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Heavy Hitters of Sports Architecture Vying for New Minnesota Vikings Stadium

By Brandon Gee -- September 07, 2012 10:36 PM EDT

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As reported in Thursday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Minnesota Vikings held a public forum for fans and media to see the portfolios of the five firms aiming to be chosen for the team's new stadium. While no drawings of the Vikings project, which will be built on the site of Mall Of America Field (formerly The Metrodome), were made public, attendees got to see examples of the work from world-class names in sports architecture.

The Five firms are:

AECOM: The Los Angeles-based firm covers all types of architecture, construction, and engineering work. As for their sports venues, AECOM acquired another firm that specialized in sports architecture, Ellerbe Becket. Highlights of their sports venue work are: The home of the Seattle Seahawks, CenturyLink Field, and the site of both American political conventions this year, the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, FL and Time Warner Cable Arena, in Charlotte, NC. In addition, the firm was also involved in renovations to the New Orleans Saints' Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and the transformation of the Portland Timbers' Jeld-Wen Field from baseball stadium to a soccer-specific facility. AECOM was recently chosen as the lead in the arena project for the Golden State Warriors, who will be leaving the aged Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA to move to a waterfront complex on San Francisco's Piers 30-32.

Ewing Cole: A firm that is a newcomer to the sports category, with most of their completed projects being close to their Philadelphia headquarters. This would appear to be the underdog in the competition as they don't carry the same prestige in sports like Populous or AECOM do. Past projects include several venues in the Phillies' organization: their home, Citizens Bank Park, but also the renovation of the classic ballpark of the Double-A affiliate Reading Phillies, FirstEnergy Stadium (originally built in 1951), and they also designed Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL, the home of the Phillies' Single A affiliate, the Clearwater Threshers and also the organization's spring training home. While Ewing Cole doesn't have the breadth of experience some of the others do, the marquee piece in their portfolio is the much-lauded home of New York City's NFL teams, Metlife Stadium. They also have experience in the horseracing industry with projects in places such as Lexington, KY and Kranji, Singapore.

HKS, Inc.: Another firm with a smaller, concentrated sports portfolio, HKS has a lot of work around its base of Dallas, Texas. HKS has been at least a part of the design teams for every major venue in the area, including The Ballpark at Arlington, American Airlines Center and Cowboys Stadium. Other highlights of HKS' work are Estadio Corona, the home of the Mexican football club, Club Santos Laguna in Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico and the gorgeous spring training home of the L.A. Dodgers and Chicago White Sox, Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ, a beautiful stone-clad facility that our reviewers here at SJ were blown away by.

HTNB: Kansas City-based HNTB has a strong history of full-scale site planning and projects in the infrastructure industry, something that may benefit them as the Vikings plan on building an accompanying entertainment district while integrating the new stadium into existing mass transit lines. Their sports portfolio is somewhat impressive with projects including Denver's Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium and the new stadium being built for the San Francisco 49ers. Other work includes master planning and expansions/renovations of Michigan Stadium, Iowa's Kinnick Stadium, and Purdue University's Ross-Ade Stadium.

Populous: Formerly known as HOK Sport, Populous is the powerhouse of the group, as it is the only firm of the five whose main focus is on sports venues and therefore has the largest collection of work. The retro-ballpark trend? Populous is responsible for nearly all those parks, from Camden Yards to Progressive Field to PNC Park. Populous has had a hand in some of the most famous stadiums in the world including the new Yankee Stadium, London's Wembley Stadium (renovation), and the London Olympic Stadium. In just the American sports leagues, Populous is responsible for 12 NFL stadiums, 19 MLB parks (including Minneapolis neighbor, the Twins' Target Field), and 14 arenas across the NBA & NHL, as well three MLS stadiums. Populous has the pedigree as a world-class firm and a huge collection for the Vikings to cull an opinion from.

The Vikings leadership has an incredibly difficult decision on its hands. All five of these firms seem completely capable of delivering a venue that will stand out in the National Football League design-wise, while providing all the modern technology and revenue streams sports teams have become accustomed to. The team already has big aspirations for the venue, currently projected to cost nearly $1 billion, as ESPN has reported the team has made a formal bid with the league to be the host of either the 2018, 2019, or 2020 Super Bowls. As the Star-Tribune reports, the team's decision could be made public as soon as Sept. 14.

Brandon Gee can be contacted at brandon.gee@stadiumjourney.com or on twitter: @UTPbrandon

Photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings.

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