sports facility design and construction

Sports Facility Design and Construction Q&A

For insight into sports facility design and construction, SportsField Management recently spoke with Nick Bauer, product manager at Sightline Commercial Solutions. Bauer manages the research and development of new architectural railing and platform and staging products and solutions. His duties include financial and technical competitive analyses, benchmarking products, services and processes against those of other organizations, creating technical drawings and specifications and providing marketing assistance.

Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sightline Commercial Solutions is a leading fabricator and global supplier of architectural railing, metal, glazing and portable platform solutions for the commercial, sports venue, live entertainment and performing arts industries. Sightline’s solutions can be found at major sporting venues including Allianz Field (Minnesota United FC), Field (Columbus Crew), CityPark (St. Louis CITY SC), Bank of America Stadium (Carolina Panthers and Charlotte FC), Geodis Park (Nashville SC), and much more.

SportsField Management (SFM): What goes into the planning/designing/building process at major venues, and what is the process of determining the optimum solutions for the various applications throughout these venues?

Bauer: Major venues are a multi-year process from the initial planning, bidding and drawing of reviews to the production and installation of products and the facility opening. At Sightline Commercial Solutions, we pride ourselves on getting involved early in the process, even before we are awarded a contract. Oftentimes, architects of major sports venues know what they want, but don’t know how to achieve their goals. We work closely with those architects to help bring their visions to reality and provide guidance on the best approach. We see ourselves as a partner rather than just another contractor.

SFM: What is the actual installation process/timeframe for projects of this magnitude?

Bauer: The installation process is a coordinated effort between the general contractor, Sightline Commercial Solutions and the installation crew. Installation timelines at major venues can range from six months to several years for just our portion of the contract, so we work through a schedule and make sure the product is delivered and installed on time, because being behind or too far ahead may hinder other trades. We are also usually onsite during the final days before a venue opens to ensure everything is up to customer standards.

sports facility design and construction

SFM: We have seen increased popularity of safe standing sections. What has led to that growth? What overall design/build trends have you seen with regard to creating safe standing sections? And what are some features of those types of sections, as well as any unique considerations that go into the planning?

Bauer: The popularity of safe standing sections can be attributed to the explosive growth of Major League Soccer and its venues. However, other sports are jumping on the trend, especially college football venues that want to provide student sections as a secure place to enjoy the action. Overall, the trend is about creating a safe space for fans to enjoy games while being in areas that promote that gameday energy and allow them to stand up, cheer and chant without disturbing others behind them.

The main feature of safe standing sections [from our standpoint] is Sightline Commercial Solutions’ Seating Rail, which incorporates seats directly into a railing system. This gives fans, and more importantly venues, the option to turn a seating area within the bowl into a standing room only section without needing to remove seats. The system also adapts to steep rakes with the help of its ultra-slim seating profile. The angled frame not only creates a comfortable lean rail for standing supporters, but also provides a safe boundary to prevent energetic fans from falling into the next row and increases headroom for patrons during seated events.

sports facility design and construction

SFM: Venues such as GEODIS Park are utilizing a wide range of solutions, including cable rail, aisle rail, grip rail, anodized aluminum rail and stainless-steel clad glass guardrail. In addition, you used 3-D laser scanning and tube lasers to engineer all aisle railings. What can you tell us about the advanced materials, technologies and techniques that go into not only creating a safe fan experience, but also an optimized design aesthetic?

Bauer: Utilizing materials like aluminum, which is far superior when manufacturing railings compared to traditional stainless steel, allows us to be flexible with designs. We can develop and extrude different and unique shapes, as well as provide a variety of different finishes. Investing in 3D scanning units and a variety of laser equipment has afforded us the ability to be extremely accurate and nimble enough to produce final products in a timely manner. We’ve developed these techniques over the course of several decades because how a railing looks is as important to us as how it functions. Since 2003, we’ve partnered with architects and provided railings for major sports venues. Prior to that, we were heavily involved in designing and manufacturing portable seating and VIP spaces for commercial, athletic, live entertainment and performing arts venues.

SFM: What trends are you seeing with regard to sports stadium design and construction?

Bauer: We are seeing sports stadiums trend toward providing unique fan-engagement spaces throughout their venues rather than simply typical suites. From rooftop or elevated patios to large club areas and branded seating sections, field-level suites and other special seating, all the areas are being designed with a unique flare and distinctive look that mixes metals, glass, wood and even stone. We are also seeing large stadiums being built in the digital world first thanks to 3D software, which can coordinate trades and materials before any actual production is completed or single yard of concrete is cast.

For more information about Sightline Commercial Solutions’ projects, visit