, courtside seat holders will enjoy a more private, sophisticated bourbon lounge environment. On the suite level, two clubs, which are open to the bowl, pay homage to the iconic bluegrass countryside with rolling hills and miles of thoroughbred farm, white fencing and bluegrass music.
Gina: Talk to us about the nature of the event experience.
Tracy: We're passionate about not just designing buildings, but designing buildings that reflect the emotions and experiences that take place inside. That statement was key to our selection of our new firm name, Populous, when we rebranded ourselves from HOK Sport Venue Event last year. Populous, literally, means "full of people." To us, a successful facility is one where people come together to cheer for the same team. While we are in the business of sports architecture, our passion is providing communities with gathering places where history is made, success is celebrated and memories are created.
Gina: Tell me something fun about yourself.
Tracy: My grandparents designed and built their house themselves. I remember being there as a child. I was so conscious and appreciative of its beauty and how functional it was; they were decades ahead of their time! I have always been very aware of the built environment. My friends and family have gotten used me taking the time to 'take everything in' everywhere we go, and I've been known to flip a chair or barstool over every now and then! As designers, we never stop dreaming about what is possible.