U picks firm to design new stadium

C.J. Spang

With the naming of the architect for the new TCF Bank Stadium, the University moved another step closer to bringing football back to campus.

At Thursday’s monthly Board of Regents meeting, officials announced the new stadium will be designed by HOK Sport of Kansas City, Mo.

There were six companies that expressed interest in the job and the selection committee narrowed it down to three firms – HOK Sport, HNTB Architecture and Crawford Architects, all based in Kansas City.

“I believe that we were very fortunate to have several companies interested in building an on-campus football stadium,” athletics director Joel Maturi said. “We do believe we hit a home run with HOK.”

A giant in the sports architecture world, HOK has designed many new professional stadiums around the country but also has experience on the collegiate sports scene.

According to HOK Sport senior principal Scott Radecic, the firm has worked on more than 120 college campuses and on 38 college football stadium projects.

But of those 38 stadium projects HOK Sport has worked on, none of them were complete stadiums; all were renovations of some sort.

TCF Bank Stadium will be the largest collegiate stadium project in the history of collegiate sports, Radecic said.

“Nobody’s ever spent this much money on a ground-up stadium in collegiate athletics,” he said. “So it’s incredibly significant in the sense that we get to be a part of a project of that magnitude.”

The $248 million, 50,000-seat stadium is projected to be ready for the 2009 season, with construction beginning this summer.

“We did some research and found that there’s only been five ground-up college football stadiums in the last 50 years that have had 50,000 seats or more,” Radecic said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

One firm that won’t get the opportunity is Crawford Architects. The news came as a shock and disappointment to founding partner Stacey Jones, considering his firm did all the planning for the stadium up to this point – a job his firm won over HOK.

According to Jones, that planning included a design, a budget and the site.

“We invest heavily emotionally, professionally and financially in the winning of these projects, and we were very conscious that we were making that investment,” Jones said. “So when you fail to prevail, then disappointment is an understatement.”

Jones said his firm was told it was HOK’s experience that made the difference in the decision.

“We’re perplexed, even after it’s been explained to us why we didn’t win,” he said. “I’d say that in my mind, it wasn’t a strong enough explanation to warrant not winning the real project.”

However, Brian Swanson, the University’s project coordinator for the new stadium, defended the University’s choice of HOK.

Swanson said Crawford got the original job of planning a Gophers-only stadium because of its experience doing the Gophers-Vikings joint-use stadium study project in 2002.

He went on to say there is a big difference between the planning and the actual construction of a stadium, and HOK’s experience made the difference.

“They (HOK) have a significant amount of collegiate football experience,” Swanson said. “Finally, I think HOK, as we compared all the proposals from a financial perspective; they provided the most services and the best overall value.”