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Global specialist architects, Populous have won a major baseball design competition in South Korea – the design of upcoming NC Dinos Baseball Park in Changwon City, near Busan, in the South of the country.

Populous is designing the 22,000-seat NC Dinos Baseball Park, with a construction value of USD$100m, which will feature roof top gardens stretching the length of the building area and takes its inspiration from the design of the High Line in Manhattan; a park built on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad.

Populous Senior Principal, Andrew James, said the project is the first true baseball ballpark for families and fans in South Korea and the design has built on the firm’s extensive experience with MLB in the United States, particularly Petco Park in San Diego and Target Field in Minneapolis.

James added:

It’s a major breakthrough for sport and entertainment in Korea, because the stadium is designed with post match legacy in mind, to be busy and active all year round, not just on game day.

It is the first baseball stadium in South Korea to have 360 open views to the field and circulation around the whole stadium. The fixed seating of the infield is complimented by the casual seating areas around the outfield, with grass berms and timber terraces, to create a flexible, relaxed space for families and fans.

The NC Dinos are one of the newest teams in the Korean Baseball League, formed in 2011, but this year was ranked second in the League with an ever growing fan base.

Their new stadium will also be surrounded by interactive parklands and all commercial spaces, in the stadium, including restaurants, fan retail shop, function room and café have also been designed for use outside game day.

Populous is designing the project with local partner Haeahn Consortium and construction is scheduled for completion in 2018.

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Images courtesy: Populous

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Populous will have a significant presence at Stadia & Arena Asia Pacific, as an event sponsor and also providing a number of industry-elite speakers. To join the conversation, register today to confirm your place at this must-attend event: www.saevents.uk.com

El Paso’s Southwest University Park named ‘Ballpark of the Year’ by BaseballParks.com

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It’s always a sad situation when a city loses a Minor League Baseball (MiLB) team. El Paso saw its beloved Diablos move away following the 2004 season. When the City realised that it would take a new ballpark to lure an affiliated Minor League franchise back to that market, they constructed one of the great facilities in the sport.

The sadness of 2004 has given way to rejoicing as the Pacific Coast League’s El Paso Chihuahuas now play in the City’s new ballpark. No doubt the rejoicing will turn to euphoria with the announcement that the El Paso Chihuahuas’ Southwest University Park has been named as BaseballParks.com ‘Ballpark of the Year’ for 2014.

The announcement of the award was made in the pages of the August 6th edition of USA Today Sports Weekly. Joe Mock, frequent contributor to USA Today publications, wrote the article that announced that El Paso’s park is the winner of this year’s honour. Mock is also the President of Grand Slam Enterprises, which owns and operates the BaseballParks.com website.

The honour is given annually to the new or remodelled baseball stadium with the best combination of aesthetics, architectural design, attractive site selection and fan amenities. The plaque representing the award will be presented by Mock at the Chihuahuas’ home game on August 28. This marks the 15th straight year that BaseballParks.com has presented such an award.

Mock noted about last year’s winner, Regions Field, home of the Birmingham Baron:

Prior to this year, the fans and media in Birmingham exhibited the greatest response to their park winning the award. This year, though, the level of excitement over my in-depth review by fans in the El Paso area has even topped what I saw last year. When they learn that their park has won this national honor, I expect the interest to be off the charts.

Josh Hunt, Managing Partner of MountainStar Sports Group, which owns and operates the Chihuahuas, was thrilled with the news. He said:

This is truly an honour for us, as well as for the entire community of El Paso. I believe our City can be very proud that the El Paso Chihuahuas play in a venue that is recognised as being the best new ballpark in the country. From the outset, ownership’s objective was to build a first-class facility.

The unique design was a key factor, as well. The project team started with a small, tight amount of land in the heart of our city and turned it into a ballpark with distinct ‘neighbourhoods’ that make up the total venue. And to top it off, we have incredibly supportive fans that create the best environment in Minor League Baseball. Populous, the construction team and consultants, and the City of El Paso should be very proud of this honour. It’s really very special.

