Dan Meis Brings Football Back to Los Angeles

Posted on 01. Aug, 2008 by in Lifestyle

words by Jason Dean

Chicago has Wrigley Field. Boston has Fenway Park. Historic Yankee Stadium is closing after this season, but New York still has Madison Square Garden. 

The architecture of sports facilities – arenas, stadiums, fields, or parks – can add flavor to a city’s identity. When the Staples Center opened in 1999, it revitalized an area of the city that was just another nondescript piece of land surrounded by ribbons of concrete. Five professional sports teams took up residence there. The venue attracted a steady flow of top-shelf entertainers. Architect Dan Meis teamed with real estate mogul Ed Roski to create a world-class venue that could accommodate basketball, hockey, and arena football. In the world of sports facility design, Meis is well-known: Time Magazine has called him one of the most important innovators in the field and Sports Business Journal has twice listed him in its “40 under 40” most influential people in the world of sports. The table is set for Meis to add to that legacy for years to come.

So it’s fitting that, after years of stops and starts, it took a professional reunion of Roski and Meis to add legitimacy to all the talk of building a stadium that would attract an NFL franchise back to the country’s second-largest city after a 13-year absence. “The design is done,” Meis says. “We’re completing a detailed set of drawings in order to finalize the pricing set.” The $800 million stadium, which will sit on land Roski already owns at the intersection of the 60 and 57 freeways (about 20 minutes east of downtown L.A.), will be funded almost completely without the use of public monies. I ask him if the area’s reputation as a magnet for traffic snarls is a liability. “It takes me 40 minutes to get there from the Palisades on a weekday morning,” he claims. “People will be going there on Sunday mornings when there’s not as much traffic.”

The future of event facilities, Meis tells me, is about getting back to the simplicity of integrating with the landscape. “What’s going to be special about this structure is it will be built into the hillside, on dirt rather than on steel – more akin to earlier stadiums. It captures the advantages of Los Angeles. It’ll be an outdoor concourse, 30 to 35 feet across. There’s a garden that will go around the entire building, and people will be able to walk out on a plaza.” Meis and Roski envision the site as not just a game-day destination; they plan to incorporate shops and other attractions, similar to The Grove or Third Street Promenade.

Meis, who considers himself to be somewhat of a sports fan, didn’t set out with the dream of putting his creative stamp on sports venues. For him, it was more about the energy of the environment. Growing up in Colorado, he remembers trips to Mile High Stadium to see the Broncos play. Being in the midst of tens of thousands of people experiencing the same event made an indelible impression on him. He has gone on to design SafeCo Field in Seattle, Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, and he’s currently working on another sports complex in Tokyo. Meis will go to Beijing for the Summer Olympics to specifically see the recently constructed National Stadium. “It’s really an amazing cultural object,” Meis says. “It’s like a horizontal Eiffel Tower.”

Meis recently merged his company, Meis Architects, with Aedas – the world’s fourth largest architecture firm. He is enthused about the prospect of leveraging his L.A. experience into designing buildings around the globe that are geared toward live events. “I’m attracted to what makes people’s hearts pound. Creating buildings that enhance the experience is not a lot different than what Walt Disney did.”

Meis predicts that Los Angeles Stadium could be completed by 2010, but the 2011 season is a more realistic target for the debut of a new NFL franchise in Los Angeles. “No matter how perfect the stadium is, you need a team.” Then he adds, “No one would blindly go to the expense without having some interest. Ed has been consistent in being willing to do whatever possible to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles.”

Football in Los Angeles? Hey, it could happen.

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