‘We wanted to break the mold’

Architectural gem more than just an ideal venue for NFL

ROB WEILER/Miner<br>
Work is wrapping up on Cardinals Stadium in Glendale, the new home for Arizona’s NFL team.

ROB WEILER/Miner<br> Work is wrapping up on Cardinals Stadium in Glendale, the new home for Arizona’s NFL team.

GLENDALE – Despite the addition of a top-10 draft selection and four-time Pro Bowl running back Edgerrin James to its team, a third new member of the Arizona Cardinals family may steal the players’ thunder at the team’s Aug. 12 preseason opener against the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

And it’s certainly the most expensive member of the three.

Nearly three years and $450 million after breaking ground, Cardinals Stadium is receiving its finishing touches and preparing to welcome more than just football fans to the West Valley of Phoenix.

Michael Bidwell, Cardinals vice president and general counsel, said the stadium was built with four main elements in mind to create both an architectural gem and a venue ideal for an NFL team. The stadium was recently named one of the world’s 10 most impressive sports structures by BusinessWeek and is the only one located in the United States.

“We didn’t want to see the 2006 Ford Taurus vs. the 2005 Ford Tauruses,” Bidwell said. “We wanted to break the mold.”

World-renowned architect Peter Eisenman led the design efforts for the stadium, which includes a retractable field and a retractable roof. Michael Dollin of Urban Earth Design constructed the exterior landscaping, highlighted by an eight-acre lawn for tailgating and a line of cardinal-red pistache trees along the east end of the stadium.

In addition to the architectural and landscaping feats, the interior design of the stadium features views of the surrounding area through the 21 vertical glass slots and showcases the state’s distinctive topography and 88 luxury lofts created unlike any other to be found in NFL stadiums.

And for the technology geeks, Cardinals Stadium is home to the state’s largest videoboard at 96x27 feet that locates full color LED pixels on 23-millimeter centers.

“This is going to give us the ability to compete, and I think the space is going to be really positive over time,” Bidwell said.

Bidwell said the stadium is already scheduled to attract $1 billion of economic activity in its first 18 months, most notably from Cardinals games, the 2007 Fiesta Bowl and 2008 Super Bowl. But with 152,000 square feet of open concrete, 14,000 on-site parking spaces and 8,000 tons of air conditioning, the stadium is ideal for business conventions, consumer shows and other sporting events year-round, such as NCAA Final Four basketball tournaments and rodeos.

As for the football fanatics, the days of metal bleachers, long lines at the restrooms and endless walks up to the nosebleed sections at Sun Devil Stadium have come to an end. Cardinals stadium boasts 63,400 seats, a number that be increased to 73,000 for major events, and three times the number of restrooms and concession stands along the concourses for an unobstructed view of the field similar to Chase Field. The stadium also provides 10 public elevators and five public escalators.

And for the team members, the new locker room is one of the few projects still in its early stages, but Cardinals running back Marcel Shipp had nothing but good things to say about his new home.

“This whole place is somewhere you want to play in,” he said. “I think this is going to be a big motivator for us. We’re taking a big step in the right direction and it’s a big in for the organization.”

Shipp said he was especially looking forward to playing on the stadium’s natural grass field, which is set to have the grass planted by the end of the month. The field is contained in a 17-million pound tray and lies on 13 rails that will move the field outside to grow for the majority of the time. The field tray is powered by electric motors when moved inside for games, a process that takes approximately 45 minutes.