A Stadium Fit for Super Bowls: Engineering SoFi Stadium By Luke Carothers
Opened in September of 2020, SoFi Stadium is the home of two NFL franchises: the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers. Al- though it may seem like being the home of two major sports franchises might make the place a little crowded, SoFi Stadium has enough room for the two teams and then some. Located in Inglewood, California, the stadium is the centerpiece of the 298-acre mixed-use development known as Hollywood Park, which is part of a larger redevelopment effort in the area. Including SoFi Stadium, Hollywood Park features the 6,000 seat YouTube Theater, 2,500 residential spaces, 2 million square feet of retail and office space, an open-air plaza, and 25 acres of public parks. The broad scope of function, as well as the one-of-a-kind design, engineering, and aesthetic, firmly establish SoFi Stadium as not only a marvel of engineering prowess, but also a glimpse of what the future could be. Such a massive project necessitated the cooperation of several firms throughout the design and construction of the stadium. It was designed by HKS, an architecture firm headquartered in Dallas, Texas. HKS part - nered with Walter P Moore for structural engineering and a joint Turner- AECOM Hunt venture provided general contracting services. For the project’s lead engineer, HKS tapped Henderson Engineers, a national building systems design firm with headquarters in the Kansas City sub - urb of Lenexa, Kan., and an office presence in Los Angeles. Henderson, which has a wealth of experience working on stadium projects, provided acoustics, audio-video, electrical, fire protection, mechanical, plumbing, security, and telecom design services for the project. Those who watched Super Bowl LVI in February 2022 are well familiar with the iconic, soaring facade that SoFi Stadium and YouTube Theater are nestled beneath. After many commercial breaks and during a few lulls in the game, the cameras would be trained not on the field or the players, but on the outside of the stadium, lit up in the late afternoon sun or later by the lights of the playing field. It was clear that the NFL’s pro - duction teamwanted to lean on the stadium’s aesthetic beauty to leave an impression on viewers, and it worked to a large extent. However, while SoFi Stadium and the entire Hollywood Park development are certainly worthy of such praise, it is also important to note how important this project is from an engineering and design perspective. Probably SoFi Stadium’s most well known innovation is its translucent canopy that makes it the first indoor-outdoor stadium in the world. This canopy, made from a sustainable fluorine-based plastic, keeps spectators out of the elements while still allowing natural sunlight, of which the area is famous, to wash across the fans and field. The canopy’s paneling is made from ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE). This glass-alternative is highly resistant to corrosion and can withstand
a wide range of temperatures. These panels are supported by a 75,000- foot cable net system, weighing 1,450 tons, that allows a portion of the roof panels to be opened and closed. This provides vertical ventilation and temperature control for the building. Ryan Starkovich, who was the project’s Lead Mechanical Engineer for Henderson, says it took the design team numerous iterations to achieve the intended result. Starkovich notes that overcoming the challenges of such a new system took collaboration between Henderson, HKS, and RWDI, a wind flow consultant who also worked on the project. The process of determining the correct design of this groundbreaking system involved determining both the stadium’s geometry and exact orientation as well as the different levels in which wind enters the structure. Throughout the design process of the canopy system, there were many questions that needed to be answered to make it a viable design. Among these questions were the opaqueness of the panels, which way the panels opened for ventilation, and how to best utilize the stadium’s location.
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