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Designing a soccer stadium, with help from fans

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Sunday night was a great night for fans of LA’s fledgling soccer team, the LA Football Club. The team beat the Seattle Sounders 1-0 on the team’s first outing in their new stadium.

Now that it is filling with fans, it is easy to forget that the Banc of California Stadium, built on the site of the former LA Memorial Sports Arena, and its team, were only recently magicked into existence.

The fascinating creation story involves a combination of Hollywood dream-making, new architectural technologies for showcasing design ideas, and very savvy cultivation of soccer fandom.

DnA meets members of the supporters clubs who were on the ground floor of the design process. They were invited by the ownership team to offer up ideas over the course of the design process and met with the architectural team at Gensler LA many times over three years.


The northeast corner of the Banc of California Stadium reveals a perfectly-framed downtown LA skyline, with palm trees. Photo by Frances Anderton.

Jimmy Lopez, of the supporter group Black Army 1850, says their wishlist included a kids’ zone, good food that reflected LA, and a safe-standing section that’s located at the north end of the stadium. That’s where over 3,000 supporters will lead the raucous chanting at every home game.

Fellow supporter Marco Sanchez says the finished result is just as they had dreamed of; in his words, it is “A1 legit.”

So how about the architects’ part in this process? Jonathan Emmett, principal at Gensler LA’s sports division, says that witnessing the supporters really see the stadium come to life “was a really meaningful part of this experience.”

The goal was to create a very human “analog” experience for fans and supporters, but to get there they tapped the latest digital technology for displaying architectural concepts: virtual reality. Supporters came to the office, put on VR headsets and toured virtual versions of the stadium.

So too did prospective players.

The clients enticed team members with VR tours that included such ego-stroking details as a visit into the locker room where the prospect could open it up to find a jersey with his name on it.

Emmett also credits Hollywood storytelling strategies with shaping the design. He says owner Peter Guber “really encouraged us to think about this from a cinematic perspective… So rather than just thinking about bricks and mortar, he wanted us to think about how we frame views, frame experiences, really choreograph the entire game day experience from start to finish.”


Supporters fill the stands before LAFC’s first home game at Banc of California Stadium. Photo by Frances Anderton.