By Elizabeth Valmont
Since its 1923 opening, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has been an iconic fixture of Southern California and sports history. The storied venue has hosted more than 4,500 events, including two Summer Olympics, countless football and soccer games, concerts and notable cultural events. In 2028, the Coliseum will become the only stadium to hold three Olympic games, welcoming athletes and fans from all over the world. As the Coliseum has become an essential part of Southern California culture for almost 100 years, it was important to ensure that it stay an iconic landmark and continue to thrive for another century.
At Arup, we had the unique opportunity to work with the University of Southern California (USC), project architect DLR Group, and the design team to bring the Coliseum into the 21st century while preserving its history and legacy. Our teams sought to provide major upgrades to the stadium that would improve patron experience and ultimately modernize the venue.
As a global engineering and consulting firm, Arup was able to provide multidisciplinary engineering services for the stadium’s new 231,340SF Scholarship Club Tower, including mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP), audio-visual (AV), information technology and communications (IT&C), and acoustics services, as well as for the entire stadium, for which we also provided IT&C and AV services. Along the way, our team encountered a series of unique design challenges that allowed us to bring innovative solutions to the table. The key challenges we faced included: 1. Bringing the historic stadium into the modern age and preparing Los Angeles for major sporting events over the next decade; 2: Upgrading the stadium to be multi-use; and 3. Overcoming the design challenges posed by the layout of the new Scholarship Club Tower.
Bringing a Historic Building into the Modern Age and Preparing it for the Future
As is relatively common in many college sporting venues, WiFi and cellular coverage was unreliable and inconsistent at the Coliseum. Additionally, the 96-year old stadium warranted a digital infrastructure overhaul for its existing IT systems and AV components to meet the needs of today’s fans. However, before we could implement these much-needed upgrades, our team had to tackle several challenges related to the stadium’s historic status and design.
The slope and incline of the Coliseum’s bowl did not provide enough signal isolation and caused frequent interference for WiFi and cellular coverage. Compounding this challenge was the fact that the bottom of the bowl is built on concrete, requiring saw-cutting to accommodate WiFi and DAS cables. Using simulations and Radio Frequency (RF) models, we were able to model the exact slope of the bowl and determine specific locations of end devices to avoid rework. Our team used RF modelling software iBwave to leverage the tower’s 3D Revit model and produce heatmaps of WiFi coverage. With the model, we also simulated variations of mounting styles of access points to inform our coverage options. We ultimately determined that an under-seat WiFi installation provided the best solution for coverage with the most limited interference and had the added benefit of hiding the technology from spectators. Due to this method of implementation, we were able to achieve our goal of connecting every fan, no matter where they are seated within the stadium.
The historical designation of the Coliseum presented another problem, as we were unable to mount objects on the façade of the stadium. As wireless access points are typically situated on a stadium’s exterior, we had to look to alternate locations to mount the wireless access points. We were able to identify less conspicuous locations for the approximately 1,408 wireless access points by strategically and architecturally integrating the devices around lighting fixtures and concessions, which eliminated the need to mount objects on the historic façade.
We also incorporated wireless and cellular infrastructure that is built for current technology but is scalable when new technology becomes available. As we recognize that today’s technology develops at a rapid pace and has an increasingly short life cycle, we found it important to provide flexibility for future upgrades. We also provided IT consulting services that enabled USC to unite a previously siloed network and operate different systems from one converged network. Ultimately, the Coliseum’s investment in expanded connectivity will allow the stadium to provide fans with customized opportunities and event engagement, further heightening their experience.
Upgrading The Stadium to be Multi-use
Although the Coliseum is primarily used as a sports venue, throughout its history, the stadium has also hosted additional types of events including concerts and large-scale speaking engagements. To accommodate a variety of event types slated to take place over the next decade, the stadium demanded additional technical upgrades.
The stadium needed robust broadcast capabilities with equipment that is reliable during full occupancy. We wanted to ensure that the fan experience was optimized both for patrons experiencing the stadium firsthand and those viewing events remotely.
Our team was able to achieve this by providing AV design and consulting services for the new press box inside the Scholarship Club Tower. The press box features a fully IP-based control room and production facility, and a broadcast booth designed for the next generation of in-house production. This type of production will elevate fan experience and crowd engagement as it will be able to handle broadcasts for a variety of events. Through this upgrade, fans are afforded the opportunity to enjoy sporting events and concerts from anywhere in the world.
We also provided updated AV services for the whole stadium to better engage fans by including new large format, high-brightness LED scoreboards, game clocks, timers, building-length ribbon boards, IPTV displays and 805 audio loudspeakers. In total, approximately 650 IPTV displays are now in the facility, as well as multi-functional video walls, digital menu boards, and in-game views throughout the suites and concourses. The deployed IPTV platform sits on the building-wide converged network, and uses high resolution, low-latency IP-technology for real-time viewing.
Two new large-format LED scoreboards at the east end of the bowl are each approximately 100-feet wide by 27-feet high, and feature 15mm pixel pitch resolution and 11,000 nits of brightness to be suitable for daytime use in the California sun. The new video processing and show control were also integrated into the existing scoreboard at the western end, creating a single show control throughout the facility. Supporting these improvements required a significantly updated electrical infrastructure upgrade to improve reliability and capacity.
Overcoming Design Challenges of New Stadium Additions
The new seven-story Scholarship Club Tower provides an incredible 360-degree view of Los Angeles and program additions that will serve as a major revenue generator for years to come. However, it needs to be constructed within the existing façade of the stadium. As a result of the historic provisions, there were space constraints with limited floor-to-floor heights and staggered floor plates that reduced the space available for MEP equipment and distribution.
The MEP system needed to service various programs including the press box, premium suites, loge boxes and club seats, as well as full-service kitchens and food and beverage facilities to improve patrons’ game day experience. The kitchens and food and beverage concessions also created a need for more ventilation ducts and piping to fit into already tight ceiling spaces. Another hurdle was to design building systems with floors that do not stack vertically. The edge of one floor could land in the middle of the floor above it, making it difficult to route services.
Our team heavily coordinated with the contractor and the rest of the design team to design pathways for electric conduits, ductwork, plumbing and other services in a highly compact manner to fit into the short floor-to-floor height. By exploring the use of Revit to coordinate with the contractor and the rest of the design team, we were able to combine MEP systems with ventilation and run clash detections to best optimize space. The digital collaboration enabled us to understand the system holistically and create a services-intensive system that takes minimal space while enabling high-quality services for patrons.
The Coliseum has been a fixture in the Los Angeles community for almost a century and has become a key part of the city’s identity and pride. Whether or not you are a sports fan, there is a certain value in retaining history. Our team at Arup, working with the design team, was able to ensure that the stadium was brought into this century without compromising the stadium’s unique historic design features. Ultimately, the modernized stadium will provide fans with an enhanced visitor experience and will ensure the longevity and sustainability of the stadium for decades to come.
Elizabeth Valmont is an Arup Associate and Los Angeles Acoustics Group Lead. She has led the design and construction of global projects in the arts and culture, aviation, education, government, commercial, rail, retail and sports sectors.