Owner Tactics to Win the Sports Building Game
By: John Dixon, Exec. Vice President – Sports, Manhattan Construction Company
As a National Football League sports stadium builder I watched the big game last weekend with a different kind of appreciation. The changes I have seen in stadium and area construction during the last 15 years have been extraordinary. Every change is aimed at enhancing the fan experience.
Sports venues and teams are competing for the entertainment dollar against the slew of media options and their own fan-goer’s living room. Technology is a primary driving force for change in sports stadium design. Flat screen high-definition televisions and fly over cameras and powerful zoom lenses from all angles, give fans a perspective they can’t get in at the stadium yet. While relaxing on the couch fans can see every detail down to the sweat on a player’s brow and most subtle facial expressions as the drama of the game plays out.
Facility owners are challenged with making the experience in the stadium more exciting, rich, and comfortable in the stands than it is at home. With every new advancement in technology, the bar is raised and owners are forced to develop more striking, impressionable, and thrilling features. Fans will always thrive on “being there” when that runback of 108 yards breaks the record or the one handed grab wins the big game.
At Manhattan Construction, we have served at the helm of managing the construction of the most innovative sports and entertainment facilities in the nation. No matter if it is a high school, minor or major league baseball, college, or NFL stadium – like Cowboys Stadium or Reliant Stadium, each one is very different in their conception, rationalization, ownership make-up and final contractual relationship. Throw in the rapid technological advancements and the necessity for owners to stay ahead, you have a highly-challenging building environment. It is a great training ground for our young builders to develop a cadre of tactics to adapt to the shifting environment. Under the guidance of seasoned professionals they learn responsiveness, flexibility, design collaboration, and a respect for the urgency to deliver on time no matter what changes come their way.
We are now entering into a totally different type of sports construction. Actually, I could have said that same statement every year for the last 15 years. Our firm is in the beginning stages of building the University of Houston Football Stadium, Texas A&M Kyle Field Redevelopment, and Minnesota Twins Spring Training Facility projects. These too will be completely unique building experiences as we work with the designers to give owners the very best for what they want in a venue and in the most timely manner.
Sports and entertainment facilities today require extensive and intense pre-construction service and budget perseverance to deliver the best fan value for every construction dollar. We are building and scheduling the entire project in the mind aided by virtual construction tools. We tightly plan and schedule the purchase and delivery of materials much earlier than ever before. Construction time is being squeezed so tight that experience and ability of our personnel has to be operating at the highest level possible to anticipate all possibilities and opportunities. Thinking and planning have to exceed even what we have been so successful with in the past.
Not only have owners become more demanding, they are more diverse. In the past a project might have had multiple owner stakeholders, but only one took the lead. Now we are experiencing multiple stakeholders including the financial owner, end-user, and donors who have a financial interest and personal attachment to the end product. These diverse groups are not only taking a more active role, they are hiring construction managers to represent each individual group and protect their interest.
This changing world of building has worked to our advantage in that we realized long ago that it was not in our best interest just to build what was on paper but to challenge the sustainability, practicality and value of each facet of what we were constructing. This has paid dividends for our work ethics and standard mode of operation. Owners today understand more than ever before about what they want and what type of contractor is required to perform at this level. They do market research to validate the direction that they are moving to ensure the millions of dollars they are about to spend will deliver the best return. They truly want the best and most up-to-date fan experience possible — even if it has yet to be tested.
In the sports building market today we are experiencing the realignment of several universities that have greatly influenced the necessity to expand and change their sports facilities. Starting in 2014 College Football will start a National Play-Off System. This is already having an impact on the larger venues to upgrade and improve existing facilities enabling them to compete for the big dollars that National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and National Broadcasting will be spending to house these high-end events.
Manhattan is in a great position to grow with this expanding and exciting new revolution of advanced college and professional sports as they improve their venues to meet the growing demands of the fans.