Fan experience is the number one thing that architects try to achieve in their vision for a sport facility and the most important thing for an owner to realize at the end of the project. It’s important because fan experience determines the long term success of a facility; more so than even the record of the team playing in it.

For instance, PNC Park is consistently talked about as one of the best ballparks in the major leagues.  The beautiful Pittsburgh skyline, the unique food options and the Riverwalk always seem to be a topic of discussion despite the team not having a winning record for over a decade after it opened!


PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pa.

But how does fan experience relate to the practice of structural engineering?


  1. First, it’s important to have a structural engineer on board who understands what this is.  

Every designer designs with an intent in mind.  For architects and interior designers. this is obvious.  But engineers also share this element with their more artistic colleagues; or at least they should.  Many engineers design from the perspective of simplicity.  Simplicity is important because it can translate directly into the cost of a building, but it needs to be done within the context of how a fan will enjoy the space.

For instance, some elements that a structural engineer can design could include orienting bolts to be more consistent in appearance, choosing beam sizes that provide for a visually rich scene and ensuring that framing does not interfere with sight lines in a stadium.  The examples are endless but are often overlooked by many engineers.

  2.   Second, it’s important for an engineer to remain flexible.  

Many elements that can contribute to fan experience are not known or understood early in the design process.  Unfortunately, this poses a conflict for engineers to modify elements of the building that have reached a certain level of design because of the many collateral affects changing any one element of a building can have.

However, with more experience and a better work flow, good engineers know how to adapt their design process to leave flexibility in key areas of the design that can adapt to the changing dynamic of the design as a whole.  This also means that the engineer can offer valuable insights earlier on in the process that can help guide the team into making the best decisions to enhance fan experience.

Allegheny Design Services

Fan experience is the number one priority for any sports facility, and to achieve it, all members of the design team, including the structural engineers, need to have a firm understanding of it.

We bring together our vast experience in design-build projects, advanced BIM work flow and our athletic project portfolio to deliver the kind of engineering services necessary to meet the challenges presented by sports and recreation projects to make each one a success.

Call us today to learn more or click the button below!  (304)-599-0771

To see some of our most recent projects, click here.

Thanks for reading,

Mike Howell

Written by Michael Howell, PE, SE, MBA, Senior Structural Engineer, Director Sports & Recreation

mike-howellMike works as the Senior Structural Engineer for ADS. His responsibilities include project management and structural design. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and graduated with a master’s of business administration from West Virginia University in December of 2014. He has extensive engineering experience as a field engineer, a civil engineer and a structural engineer. He has served as a past branch president for the American Society of Civil Engineers and chairman of the Richmond Joint Engineers’ Council. He is a current member of the ASCE 7-16 Seismic Committee and is active in many other professional committees and civic organizations.

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