Not A One-Size-Fits-All Approach
Emily Burton

[This post was originally published in CEFMA Corner, an e-publication of the Collegiate Event and Facility Management Association.]

Universities and Athletics departments are constantly shaping their outward expressions of culture and brand identity through social media, gameday traditions, and public communications. Traditions, slogans, and trademarks are found everywhere in College Athletics as each University strives to differentiate themselves from one another. Beyond wins and losses, coaches differentiate their program to recruits with selling points like team culture, coaching strategies, University assets, facilities, and other amenity offerings. It is all about having a distinguished identity and standing out amongst your peers.

As sports architects, we recognize and strengthen those differentiating elements through design. Each program has their own story to tell. We storyboard with you to develop exciting environments for recruits and fans. “At the start of every project, we sit down with coaches, staff, players, leadership, and administration to truly understand their personality, brand, and character. We start the conversation by asking operational questions about day-to-day efficiency, then move to the harder questions like: What are the differentiating qualities of your school; your athletic department; your program? Where do you want to see your program in 5-10 years? If you can describe your program in 5 words… we want to get to the heart of your culture and understand your vision to see how, architecturally, we can help tell your story.” – Dane Hawthorne, CBRE | Heery Sports’ Designer

Facilities are a key tool on the recruiting path to elevate your brand and remain flexible enough for future enhancements. The three examples below highlight recent improvements with both subtle and loud design elements that best represent each program’s story.

THE STORY: Georgia State University new football program is in its 10th season, but it’s stadium has a deeper history than most. Built originally for the 1996 Olympics, reconfigured to Turner Field for the Atlanta Braves, and finally transformed into GSU Stadium in 2017, this facility has a rich history of hosting world renowned athletes and events. GSU Athletics recognized the importance of celebrating the past, but also developing a new story for the future of Panthers football.

THE RESULT: Olympic stadiums inherently have significant support space with numerous team locker rooms to host different Olympic events. “We were able to capitalize on existing space. Georgia State Football now has the largest, column-free locker room in college football featuring a 55-yard clear span space with perimeter lockers. When recruits walk through here, coaches can share the history of the stadium, but also show off their new brand identity with this statement piece.” – Marc Clear, CBRE | Heery Sports’ Project Manager

“The stadium and its history are big recruiting tools for all student athletes. While it’s the home for GSU football, all teams can use the new weight room and training room. And the baseball team has taken over the old Atlanta Braves locker room, indoor cages and bullpens. Everyone wants to know which locker was Chipper Jones,” said Patrick Hatcher, Associate AD for Facilities & Operations.

THE STORY: Beyond a facility to allow practices during inclement weather and remain competitive amongst peer institutions, the University of North Texas wanted to make a branding statement. The facility’s visibility and presence amongst the Interstate 35W corridor proves UNT’s commitment to Athletics and recruiting top-notch student-athletes. 

THE RESULT: At UNT’s new $16.1 million (construction cost) Indoor Practice Facility, 24’ tall illuminated exterior letters create an effective impression with large, billboard-like branding to elevate a sense of presence and recognition.

Andy Crerar, Assistant AD for Facilities and Events at UNT comments, “The IPF is more than just a metal box – it represents who we are and the Mean Green brand. The IPF is a commitment to our student-athletes and our commitment to building champions and preparing leaders.”

THE VISION: Georgia Tech has undergone a branding initiative to provide a consistent message and visual representation across all athletic sports and departments. 

THE RESULT: The renovation of the football locker room delivered on this new drive for a distinctive and consistent brand. The trademark GT hexagonal pattern is expressed throughout the design tying the lockers, ceiling feature, graphics, lighting, and finishes into a cohesive and consistent branding element, featuring several 120° hex designs.