Market Research, College Football and the Stadium Experience – Richard Breslin & Earl Santee

October 1, 2013

College football stadiums are special places to many people, especially in the United States.  There is something about the experience – the tailgating, the fan base, the traditions – that make attending a college football game incomparable. But stadium renovations and new builds in collegiate football are getting smarter. My colleague Earl Santee discusses the impact market research and data-driven design is having on the ever-expanding college football market.

Texas A&M has arguably one of the most successful college football programs in the United States.  Known as the home of the 12th man, fans at Kyle Field, the historic college football stadium on the College Station campus, don’t just watch the game… they affect the game. When we began to work with the University and the 12th Man Foundation in early 2012 for a design study, it immediately became clear every group impacted by the redevelopment of Kyle Field- from students to athletics to faculty to administration to former students- were incredibly passionate and sincere in their concerns about the future of the stadium. Those early meetings with stakeholders directly impacted our approach to the redevelopment. We knew we needed to capture everything fans loved about  the iconic Kyle Field in the $450 million renovation… and we had to ensure we provided fans with the amenities and seating they wanted to keep them coming back and the traditions of Kyle Field alive for decades to come.

In turn, we decided to approach the design in a way that hasn’t previously been done in collegiate football. Working closely with Conventions, Sports & Leisure International, The Innovation Group and GMR, we developed a survey that was distributed to former students with ties to the school. The survey showed fans proposed images of suites, club seats, loge boxes and other seating options, asking which amenities they would be most likely to buy. More than 24,000 responded, showing the power of the university’s fan base. The survey, in part, had such an impactful response because it was tailored to potential buyers’ answers early in the survey. Together, we were able to identify:

  1. What the market is
  2. Potential revenue and funding sources
  3. The demand for various premium offerings 

The survey helped the University and 12th Man Foundation, as well as Populous, to understand what premium seating products were most popular, what they would likely buy and how much they would be willing to pay. In addition, we delved into what current and potential customers like, where they live and how they could best be reached with messaging about the redevelopment of Kyle Field. Only after we had this information, did we begin to design.

This data driven design approach has paid dividends. From the survey, we decided to include 114 suites, 7,800 club seats and three separate loge box locations. But more so, this survey has sold the very seats fans inquired about in the survey. Within two weeks, Texas A&M sold all of their premium products. Because many fans had seen the seating options, they knew ahead of time what they wanted. And one of the most impactful realizations was that from the most expensive, exclusive suites (which require capital gifts of $5 million to $15 million) to the lowest cost upper deck seats, we were able to design something that allowed everyone to be part of the experience at Kyle Field, meanwhile tapping into every revenue source possible.

The redevelopment of Kyle Field will be completed in full in 2015 and the voices of former students, faculty, administration, players and students will be clear in the architecture and amenities. By giving them a voice early on in the design process and by listening- and responding- to their wants and needs- we have created a stadium that is as authentic as it possibly could be. The fans are what makes Texas A&M a dominant force in college football… and we wanted the fans to walk through the stadium and see the impact they have had on the design.

Richard Breslin Cropped 2Richard Breslin is a Senior Principal at Populous and a Director of the Asian/Pacific office headquartered in Brisbane. Richard also sits on the worldwide strategic Board of Populous. Richard is responsible for all of the firm’s projects in New Zealand and Australia.

In 1997, Richard commenced work with the team on the design of Stadium Australia (now ANZ Stadium), the main venue for the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games. At this time, he also worked on the event overlay for the Games, reviewing initial designs for Homebush Olympic Park.

Following the successful delivery of the 2000 Summer Games, Richard worked on the design of the 90,000 seat Wembley Stadium, before leading the design team for two stadia constructed in Portugal (Estadio da Luz in Lisbon and Estadio Algarve in Faro) in preparation for the UEFA Euro 2004 soccer competition.

In 2006, he was Project Leader for the design of the Soccer CIty Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He was also appointed project leader for Populous’ successful master plan for the London 2012 Olympic Park. Populous designed the main stadium for the London Olympics and was part of the Overlay team for the Olympic Park.

In 2007, Richard emigrated to New Zealand, where he led the teams on the design of the 60,000 seat Eden Park redevelopment in Auckland and the 30,000 seat Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, the first fully covered fixed roof stadium with a natural grass pitch. Both were venues for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Richard is now working on a range of projects in Australia and New Zealand, including the sports hub which is part of the blueprint for the rebuilding of Christchurch, following the earthquakes.

Richard’s isportconnect-profile-widget

EarlSantee_popolousEarl Santee is a senior principal at Populous and is considered America’s foremost stadia designer and urban planner. His portfolio of more than 60 stadiums includes the Kyle Field Renovation at Texas A&M, Baylor Stadium, Target Field, Marlins Park and Yankee Stadium. The redevelopment of Kyle Field is due for completion by autumn 2015.


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