Designer Forum - February 2012
By Kathryn Theobald
Major league baseball stadiums have evolved from the simple oval of Polo Grounds in New York, seating no more than 16,000 enthusiastic sports fans, to the expansive mall-like arenas of today, seating an average of 40,000 family members, corporate executives and sports enthusiasts alike.
Because of today’s multi-purpose venue standards, stadiums have become year-round destinations for a wide variety of non-baseball events, from fundraisers and charity events to elite dinner parties and concerts. These facilities now cater to a wide demographic—from the diehard baseball fan to the sophisticated corporate client, expecting more than baseball for entertainment—and provide amenities that cater to all patrons. This allows for a multitude of additional revenue-generating opportunities; however, along with the increase of amenity offerings has come the expectation of exquisite design. No longer is the pre-1990 ”concrete concourse” design acceptable; today, superior level materials and finishes with increased performance and lifespan are utilized in amenities including luxury suites, special dining venues and club spaces.
As the official architect of the Cincinnati Reds, MSA Architects is in year-round collaboration with the organization for the betterment of the ballpark. Because of its heavy use during the season, the stadium is in constant need of renovation and revitalization. New retail and foodservice venues support an ongoing effort to enhance all aspects for Cincinnati Reds fans in the park.
In an effort to distinguish a venue for some of the more enthusiastic fans, the Fox Sports Ohio Champions Club was designed. Branded to honor the history, importance and pride of the oldest team in Major League Baseball history, this area serves as the main club area for the Reds stadium. The club was renovated and renamed the Champions Club in honor of the Cincinnati Reds’ longstanding championship history, including five World Series titles and many National League pennants and division championships. The championship teams are portrayed throughout the club with use of subtle imagery, signage, flooring and color.
The Champions Club has allowed the Reds organization to generate additional revenue by providing a new and unique club venue to Great American Ball Park. The fan experience in this club space has a baseball-enthusiast atmosphere with an upscale feel.
On game day, the Champions Club hosts up to 1,200 ticket-holding fans. Each patron enters the club by passing over the custom-poured, three-color terrazzo floor with its Cincinnati Reds trademark “C” logo directing their sights to the championship wall of fame before continuing on to the rest of the expansive club space.
The flooring selections within the space created some of the most intense discussions during schematic design. The chosen flooring material had to do many opposing tasks all at once. It had to be able to take high foot and cart traffic abuse, while maintaining its initial luster; protect itself against any food and drink spills, while still appearing soft and inviting; provide both acoustically active and absorptive properties; provide and accept intense color to produce a lively ambiance on game day, while at the same time reflecting a sense of elegance at a wedding or a level of sophistication at a corporate social event.
The terrazzo floor sets up the language for implied circulation and service zones throughout the club. This continues into the main body of the club with the transition of terrazzo into the custom carpet patterning and banding that breaks up the expansive club space, while providing directional cues and defining specific dining zones.
A continuation of the red terrazzo banding, a stripe of red carpet leads the user towards the edges of the club to one of three locations: the exterior 4192 Bar, the exclusive open-air club boxes accessible only to ticket holders, and an exterior premium viewing area.
A resilient, high-performance exterior carpet product was installed at the exterior bar and within the box seat areas to further solidify the deluxe upgraded status of the club. As an added feature, these outdoor areas are exclusively lit with custom backlit graphic panels depicting, in sepia tones, famous Reds players throughout history, and are visible throughout the ballpark.
The large 4192 Bar, located on an exterior glass wall with views of the Ohio River and Cincinnati skyline, can be seen from anywhere within the club. With a bright white backlit glass bar top highlighting authentic replicas of champion players’ autographs and a high enamel, almost mirror-like red bar front, the eye is immediately drawn to this location.
When working with a branded professional sports organization, the use of color in design can become somewhat tricky, especially when brand recognition of a team is so heavily based in the trademarked logo and color. In the case of the Champions Club, the implementation of red within the design made sense on many levels but was not forced into the design decisions of the space.
Red in the flooring materials not only serves to imply circulation, but also provides a connection throughout the wide-open interior space and flow into the exterior portion of the club. The custom red terrazzo bands flow seamlessly into the custom red of the interior carpet, providing the intended accent impact while the surrounding warm grey and white neutral flooring serve as grounding elements.
While the general lighting within the space is a variety of white lighting, continuous red LED strip lighting was integrated into the large planar white ceiling along the existing structural beams and continued along these beams to the covered exterior club seating areas. When illuminated, the red lighting can be seen from all locations of the ballpark bowl. In the case of the Champions Club, the color red provided opportunities for high impact design gestures instead of becoming a cliché in its use within the space.
In addition to becoming a destination spot within the ballpark, the Champions Club needed to serve a variety of functions on non-game days. The Cincinnati Reds Special Events Team requested that the space not be overly baseball-themed, but instead use sophisticated and subtle implications that would appeal to a serious fan, a guest of a wedding, or a business conference attendee. Finish and material selections needed to respond to the multitude of users and functions that could occupy the space on any given day.
The terrazzo to carpet transitions are seamless throughout the space, by design. While a variety of flooring products were reviewed, maintenance, durability and a high-end appearance were the ultimate drivers of the final selection. Terrazzo provided a long life appeal, along with a seamless floor void of grout or potential height transition joints. The field carpet, Percussion by Atlas Mills, provided a luxe pattern and feel of a hospitality or exclusive club product, while the accent striping of the Viva LA collection by Bentley Prince Street provided the bold accent with complementary patterning to both the field carpet and marble chip concentration of the terrazzo. The combination of these products works well for any event that might take place in the space. The percentage of hard resilient flooring to that of the carpet provides the right balance for allowing a range of acoustical control within the space.
The Champions Club at Great American Ballpark provided a unique design challenge. The concept of designing a space integral to the experience of a fan at a Major League baseball park, combined with the venue’s use for non-baseball events, is becoming more common as stadiums evolve to compete year-round as entertainment destinations. Materials and finishes continue to evolve in performance without sacrifice of the aesthetic, allowing for endless design possibilities in these multi-use, once perceived concrete durable only, facilities.
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