Five types of fans shaping stadium design

 —  Article by JLL Staff Reporter
Fans at a baseball game in the US
Image credit: Shutterstock

When tens of thousands of sports fans head to any big U.S. stadium to watch that all-important game, each has their own expectations of what’s to come.

Today’s stadiums need to cater to them all; whether it’s the ability to review the go-ahead points through instant digital replays or meeting up with friends in the bar at halftime.

“When building a new stadium, teams must inspire fans to leave the comforts of home for the rush of the real-life experience,” says Don Loudermilk, Senior Vice President, JLL Project and Development Services. “But they’ve also got to make it a memorable visit. Twenty-first century fans want bigger experiences, more action and the opportunity to choose their own experiential environment.”

Forward-looking stadiums are offering exactly that, with more kinds of spaces to choose from, such as collaborative, club-like spaces, corporate suites, and field-side seat clusters.

And because fans like to stay connected on social media – or check their fantasy league standings before, during and after a game – stadiums have also been ramping up technology investment. “Twenty years ago, technology might comprise about 2 percent of a stadium build. Today, it’s more like 20 percent,” says Loudermilk. “Ford Field, for example, which is home to the Detroit Lions, now has enough wireless capacity to satisfy 60,000-plus users posting about a big play all at once. And it’s got 700 new TVs and video walls throughout the stadium, so fans of all stripes can stay on top of the action anywhere they go—particularly while they are in line for concessions.”

Indeed it’s the immersive experience that keeps many fans coming back for more – regardless of their primary reason for attending the game. Yet many share some specific characteristics that put them into one of five distinct categories, whatever their sport of choice: The Super Fan, The Networker, The Socialite, The Fantasy Gamer and The Posh Fan.

“We know there are some specific fan ‘archetypes’ who prefer specific experiences at the game, but there’s one thing they all have in common: they want more than a seat and some munchies,” says Loudermilk. “They’re looking for a total experience—and new stadiums are delivering.”

So what are these five types of fans and how are they influencing construction and renovation strategies?

1. The Super Fan

Hard-core fans aren’t just those with their faces painted in their team’s colors. No matter how they show their pride, however, this type of committed fan wants to be as close to the action as possible—so long as the seating is comfortable. They will be at a lot of games, so they want their set-up to maximize the experience they look forward to so much. They will also appreciate strong technology, from food-ordering apps that enable them to stay glued to their seat, to the ability to access online stats and division standings in real time.

2. The Networking Fan

Games aren’t just for leisure; they’re also a popular choice for corporate entertaining. And today’s business-friendly stadium spaces are no longer based on box designs. At the Lions stadium, for example, club-level suites have been completely renovated for more modern corporate entertaining, while other suites have been removed entirely and replaced with terraces that allow networking to take place in more open spaces. For those who want to be in the middle of the fans, the Atlanta Braves’ stadium has four-seat moon-shaped tables available where a small group can sit, order food on a flat screen, and talk shop—while still being able to get up and scream with everyone else.

3. The Socialite Fan

In a well-designed stadium, fans who are in it for the fun and the selfies can find plenty of ways to mingle before and after the game—both in person and online. Catering to this type of fan, the Atlanta Braves offer The Chop House at SunTrust. The three-story venue features bars, restaurants, and a bundle of connected seats that can be reserved, or not. It extends all the way up to the outfield so socially-minded fans can drink together while being positioned to catch a home-run ball. Technology infrastructure also comes into play for this fan, who will need strong network coverage to keep up with what’s trending on Twitter and who has “liked” their selfie.

4. The Fantasy Gamer Fan

Flipping between games on the field and on the web requires major bandwidth. The Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium has this demographic covered well, with its neutral distributed antenna system ensuring that all major wireless providers can work reliably throughout the facility. The stadium also provides a fantasy-football video board where ticket-holders can monitor league action. Many times the Fantasy Gamer Fan is also a Super Fan—with high standards for the live view and the online connectivity.

5. The Posh Fan

Luxury has become a necessity as ticket prices have skyrocketed. Ford Field, for example, has replaced some of its club seats with new loge boxes designed to offer the comforts of a living room – but with a luxe twist. With four large, theater-style seats overlooking the home sideline, these cushy spots come with all-inclusive food and drink served up by waiting staff. And, thanks to the rise of mixed-use stadium development, this type of fan might extend their experience by celebrating victory at a five-star restaurant around the corner after the game.

For all their differences, twenty-first century fans don’t expect anything less than a twenty-first century experience.

“These fan types are driving design and construction decisions at professional and college sports arenas across the nation, and they won’t be won over by old, one-size-fits-all tactics,” says Loudermilk. “Stadiums that recognize and cater to new fan desires will be the ones that attract more visitors in the long run.” And that’s key to winning for any sports team, no matter their record.

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