California dreaming: The inside scoop on LAFC's lavish stadium

Banc of California Stadium has a Hollywood feel in a historic Los Angeles location.

The first home of LAFC, the 2018 MLS expansion side, isn’t afraid to embrace its surroundings.

By keeping the northeast corner of the new Banc of California Stadium open, architects embrace a constant reminder of the venue’s proximity to downtown Los Angeles. And Hollywood. Views from within the bowl frame the downtown skyline and Hollywood Hills. And not just for in-stadium visitors.

“We were thinking how that can be portrayed on television with a notion of camera positions,” says architect Jonathan Emmett, of the Gensler architecture and design firm. “With the pitch and fans in the foreground and the skyline as the backdrop.”

Located in Exposition Park near downtown, adjacent to the soon-to-be renovated Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and on the previous site of the LA Sports Arena, the new 22,000-seat venue opening in 2018 takes on the footprint of the arena. It also embraces the arena’s already sunken nature with a strong street presence along busy Figueroa Street. The stadium will have a distinct Los Angeles locale and work to tie to the city and its Hollywood aura—the gold and the wings from the logo already evoke Hollywood.

By dropping the playing pitch 22 feet below ground, Emmett reduced the scale of the new venue, but built the main concourse at grade, creating “fantastic spectator access” and the ability to enhance views from within the venue and for those walking by, a constant effort to work a brand-new club into the neighborhood and community.

“Many of the MLS stadiums are fenced off from the surrounding community, and even the Coliseum right next door, you can’t walk right up and touch and feel the building,” Emmett says. “In terms of having this building engage with the community, we were conscious to not fence off the site and you will have the ability to walk right up to the entry gate, see into the bowl and actually see grass. That was very important.”

At a highly visible site — Interstate 110 rushes by one block away — the foundation of the building is stone and concrete. The signature element of the design comes in an ETFE—a plastic-based, semi-translucent material—and steel roof canopy, a dynamic form that evokes floating over the strong foundation and draws inspiration from the wings incorporated in the LAFC logo synonymous with the City of Angels.

The canopy, unlike many northern stadiums, wasn’t designed to shield fans from rain, but instead sun. Gensler went through complex studies to define the scale of the canopy based on sun angles.

Inside, the diversity of the L.A. market plays in the vast array of seating styles. Rather than a continuous bowl with the same section, expect to see four distinct sections on each side with a broad range of options.

On the north end, the safe-standing supporters section will include rail seating. At 3,252 seats, LAFC will have one of the largest supporters sections in the league, designed with input from all six supporters clubs—the groups’ unified name is 3252, a nod to the section. It will also have the steepest allowed by code, at 34 degrees. The front row comes just 12 feet from the goal line. “It will be a very intense and fun environment,” Emmett says. The section will feature its own concourse, bar and amenities, all open to every fan.

L.A.’s premium catalog has a wide array, including two clubs on the west, another on the east and 40 total suites that give this Los Angeles venue the premium aspect associated with the city. The largest club, the Field Club, features 800 seats, including field-side options on the west side. Players will also enter the field via the club. A Sunset Club on the west side includes outdoor terraces overlooking the skyline and a water feature so fans can bask in California sun. A club on the east side will have an industrial loft feel.

The most unique of the three distinct types of suites will be the 10 which allow fans to step directly onto the grass, with no wall, barrier or advertising separating them from the pitch. “It is going to be a very unique, premium experience,” Emmett says. “We were playing off the mystique of courtside at the Lakers.”

Throughout Banc of California Stadium, LAFC celebrates its big-city diversity and proximity to downtown. “It captures,” Emmett says, “the spirit of the team.”

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