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Is Modular the Future for Stadia Design?

You typically wouldn’t expect the words luxury and modular to be paired together. That was the case before the Miami Open, where modular is on design steroids for the next two weeks. It’s being used extensively throughout the tennis campus and stadium for seating stadia, premium hospitality, site activation, pop-up F+B, fan amenities and more. The results are spectacular. 

Could this be the design solution for world-class, cost-effective stadia?

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To be fair, modular technology has been around for decades and is a solid solution when economics is the primary concern. Countless high schools, recreational centers, field houses, and temporary events have used basic aluminum stands and structures with great success. Festivals put up and take down modular components for events throughout the U.S. each summer. Even the Olympics have responded to criticism of waste by incorporating modular into their stadium mix. Yet, ask someone to define modular and they’ll conjure a graffiti-covered box car serving beer in an urban setting.

Scaling Up for World Class Stadia

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While modular may be misunderstood, its benefits are clear. Lightning fast construction.  Flexible configuration. Ability to grow with the event and team. Sustainability. Lower costs. Believe it or not, it’s also fun for architects, because it solves challenges to venue and event design while creating many opportunities. Today’s modular systems span many categories of structures, materials, and componentry, and often borrow from traditional stadia design and building methods to create hybrids. It’s time to scale this technology up.

Think about it. At the Miami Open, the 14,000-seat center court stadium was constructed in Hard Rock Stadium in only six weeks. It is the first stadium within a stadium and it will be disassembled in 10 days. The aesthetics shock fans, players and sponsors. They are hard pressed to feel a difference from traditional seating, branding, design character and comfort.

This opens unlimited opportunities to transform existing stadia and ancillary real estate into new activated temporary events. It also blows the doors open for minor leagues, new teams, and smaller communities that feel deprived of adequate facilities, but don’t have the cash flow for a major building program.

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Likewise, modular suites offer premium hospitality options where before only tents were erected. The Miami Open’s 24 modular suites are themed for the event, offer extraordinary tennis sight lines, provide upscale F+B and treat guests and sponsors with respect. They’ll be gone in two weeks.

There is new pressure to use stadiums that sit idle in a fresh way. There are expectations to entertain communities while operating cost-effectively. Critics will say it costs money to stage a new event. Modular is allowing a world-class event to be staged in an idle stadium and parking lots without building a new, billion-dollar stadium or renovating an old one. The savings in costs, embodied energy and impact on the environment are tremendous. This is a win-win for the Miami community, for many years to come.