|Country||United States of America|
|Inauguration||16/06/2021 (USA - Nigeria, 2-0, women's friendly)|
|Construction||09/09/2019 - 05/2021|
|Cost||$ 260 million|
|Structural Engineer||Walter P. Moore|
|Address||10414 McKalla Place, Austin, TX 78758|
Description: Q2 Stadium
The site for Austin’s first professional soccer stadium was selected out of eight proposals. It’s located in North Austin, within the city’s gateway. The land had long been used for industrial purposes and needed remediation, it also got incorporated into the city of Austin as late as 1973, being 8.5 miles away from the centre.
So why was it the preferred location? First, two highways intersect nearby, offering easy car access. Second, the site is within reach of major public transit services. Already upon opening a rapid bus line was running along, while a new light rail station was approved for construction (opening a year after the stadium itself) to make the connection with downtown effortless.
The newly formed Austin FC was granted a 20-year lease of the 24-acre (9.7-hectare) site in 2019, with the option of extension up to three times, each time by 10 years. Annual rent of $550,000 is applicable starting year six, although the operator also has to make a sizeable contribution to the city’s transit system. In return, Austin received a major league team with modern stadium, expected to boost local economy and the city’s image.
The triangular site at McKalla Place was divided so that the stadium sits at its heart, with two large parking sites in the north and south, while a smaller one supplements the infrastructure in the east. East is also where the rail station was planned, welcoming travelling fans with landscaped green areas, available for the public on a daily basis.
All of the stadium’s design is focused on Austin’s hospitality and casual atmosphere, combining diverse facilities, many of them at least partly open-air. With corners largely unfilled, the stadium is airy, although this serves a different purpose, at least primarily: natural ventilation. Because of Texas’ summer heat, MLS asked for the stadium to protect fans from high temperatures, thus the large openings to let the breeze in.
Other ways of fighting heat are also noteworthy. Upon completion the stadium offered the second largest canopy across the league (entirely opaque, too), despite being of average scale. It spans well outside the auditorium and beyond the front row as well. This way fans get as much shade as possible, although the field does need additional lamps for proper growth in most shaded areas. Also, 6,000 of the stadium’s most exposed seats (lower east stand, largely) were made with soft mesh rather than solid plastic, which reduces their temperature.
The roof gives shade throughout, it also boosts acoustics but perhaps most notably it’s the signature aesthetic feature of the stadium. Most of all in the corners, where the lower end planes connect with upper side planes. With all the effort one might expect the structure to be heavy but significant weight reductions were achieved. The roof rests on four slender concrete columns (in each corner) and two primary trusses along the field. Canopies above both ends are supported by steel cables rather than trusses, which allowed the total tonnage of steel consumed to stay at 2,600. Interestingly, because of the ongoing pandemic, cables were transported to the US from Germany by planes rather than ships.
The auditorium offers almost 21,000 places across two tiers, with the lower one being nearly continuous and largely based on sloped land to reduce material consumption. Only the main west stand went “into the ground”, as it accommodates not only all sporting and media facilities but also the corporate areas.
In terms of business, the west is where the stadium’s life is going on. From field level to the very top, the main stand includes various hospitality areas. There are three business clubs included, the largest of which offers 1,500 seats and extensive floor spaces with a country taste. The medium club has 700 seats and a bar, while the most exclusive area hosts up to 380 people just beside the field, all enjoying the same entry as the players. Additionally, the stadium has 27 traditional boxes, while the top has a semi-open terraced restaurant area overlooking the field.
As for the support, the south end is the epicentre. With a steep single tier, it offers app. 4,000 places, all with safe standing railings incorporated. Interestingly, the south end’s auditorium is almost entirely demountable, revealing an inbuilt concert stage. To bear the weight of stage lighting and sound systems, the stand’s roof has an additional steel grid included. During the planning stage between 3 and 7 concerts annually were envisioned, making entertainment only a supplement to soccer.
The north end is by far the smallest, with only 18 rows across a single tier. Behind the fans, a two-level pavilion was created. It houses Austin FC’s main megastore and a large beer hall. The north end is also where the stadium could grow in the medium term. Up to 1,500 additional seats could be added here with limited effort.
The stadium’s construction happened mostly under the uncertainty of COVID-19, which resulted even in temporary stop to all works carried out on site. But despite the issues, the project ended nearly as planned initially, in spring of 2021. The cost rose to some extent from initial expectations, reportedly from $241 to $260 million.
Despite it being a team-specific venue, the first event was actually an international friendly between women’s national teams of USA and Nigeria, on June 16, 2021. Austin FC played their first game just 3 days later, however. By that time the stadium already had its first naming rights partner, Q2.
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