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Thursday, February 09, 2023

Ron Labinski, Stadium Designer, Dies at 85

Mr. Labinski, who was believed to be the first architect in the United States to specialize in sports facilities, helped transform stadium design over 30 years, creating cozy, fan-friendly venues like Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore and Oracle Park in San Francisco.

At the same time, his designs brought a critical source of new revenue to team owners with club seats, built as exclusive sections with access to climate-controlled private lounges and restaurants.

“His forward thinking about how we watch games and how teams use their building, beyond what was happening on the field, was a real game-changer,” said Janet Marie Smith, who was a Baltimore Orioles executive when the team was planning Oriole Park, an urban ballpark with a retro brick exterior that was designed by HOK Sport, which Mr. Labinski helped found. Now 31 years old, Camden Yards is still considered one of the best early examples of the new wave of single-sport stadiums.

“He doesn’t get enough credit for putting the stake in the ground of the multipurpose stadium era,” Ms. Smith added.

Mr. Labinski helped usher in that era as the project architect of Arrowhead Stadium, which opened in 1972 as the home of the N.F.L.’s Kansas City Chiefs and the companion to Kauffman Stadium, the home of the baseball Royals. The facilities replaced a stadium that the Chiefs and Royals (and before them, the Athletics, before they moved to Oakland, Calif.) had shared.

The amount of stadium designs he was involved with is impressive.

NaOH Posted: February 09, 2023 at 10:10 PM | 4 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: architecture, obituary, stadiums

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   1. NaOH Posted: February 09, 2023 at 06:34 PM (#6116357)
And a paywall-workaround link:
   2. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: February 12, 2023 at 10:59 AM (#6116594)
I did not realize he designed Arrowhead. My wife and her family are all from the Kansas City area (and are obviously excited about today's game!), and when I am out there, Arrowhead is held up as such a great place to watch a game, even after 50 years.

When you think about the style of sports stadia (stadiums?) that were built in that era, but Kansas City was the one place that basically got it right. There were elements of the Truman Sports Complex that definitely are from that time (the shape and uniform dimensions of Royals Stadium, both facilities using AstroTurf into the 1990s), and it was built with acres of paved-over parking lots in the middle of nowhere as part of the design.

But Royals (now Kaufmann) Stadium was always seen as the best of that era (Phily, Pittsburgh, Cincy, Montreal, Atlanta, etc), and I've been to Kaufmann since their renovation a while back - it is a great place to watch a baseball game.

I haven't been to a game at Arrowhead, but it probably belongs right up there with Lambeau for the experience. It is now the 2nd-oldest NFL stadium (I don't count Soldier Field, in the sense that it has been so changed by a massive renovation that it is not really the same place). The funny thing about the design of Arrowhead is not just that it is one of a kind in its feel, look, and experience - it is also built to be really loud, and it remains one of the largest seating capacities in the NFL. It is rather remarkable that somebody designed something like this in the early 1970s, when nobody else was doing anything remotely like this. And the, almost 20 years later, he designs Camden Yards, when people were still building stuff like New Comiskey? What a remarkable talent Labinski was.
   3. McCoy Posted: February 12, 2023 at 11:43 AM (#6116597)
So you're saying the broke the cookie cutter when they made him?
   4. FernandoPoplar Posted: February 16, 2023 at 07:40 AM (#6117338)
Labinski's notable projects include the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas; the Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, Arizona; and the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada. He was also involved in the design of several NFL stadiums with , including the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida. Ron Labinski, an accomplished stadium designer, passed away at the age of 85. Labinski was a pioneer in the field of stadium architecture, having designed and overseen the construction of numerous sports facilities around the world.

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