- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- Farmers Field will be an open-air stadium after all.
Nearly a year after AEG revealed preliminary architectural renderings of Farmers Field from three design firms, Gensler, the architectural firm chosen to design the $1.1 billion proposed football stadium in downtown Los Angeles, finally revealed how it would ultimately look and there was one big change.
The stadium will now feature a "deployable" roof instead of a retractable or fixed roof that would be assembled on the ground and lifted into place for events such as conventions and the Final Four, and disassembled and stored underneath the stadium when it is not in use. The process of assembling and disassembling the roof would take "a matter of hours," said Tim Romani, president of ICON Venue Group, the project management firm AEG hired for Farmers Field.
"A retractable roof really does detract from the openness of the stadium, you have to store it up somewhere in the rafters and it does take up a lot of space," Romani said. "Los Angeles has the perfect climate and football should be played outside. So many other events should be played outside as well so we wanted to have it as open as we could. L.A.'s climate is very predictable so we aren't going to have a rush to put a roof in place. It's the greatest solution for the best outdoor facility and the best indoor facility."
AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke had previously said Farmers Field would need to have a fixed or retractable roof because it is being used as an extension of the Los Angeles Convention Center and would also be bidding to host the Final Four, which would require the venue to have a roof.
The idea of having a domed stadium in Los Angeles, however, was never a popular idea amongst locals used to living in a city that is seemingly 75 degrees and sunny year-round.
"Farmers Field will host every kind of entertainment and sports event imaginable but it is not a venue that needs to have a roof that can open or close within minutes," said Ron Turner, principal of Gensler. "The right solution is to build a great open-air stadium and devise a roof strategy that can be deployed as a temporary roof insert."
The new design, which looks like a cross between football shoulder pads and a paper airplane, features wings covering the plaza areas around the stadium. The stadium's facade and the deployable roof will be constructed out of the same foil air panels (ETFE) used on Allianz Arena, the German soccer stadium used during the 2006 World Cup, and the Beijing National Aquatics Center, used during the 2008 Summer Olympics. The material is translucent, making the inside of the venue visible from the street and it can be lit up in a variety of different colors at night.
"Football was meant to be played outdoors, especially in a climate like Los Angeles," Turner said. "It would be a mistake to build a stadium like Farmers Field with only a hole in the roof."
Gensler, which was chosen as the architect for Farmers Field in March, has never designed an NFL stadium. The international architectural firm, which recently moved to downtown Los Angeles from Santa Monica, has worked with AEG on the Staples Center as well as the L.A. Live campus; designing the new 54-story JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hybrid tower across from Staples Center.
AEG is on schedule to submit an environmental impact report in January and would like to get an approval along with a definitive agreement from the city in June. AEG's deal with the city, however, states that groundbreaking on the project would not be able to take place until an NFL team signed a long-term lease to play at Farmers Field. Such a lease could not be signed by a team until February 2013 at the earliest since NFL rules state a team must file a written notice with the NFL commissioner "no later than February 15 of the year in which the move is scheduled to occur."
If construction begins in February 2013, the earliest the stadium would be open is September 2016. In the meantime the NFL team that relocates to Los Angeles would play in either the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl.
The plan is to first tear down the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention and build a $275 million replacement hall over Pico Boulevard that would connect to Farmers Field. Construction would then begin on the 68,000-seat football stadium that would be expandable to 78,000 seats for big events like the Super Bowl and Final Four and also be in position to bid on international events like the World Cup and Olympics.
"This will be one of the most recognized and photographed buildings not only in Los Angeles but in the United States," Romani said. "It is the best of both worlds. It is a facility that can host the greatest indoor events and outdoor events on the planet."
Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.