Somehow, amidst all of the NBA and NHL playoff games, A's and Giants baseball, and incessant NFL Draft coverage, I managed to carve out an hour of time to satisfy my stadium jones. This was thanks to the Science Channel, whose series, Build it Bigger, covered the construction of the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX.
The series gives solid profiles to major engineering and construction projects around the world. Two years ago, one of the subjects was University of Phoenix Stadium, the most similar existing design to what Jerry Jones is building. This week's ep covered all of the major stuff, from the massive roof and arch system to the enormous center-hung video boards and the largest sliding glass doors in the world.
On a smaller albeit similarly impactful scale, a segment was devoted to what I feel is the most innovative thing about the stadium: the seats. Made by Australian manufacturer Camatic, the seating system is notable for the way it's mounted. Most seating manufacturers mount seats directly to concrete risers. Over time, the only major innovations have been the switch from wood to plastic and the places of the mountain standards on the vertical part of the riser to facilitate easier postgame cleaning. Once seats are mounted, they can't be moved or modified except to change out hardware when it breaks. One baseball-specific innovation has been the angling of seats towards a focal point, usually home plate.
Camatic's Quantum series introduces an all new method: seats mounted on a beam. The beam is attached to the riser and seats snap into place along the beam. This allows for incredible flexibility, as seats of varying types and widths can be used, even on the same beam. They can be installed or removed quickly, creating more free space or additional capacity at a moment's notice. Watch the video below to see the system in action.
Here's an example of how this would work for the A's. Let's take a single section of seats, a matrix consisting of 18 rows of 24 19-inch seats. Each row would have to be at least 38 feet wide. To accommodate expansion, each row would be widened to 40 feet, which would allow for those 19-inch seats to take up 20-inch spaces. At the back of the section is an ADA-compliant row containing wheelchair spaces and companion seats.
Now let's consider the possibility of a playoff series or All Star game. As the stadium operator, you're obligated to keep a percentage of wheelchair spaces available for each price range. This time, unlike other stadia, you've designed the space to accommodate either wheelchair spaces or additional spaces easily. The wheelchair spaces are on a portable steel platform that can be removed and stowed out of sight. That would uncover two rows with unused beams. Ops can then bring in seats and mount them in minutes. In addition, those 20-inch seats can be turned into 19-inch seats with space remaining for an additional 25th seat per row.
The change nets an additional 51 seats per section. Projected out, that's 1,000 more seats per level or 2,000 more seats in the ballpark. That means going from 32,000 to 34,000 with little fuss, and with room remaining for standing room admissions.
Camatic, which has experience in the US (Turner Field, Qwest Field), is onto something with its new seating system. If Lew really wants to manage seat capacity and inventory on a similar micro level as he does his hotels, it's hard to ignore what Camatic brings to the table.