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Hallmarks of Stadium Growth

08 June 2022 Justin Barton

This article by Justin Barton, PE, SE, Principal and Project Manager for Walter P Moore, was originally published on LinkedIn.


Soccerex USA, an event focusing on the growth of soccer in the Americas, brought together the global soccer community to discuss growth, innovation, and trends. MLS stadium expert and Soccerex panelist, Justin Barton, identifies key features that stadiums will see as soccer-specific stadia continues to rise.

I recently had the privilege of discussing Major League Soccer stadium growth on a national stage at Soccerex USA in Miami, Florida. The panel included: Bruce Miller, Populous; Jeff Sawarynski, ME Engineers; Chris Wright, Minnesota United CEO; and was moderated by former MLS/US Men’s international player and Fox Sports analyst, Stu Holden.

I recall attending my first MLS game in 2004 watching the Kansas City Wizards with about 4,000 other fans in the cavernous Arrowhead Stadium. More recently, I had the privilege of leading the structural and enclosure team on MLS’ newest stadium—Allianz Field. Attending the opening game at Allianz Field was a 360-degree different experience and indicative of how far the league has come over the last 15 years.

Our panel touched on a variety of factors that has contributed to that growth. U.S. soccer stadiums provide a completely different experience than other U.S. sporting events as well as international soccer stadiums. A combination of enhanced technology amenities, closer seating bowls, safe standing supporters sections, and innovative building materials make North American soccer stadiums an unparalleled environment for fans.

Over the next 15 to 25 years, we will continue to see new stadium growth through expansion and a surging fan base. All panelists agreed, stadiums will feature two hallmarks:

  1. Sustainability: Stadiums designed and constructed to minimize their carbon impact. Sites located adjacent to public infrastructure (rail, rapid bus, bike, micro-mobility) providing various transportation options when arriving to and departing from games. New materials, water reduction, and game day operations are all things soccer fans care about; they want to know that the stadium they enjoy recreationally is also making environmentally-conscious decisions.

  2. Technology Innovations: The buildout of America’s 5G network will create a truly immersive fan experience, providing new ways for fans to interact with players, the game, and other fans. New structural materials that can block infrared rays while simultaneously spanning further with reduced substructure will reduce project costs and provide new design aesthetics.

All of this will continue to produce an unrivaled experience for patrons and players alike.

Check out the full panel discussion via YouTube.

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