Sports, entertainment venues need engineering athleticism

Sports arenas and entertainment facilities involve complex engineering solutions. Five consulting engineers offer advice to get results worth cheering about.


Keith Cooper, PE, President, McClure Engineering, St. Louis. Courtesy: McClure EngineeringDouglas H. Evans, PE, FSFPE, Fire Protection Engineer, Clark County, Nevada. Courtesy: Clark County, NevadaBill Larwood, PE, LEED AP, Senior Vice President/Project Principal, Syska Hennessey Group, Los Angeles. Courtesy: Syska Hennessey GroupKevin Lewis, PE, LEED AP BD+C, Vice President, Henderson Engineers, Lenexa, Kansas. Courtesy: Henderson EngineersBruce McKinlay, Principal, Arup, Los Angeles. Courtesy: Arup

Participants (left to right):

Keith Cooper, PE, President, McClure Engineering, St. Louis

Douglas H. Evans, PE, FSFPE, Fire Protection Engineer, Clark County, Nevada

Bill Larwood, PE, LEED AP, Senior Vice President/Project Principal, Syska Hennessey Group, Los Angeles

Kevin Lewis, PE, LEED AP BD+C, Vice President, Henderson Engineers, Lenexa, Kansas

Bruce McKinlay, Principal, Arup, Los Angeles  

CSE: Describe a sports or entertainment venue you’ve worked on.

Keith Cooper: We work on numerous college and university campuses with a focus on sports, recreation, and performance facilities. We have designed approximately 50 of these facilities in the last 15 years.

Douglas H. Evans: The Las Vegas Valley contains a number of sports facilities. All NASCAR fans are aware of the Las Vegas Speedway, which is located within the jurisdictional boundaries of Clark County, Nevada. This venue contains more than 140,000 seats. The grandstands, skyboxes, and infield areas all included their own unique fire protection challenges. Several of the resorts also include sporting venues. Boxing and mixed martial arts fans are likely familiar with MGM Grand Gardens, Caesars, and Mandalay Bay Arena. There are several additional sporting complexes that showcase rodeos and other equestrian events, as well as basketball, football, baseball, hockey, and virtually all popular sporting events. These venues can seat upwards of 12,000 to 30,000 patrons. Without exception, resorts in the Las Vegas Valley include multiple entertainment venues. Some of these venues may be as common as small platforms for a band, comedian, or other entertainers. Some include the multi-use facilities described above. Most of the resorts contain at least one stage with a proscenium (a fire and smoke separation between the stage and the audience).

Bill Larwood: One of Syska’s recent sports projects is the UCLA Pauley Pavilion expansion and renovation. It was a major gut and required new systems—everything from new air handlers to new sumps were added. The Pauley Pavilion arena is unique in that it is steeped in history/lore that needed to show through in the new design, but it also required present-day must-haves including technology, signage, revenue streams, and attention to the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems’ high performance. Two of the system features we were excited to see included were a mix-mode cooling system, which provides natural ventilation, and significant amounts of natural daylighting. We also helped engineer the architecture with highly tuned fenestration coordinated with the building use and location.

Engineers at Arup worked on Miller Park, a 42,500-seat stadium that is home to the Milwaukee Brewers. The facility is among the first sports arenas to include a retractable roof and climate conditioning in the bowl. Courtesy: Tim GriffithKevin Lewis: We recently completed an arena renovation for the University of South Florida in Tampa. The $32 million renovation included a complete redo of the existing MEP and fire protection systems that were original to the 32-year-old facility. The project was a fast-track, design assist project that is also seeking USGBC LEED Silver certification. HEI provided engineering for the MEP and fire protection systems and construction administration. While the project was challenging due to space limitations and low structure height, the architect and other consultants pulled together to provide a team approach to solving each design challenge.

Bruce McKinlay: Miller Park, a 42,500-seat Major League Baseball (MLB) stadium designed for the Milwaukee Brewers, was completed in 2001. The stadium was innovative at the time as it included a unique fan-shaped retractable roof and heating in the bowl to keep the fans warm late into the season. This may have been the first stadium designed in the United Sates with a retractable roof and climate conditioning in the bowl, which now seems to be the trend in most National Football League (NFL) stadiums. Arup has also been involved in the design of the Singapore Sports Hub, which features a 55,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof to provide crowd and playing field protection during inclement weather. The Hub also includes an aquatics center, as well as retail and a multi-purpose arena. The stadium roof features an integrated LED lighting system that transforms the roof surface into the largest programmable LED screen in the world. The Hub is currently under construction and is expected to be completed by 2014.

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