HNTB ‘district-minded’ design strategy



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Ryan Gedney at Coliseum US 2023 Image: Coliseum GSVA

Ryan Gedney strongly believes that every small space of a venue can add value and observed that in a short span of time sports and entertainment design has evolved from a building experience to a district experience thus diversifying the vitality, revenue and placemaking experience.

Gedney, who is a Design Director for HNTB, a Kansas City (US)-based employee-owned infrastructure firm serving the public and private owners and contractors, asserts that ‘times are a-changin’ and it is best for the venue designers to adopt strategies that can drive value and revenue.

Ryan Gedney’s passion for professional and collegiate sports venues and the hospitality sector shows clearly through his wide variety of design leadership experience. He is rigorous in fundamentally understanding the client goals and visions and is adept at designing environments which are elegant in both function and aesthetic.

In an exclusive interaction with ‘Coliseum’, Ryan Gedney, Director of Design, HNTB, US, asserts that there is a blurring line between the venues and the districts and driving value is what counts in a world struck by rising costs. He also asserts that it is not just enough to put a stadium next to a development any more but it is more about how to drive a rich experience for the fans for which design firms will have to think out-of-the-box as today’s clients are all “district-minded”.
 

HNTB

Kansas City (US)-based the HNTB Corporation is an employee-owned infrastructure firm serving the public and private owners and contractors. The HNTB is committed to making connections possible and creating a better tomorrow. As an employee-owned infrastructure solutions firm, they believe that mobility plays an important role in helping to unlock a brighter future for the communities everywhere.

Remarked Ryan Gedney, “No matter what the sport is – Major League Soccer (MLS), collegiate football – everything percolates down to the basic idea of breaking down the walls of the venue, pushing a venue into the City and the City into the venue again to diversify the fan experience and drive better 365 fan activities. At HNTB, we are always trying to give shape to more robust designs so that the fans get to experience treasured moments in the stadia. Most of our clients today think in the line of entertainment districts which has become the buzzword.”

He says that the greatest challenge is the “districts, thinking about the overall fan experience and casting a very multiblock-oriented design challenge and how to blur these lines to sort of drive a better experience.”
 

Case Studies

 

Rogers Place

Gedney, who has been a Lead Designer for the 18,347-capacity Rogers Place in Edmonton, Canada – home of the National Hockey League (NHL) team Edmonton Oilers – narrated that it was a huge challenge to build the facility “in the bone-chilling cold in Edmonton and the Oilers said that they wanted a pedestrian bridge across the street to connect them to the district. We surmounted all challenges and did just that and today it is – Rogers Place!

The Rogers Place is located in the ICE District, a 25-acre mixed-use sports and entertainment district in downtown Edmonton, Alberta (Canada).
 

The District Detroit

Gedney and his team were again involved with another “Oilers-kind district-minded aspiration” – the District Detroit in Detroit, Michigan (US).

He added, “We were tying into the existing fabric of a really incredible downtown sports environment and our clients – Chris Ilitch and his billionaire parents who unveiled a 50-block mixed-use redevelopment project called The District Detroit – said that ‘when we get into the seating bowl, we do not want to see the concourse, no lights in the concourse and the focus should just be entirely on the game’.” The District Detroit is anchored by a 20,000-seat hockey and entertainment arena.

“The bigger challenge was that they also had these aspirations of driving activities every single day and they did not want a dormant venue and the concourse should be open all the time, sort of a street-like experience. We picked up the gauntlet and today the District Detroit is a world-class sports and entertainment district.”
 

Columbus Crew

Gedney also worked for the Major League Soccer (MLS) team Columbus Crew’s Arena District Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) project which was “great”.

The Arena District Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) is activated three hours before every Columbus Crew home match at their residence – the 20,371-capacity Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio (US). The Arena District is a festive area of the town with entertainment, dining and residential living.

He said that with the Crew though everything “went smoothly but the mixed-use development to the West we didn’t get to design them together. So, there were some things that were lost that could have been better in terms of maximizing revenue. We did not have our partnerships in place so those blurry lines are kind of a missed opportunity.”
 

Gateway District

The University of Kansas Gateway District is a project to transform the North entrance to the campus and create new amenities for the students, the employees and the visitors. The development is being co-designed by HNTB and is envisioned as a new mixed-use development that includes major upgrades to the 47,233-capacity David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas.

Informed Gedney, “As part of the David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium renovation project, they want fans to be close to the pitch action and more diversified premium products. And unlike most collegiate football venues which are built like fortresses, this revamped facility will have a very inviting ambience, very porous and welcoming.”
 

Sum-up

Ryan Gedney summed up by stating, “So, the lesson for me from the is that if we have a really strong vision for an entire district that has enough flexibility to follow the market you can still maintain that vision really strongly and we have braced up to the challenges we faced in the above entertainment district projects and sailed through.”

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