El Paso’s Project Engineer for the Ballpark, Alan Shubert, was equally happy when informed about the award. He commented:

This is fantastic news. Everyone involved in this worked diligently to have the very highest quality qallpark, and it’s nice to know that this quality is being recognised with this award. Beyond that, El Paso deserves the best. It’s a great town and it deserves this honour. I hope this Ballpark is the first of more great venues to come for the City.

Pat O’Conner, the President and CEO of Minor League Baseball, released a statement that said, in part:

We commend the Chihuahuas organisation, MountainStar Sports Group and the city of El Paso for their dedication to creating a first-class environment for their players and fans.

Since 2000, Minor League Baseball has built an impressive 58 new ballparks and Southwest University Park is yet another shining example of the immense popularity, growth and stability of Minor League Baseball in the sports landscape. Many of our stadiums feature the same amenities as Major League Baseball stadiums, and allow players to hone their skills from the early stages of their professional careers in our state-of-the-art facilities.

We commend the Chihuahuas organisation, MountainStar Sports Group and the city of El Paso for their dedication to creating a first-class environment for their players and fans. It is an honour for an MiLB stadium to be recognised as Baseballparks.com’s Ballpark of the Year for 2014.

Nationally known architecture firm Populous was behind the design of the Ballpark. Their job was particularly challenging because of the small size of the chosen site.

Mike Sabatini, Principal at Populous and designer of Southwest University Park, said:

The ballpark is situated on one of the tightest sites in Minor League Baseball but the constraints of the site became opportunities for us. This allowed us to create a unique, asymmetrical ballpark that is authentically El Paso. As an architect, there is nothing more gratifying than seeing a community enjoy and appreciate a ballpark and its design, which is exactly what has happened in El Paso. Here at Populous, we share in the pride El Pasoans feel in their new park, and in winning this award.

Populous is no stranger to this honour; this marking the eighth time one of their ballparks has won, including PNC Park in 2001, Petco Park in 2004 and Pensacola Bayfront Stadium in 2012.

David Bower, Principal at Populous said:

Our design philosophy is rooted in creating incredible experiences and designing solutions that are authentic to the place, capturing the best attributes of a community, a city and a region through design. In El Paso, we are incredibly proud of the way this philosophy manifested itself – we captured the city’s prominent architectural style, from the classic brick to the influence of public art – on a site that allows for complete connectivity to the city and has become a spot for baseball to thrive in El Paso for decades to come.

The other finalists for the 2014 award were Cubs Park, the new home of Cubs spring training in Mesa, Arizona; and BB&T BallPark in Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte, like El Paso, has a Triple-A franchise.

Mock advised:

This year’s new parks are all outstanding. In particular, the Charlotte Knights’ new facility is gorgeous and offers fans one of the very best views in the sport. In the end, though, the setting, exterior and miraculous design job by Populous carried the day for Southwest University Park. The fact that such an exemplary ballpark could be built on a site of less than six acres is astonishing.

The complete list of Ballpark of the Year winners can be found here and Mock’s review of El Paso’s ballpark, entitled “Artistic Ballpark is a Masterpiece” can be found here.

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Atlanta Braves to develop new stadium complex, opening 2017

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The Atlanta Braves organisation will not extend its lease at Turner Field upon its expiration at the end of 2016. Instead it is working with Cobb County leaders to build a new world-class Major League Baseball stadium and integrated mixed-use development. The Braves has secured a large tract of property at the northwest intersection of I-75 and I-285 to this end. Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz, said:

We believe the new stadium location is easy to access while also giving our fans a first-rate game day experience in and around the ballpark and making it a 365-day-a-year destination.

The stadium will occupy a portion of the site, with the balance being used for parking, mixed-use development and green space. The estimated cost of the stadium, parking and related infrastructure is roughly $672 million. The Braves will be a significant investor, along with Cobb County, in the project. During construction of the stadium, more than 5,227 jobs will be supported, with a total payroll of more than $235 million.

Construction on the new stadium is scheduled to start in the second half of 2014 and will be completed by Opening Day 2017. The Braves will develop the remaining parcels surrounding the stadium, crafting a world-class entertainment district featuring retail, restaurants and hotel options. Plans call for the stadium to be owned by the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, which also owns the Cobb Galleria Centre and Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

The Braves’ lease at Turner Field, which is owned by the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority, ends at the conclusion of 2016. Since the facility opened in 1997, the Braves have invested nearly $125 million in Turner Field.

