Wooing jocks and fans

Colleges are going all out to optimize the fan experience and make the most of student athletes’ time.

October 23, 2017 |
West Pavilion at Nippert Stadium

Last fall, the University of Cincinnati unveiled its newly renovated and expanded West Pavilion at Nippert Stadium, one of the nation’s oldest collegiate football stadiums. The five-story, 115,000-sf pavilion offers much-needed events and meeting space and luxury seating options. Architecture Research Office and Heery International led the $65 million project.

New designs and major renovations of college stadiums and arenas are taking inspiration from the pros in seating arrangements and amenities.

“Our research shows that fans want a new game-day experience,” says Sherri Privitera, NCARB, LEED AP, Principal with Populous. “It’s no longer as simple as providing fans a seat, a hot dog, and a soda.”

Game attendance at some major universities has declined in recent years. Stadium renovations are a big part of the strategy to win fans back.

Luxury boxes, club seating, and a wider variety of food and drink options are musts. When Baylor University fans expressed interest in making it easier to bring children to football games, the school added a stroller check, new family-friendly restrooms with diaper-changing counters, and stools to make it easier for toddlers to access sinks, says Privitera.

Training facilities are also getting nutrition stations, meeting rooms replete with the latest technology, and cushy lounges, all aimed at providing what athletes need to reduce their need to travel around campus. “Players are there for a certain number of hours, and efficient use of their time is so important,” says Fred Ortiz, AIA, Principal and Director of East Coast Sports & Entertainment with HKS.


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Training facilities are dedicating space to academic study and tutoring. “It’s very much like planning an office project,” says Ortiz. Features include movable partitions and seating, projection screens, flexible-height computer screens, and extensive daylighting.

All these efforts are designed to wow prospective student-athletes, Ortiz says. In most cases, the university does not subsidize these improvements, Privitera says. Instead, bonds backed by alumni donations and revenue from ticket sales and premium amenities foot the bill.



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