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SPECIAL: Don Loudermilk on winning stadium development approaches for winning teams

Don Loudermilk, National Director at JLL Project and Development Services, outlines the importance of creating not only a design that responds to the specific client needs but also a cohesive Project & Design Team to bring the vision to a successful reality.

New stadiums go beyond the transformation of the fan experience, they mark a new chapter for a team and its community. Today’s new stadium developments are more than just sports and entertainment venues; they are often mixed-use, master-planned communities that include restaurants, retail, lodging and residential facilities, which enhance both the overall experience and revenues. To realise the most value from the process, a coordinated team with strong leadership must be put together to help the development team ‘hit it out of the park’ or through the goal posts, as the case may be.

A multifaceted stadium development is typically, for most owners, a once-in-a-lifetime undertaking and involves what can often seem like “herding cats”. This involves not only the many facility and community stakeholders but numerous consultants and builders. It’s critical to build consensus among the many parties invested in the process in what the project wants to achieve, how you’re going to get there and what awaits you when you arrive.

From vision to game-day opening, successful projects begin with a clear definition of the objectives, a solid game plan and strong lines of accountability. The following are four core management principles that can help ensure success:

  1. Establish a single point of responsibility: Major development projects require a professional approach that relies upon the strengths of all key participants to successfully perform their work, within an environment of true team participation. Complex, fast-paced projects have greatly lessened the effectiveness of traditional project delivery systems. The ability to assemble and manage a unique project team is key to the success of these complicated projects. They require a strategy-based process that allows for a single source of accountability to the owner for the delivery of the project.
  2. Create a clear vision and goals for the project: A critical step is to build consensus around a project vision or “what you want to achieve and why”. As in any complicated effort, the most important phase is the early planning. By clearly understanding the “purpose” of the project, it becomes possible to define the expectations of both the final product and the performances that create that product. There have been few major facilities built because they needed to fill an empty lot. Projects have a purpose in terms of financial goals, functional needs, social goals and image. If those can be clearly outlined – and the project defined in terms of those goals – then every step and effort can be evaluated for their value to the project.
  3. Follow an integrated, coordinated overall program: The project management team must have expertise and the authority to develop a clear and realistic roadmap, and keep a single-minded and passionate focus on delivering all components of the project on time and on budget, while exceeding the owner’s expectations. There must be a single point of accountability responsible for the design management, budget and schedule controls, quality monitoring, construction management and final delivery of the project to the client.
  4. Keep an eye on the prize: With multiple stakeholders and numerous project components, it is easy for a multifaceted stadium project to emerge with a ‘built by committee’ look and feel. All members of a development team want clear and understandable direction. When left to their own desires, many consultants will become protective of their own interests and forget to consider the ‘big picture’; or the client’s success. Strong management keeps everyone’s eye on the prize.

Home runs don’t happen by accident. They are the result of hard work, unique talent and focused preparation.


Image: A rendering of the new Atlanta Braves ballpark, SunTrust Park.


Don Loudermilk

Don Loudermilk


Author’s credits:

Don Loudermilk is a Senior Vice President of JLL, with more than thirty years experience in creating innovative sports and entertainment facilities. He is currently providing program management services for the new Atlanta Braves ballpark, SunTrust Park. A list of notable past engagements include the Arthur Ashe Stadium and Billie Jean King Tennis Complex for the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, Ford Field for the NFL’s Detroit Lions, the new Wembley National Stadium in London, England, and the Auburn University Arena. Major events he has consulted for include Super Bowls, the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, the NCAA Final Four, the Asian Games and the Summer Olympics.