The Braves estimate that Turner Field currently needs $150 million in infrastructure work (including seat replacement, upgrades to the lighting, etc.), none of which would significantly enhance the fan experience. If the Braves were to pay for additional projects focused on improving the fan experience, the additional costs could exceed $200 million. Even with a significant capital investment in Turner Field, the Braves believe that there are several issues that cannot be overcome – lack of consistent mass transit to the facility, lack of adequate parking, lack of access to major roadways and lack of control over the development of the surrounding area.

Juárez Vive stadium brings baseball alive with sound system

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Juárez Vive stadium opened this season to welcome baseball fans in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Ciudad Juárez’ strategic location in the context of Mexico’s drug wars threatened to smother the rich cultural life of its 1.3 million people, but things have turned around in recent years and the city is regaining its footing. The new stadium thus bears a level of personal investment from city and government officials that have influenced its design and construction.

The stadium’s modern game-day experience now includes a highly-intelligible, pleasantly-musical sound reinforcement delivered by Danley Sound Labs loudspeakers and subwoofers, with support from Ashly amplifiers and Symetrix processing. Rich Mason, President of North-Carolina-based Clarity Incorporated, the company that designed the audio installation, said:

The Governor of Chihuahua, César Duarte Jáquez, toured the construction site frequently to track and encourage the progress. Our charge was to deliver ‘sound that was befitting the best of Mexico’. They expected us to jump a very high bar.

The construction company, Afirma, only involved Clarity Incorporated after first determining that the original sound system designer wouldn’t be able to deliver that kind of performance on budget. As a result, Clarity Incorporated started the design three months late and operated on an emergency schedule.

Bill Weir, Clarity Incorporated’s Director of Technology designed the system with assistance from Ivan Beaver, Danley Sound Labs’ Chief Engineer. A small crew from Clarity Incorporated spent three weeks on site to assist Afirma with the installation. Weir said:

This is a value-engineered system. Occasionally, you get a big-budget project in which issues can be overcome simply by throwing money at them. You don’t have to give them a lot of thought. But in this day and age, and especially for a government client, money is tight and you have to carefully balance the tradeoffs inherent in any decision, but in such a way that no one feels that it’s a compromise. That’s a value-engineered system.

Loudspeaker and subwoofer placement at the new stadium looks deceptively simple. Nineteen Danley SM-80 full-range loudspeakers ring the lip of the roof that covers the stands, and every other SM-80 is joined by a Danley TH-118 subwoofer. Weir observed that subwoofers are often omitted from stadium designs:

With conventional subs, it’s hard to retain low end definition or clarity in a stadium situation. It’s just mud. In contrast, Danley’s tapped-horn subwoofers have vastly lower group delay and a very definite focus that you can’t get from conventional designs. Put another way, it doesn’t matter how loud or low something goes, it’s the manner in which it does so that matters. And Tom Danley’s bass is not only loud and low, it’s musical and defined.

The stadium’s roof and appropriate spacing also contribute to exceptional low frequency definition. Heil microphones and a handful of other input sources feed a 16-channel Yamaha LS9 console, which in turn feeds a Symetrix 8×8 DSP with a Symetrix BreakOut12 for additional outputs. Weir added:

As well as one might plan things out, the system requirements are likely to change on site. Symetrix has a reputation for building solid algorithms that are supported by well-designed analog circuitry. Its flexible open-architecture topology allowed me to perfectly tune the system functionality while I was in Juárez.

Nine Ashly pe3800 and four Ashly ne2400 amplifiers power the system. All of the Ashly amplifiers are networked to allow Ethernet control from a central location. Weir concluded:

Clarity has no obligations to any manufacturer. I can use whatever I want in my designs. Given the design expectations and constraints at Juárez Vive, I’m certain that this is the only combination of gear that would have succeeded. It’s a very unique synergy, and I’ve never heard a better system for anything less than five times the price. From the client’s perspective, it’s simple: they have a far better audio system than even dared imagine possible, and they stayed on budget.