Why the impressive Super Bowl stadium is three-quarters underground | News

From Joe Burrow and Matthew Stafford to Eminem and Mary J. Blige, Sunday’s Super Bowl in Los Angeles will feature plenty of famous faces.

But the biggest star of the event might be the stadium itself.

The NFL’s newest glittering sanctuary, SoFi Stadium, drew the Super Bowl to greater Los Angeles for the first time in nearly 30 years. And like the jaw-dropping Super Bowl itself, it’s full of superlatives.

At 3.1 million square feet, it is the NFL’s largest and first “indoor-outdoor” stadium. There’s an adjacent six-acre lake, a huge video board hovering above the terrain like a giant halo, and a striking curved canopy that sends messages and video to planes above.

“There’s always a huge sense of excitement and awe” when visitors see the stadium for the first time, says Jason Gannon, general manager of SoFi Stadium. “The building itself – the structure of the building – is architecturally incredible. The curvature of the roof, its size, is incredibly unique and interesting. People will find it quite an experience.”

Built in Inglewood on the site of the former Hollywood Park Racetrack, the $5 billion stadium opened in 2020 to host both the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. It can accommodate up to 100,000 people. The Rams play the Super Bowl, on their home turf, against the Cincinnati Bengals.

SoFi has quickly become a preferred showcase for large-scale events.

Justin Bieber, BTS and the Rolling Stones have performed there. It is also set to host next year’s national college football championship and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Summer Olympics.

If you are planning a trip to Los Angeles, it may be worth the trip. Here are six of the stadium’s unique features.

1. Three quarters are underground

The stadium is just three miles east of Los Angeles International Airport – and in the flight path of LAX. FAA restrictions prohibited architects from building a large structure.

Thus, the football field itself sits 100 feet below ground level, which is twice the depth of any other NFL venue. To do this, more than 7 million cubic meters of earth were extracted from the bowl of the stadium.

In most stadiums, fans arrive at ground level and then ascend to their seats. At SoFi, they mostly go downhill. The designers studied the cliffside architecture and built terraced walkways, surrounded by landscaped gardens, which lead the fans to the field.

“We wanted the experience of walking down the stadium to be something really unique,” says Lance Evans, the stadium’s lead architect. “So we used the natural landscape and the terraces to welcome the fans as they come down from the building.”

2. The roof has an LED screen that can broadcast live TV to passing planes

The expansive roof is made up of hundreds of semi-translucent panels that diffuse sunlight during the day to reduce glare and help cool the building.

At night, the canopy becomes a giant, illuminated screen, thanks to a network of LED lights that can project images and videos.

The rooftop can even stream live TV. In November 2020, the Rams showed their Monday Night Football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the stadium canopy, providing an aerial spectacle for plane passengers on their final approach to nearby LAX.

3. It’s open on the sides to take advantage of SoCal breezes

While the canopy covers the entire football pitch and stands, the stadium is open to the elements on its sides beyond the two end areas. The roof also features 46 panels that can be opened to increase airflow.

The aerodynamic design takes advantage of SoCal’s temperate climate and earns the facility its “indoor-outdoor” label.

“We sculpted this building to allow ocean breezes to pass through and promote air circulation,” says Evans, the architect. “But also to give visitors here connectivity to the beautiful surroundings here in Southern California. So you look at Malibu from this side, you can see the Hollywood Hills to the east, Palos Verdes to the south.”

The open-air design also means that parts of the stadium, although sheltered under a massive roof, are susceptible to wind, rain and lightning. That’s why a game last October between the Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders was delayed as a thunderstorm passed over our heads.

4. Its suspended video screen is bigger than the football field

Suspended above the field like a spaceship is a huge ring-shaped video screen.

Its official name is Samsung’s Infinity Screen, and it’s the largest such screen in sports – 70,000 square feet of digital LED, with around 80 million pixels. It is longer and wider than the football field itself.

It’s also the only dual-sided display, meaning messages and video are displayed on its inner and outer surfaces. This is especially useful for fans sitting near the pitch, who can watch the inside screen from across the ring.

“It can immerse fans in the content,” says Evans. It’s probably when the fans aren’t watching, you know, the game itself.

5. He has suites at ground level just beyond the end zone

If you feel comfortable and want to impress several dozen of your friends, you can book a ground-level suite, called a bungalow, which is just a few meters from the back of the end zone. The sequels are so close to the action that a reverse pass could land on your plate of nachos.

“These are the closest seats to the NFL. You’ll feel like you’re in your backyard,” Evans says. “Put your feet on the green rail, be as relaxed as possible. The energy of an NFL game happens to be happening 10 feet across the rail.”

6. Tours let you run 40 yards and throw a basket

You can book a stadium tour that will take you to private luxury suites, team dressing rooms and an interview room where coaches and players answer questions from journalists. Since December 2021, visitors must provide proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test result.

But the most memorable part of the visit may be the tour of the pitch itself – accessed via a 60ft tunnel to replicate the experience of players charging onto the turf before a game.

“The tour gives you the opportunity to step onto the playing field…and engage in combine-type activities – running the 40-meter sprint, throwing a soccer ball, throwing a basket and measuring how you perform (in comparison) to NFL athletes,” says Gannon. “I think that’s really the fun and engaging part of the tour.”

Don’t pull on the hamstrings. Tickets start at $30.


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Bonny J. Streater