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By Joe Buscaglia
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Stadium architect stresses Super Bowl and multi-use for new Bills design

With the sale of the team on the horizon, the National Football League has stressed at every turn that a new stadium will be needed in western New York to keep the Buffalo Bills in the area for the longterm. The league has seen a few new stadiums go up throughout the past several years with a stress on creating a venue capable of hosting the biggest event in the football year: the Super Bowl.

Three of the most recent stadiums either built, or in the process of being built, were all designed by one architecture firm: HKS Architects. One of the key members of that staff is John Hutchings, who joined WGR Sports Radio 550 Thursday morning to discuss what goes into stadium design for the new NFL guidelines.

The firm has designed Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis), AT&T Stadium (Dallas) and the new facilities in Minneapolis that are currently being built for the Vikings. All three have a common link between them: they have all been awarded the Super Bowl to be played in their respective cities.

That is why when Hutchings and HKS Architects designed a stadium for the outer harbor of Buffalo a few months ago, he had ‘Super’ intentions in mind.

“We like to design our stadiums for Super Bowls first, simply because it's important to understand the requirements of a Super Bowl in the design of a stadium which is why on this opportunity at the outer harbor, we've designed a multi-use retractable roof stadium,” he told WGR.

“If we'd have taken the attitude 'just build a cheap outdoor stadium that's open air for the state of Minnesota,' they would not have been put in position to win the 2018 Super Bowl,” Hutchings continued. “And, the financial model doesn't work for a professional football organization if you don't have a stadium that sings and dances with all the premium amenities. And the multi-use, of course, helps the financial economic model.”

Having the biggest of intentions for a new stadium is all well and good, but the big question that remains is locally driven: does the city of Buffalo, or wherever the potential new stadium might be built, necessarily need a place that “sings and dances with all the premium amenities”?

Going beyond that, even if they did build a stadium along the same lines of Minnesota or Atlanta, would the NFL actually award the city of Buffalo with the biggest game of the year?

It’s safe to say most would be skeptical of that notion, even if they did have the facilities.

Outside of the Super Bowl talk, Hutchings touched on the “multi-use” functions of a potential new stadium, referencing not only the team’s games, but getting concerts, NCAA Super Regional or Final Four events and other things along those same lines.

He also referenced the University of Minnesota baseball team, which can use the new facilities in the area to play there during the beginning of the season when the weather isn’t ideal. Perhaps another use for any potential new Bills stadium is trying to partner up with some of the nearby universities.

Hutchings believes in the NFL, the starting point for seating capacities in new stadiums is around 65,000, with the hopes to get that into the low 70’s. It’s then up to the discretion of teams for what types of seating they go with.

“We start out with a minimum capacity of just over 60 and then kind of work with whatever franchise we happened to be involved with to try to fine-tune the amount of premium seating product, the club seats, the different seating options that we have within a professional stadium.”

Using the most recent example of the soon-to-be-built stadium in Minnesota, Hutchings said the cost for it is about “three-quarters of a billion dollars.”

With all the glass windows and the natural lighting for the Vikings new home, would all those bells and whistles be needed for a new Bills stadium? For that reason, Hutchings and his firm do a lot of groundwork to figure out what type of a design for a stadium works best for each city.

“We very much do that. If you take a look at the three designs for the other three NFL franchises that we've been involved with -- the Cowboys, Lucas Oil and Minnesota -- each one is a totally different expression of their brand, their city,” he said. “We do quite a bit of research into trying to cater that design for the local community.”

The trend in the NFL is to build stadiums like the ones Hutchings has been a part of. It just needs to be determined how capable the city of Buffalo will be to house one of these luxurious new facilities.

It’s all very early, and no answers will be provided until the new owner is named and starts to dip his toes into those waters. By all means, however, it’s very interesting to hear the type of place the league wants from a firm that has that experience.

You can hear the full interview with John Hutchings from Thursday morning by clicking here.

Follow @JoeBuscaglia 

**Photo courtesy of the AP

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Locations : AtlantaBuffaloDallasIndianapolisMinneapolisMinnesotaNew YorkWestern New York
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