ALSD Spotlight 2019: The Future of Sports Venues in Focus

The 2019 edition of ALSD Spotlight, the association’s annual design contest, again delivered on its promise to showcase the best in innovative designs and premium experiences from recent months across the global sports and entertainment venue marketplace.


ALSD Spotlight again showcased the venue marketplace in 2019, shining a brighter and wider light than ever before this year. At the Sports Venue Design & Build Forum, held in conjunction with the 29th Annual ALSD Conference and Tradeshow, the ALSD awarded winning submissions in 12 categories, including in four new categories to go along with those tried-and-true classifications from past editions, in all cases, treating the 2019 panel of judges to some very compelling storylines.

“It reminded me a little bit of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” says Annemarie Hastings, 2019 Spotlight Judge. “It’s all about exclusive access. Those spaces I saw in reviewing all of the submissions felt exclusive. They oozed glamour or history.”

Through Spotlight, ALSD members have the opportunity to put forth the best aspects of their own or partnered venues, aggregating the industry’s best practices, both for acclaim and for peer review to identify ideas to incorporate into their own buildings, which is what the ALSD does best.

“The Spotlight awards ring true because they allow for industry folks to put forward their best work,” Hastings says. “It’s very authentic, very much an industry coming together to raise a glass for people that have gone above and beyond and to shine a light on what’s going on in the industry and what the trends are.”

“The more informed you are, the better chance you’re going to have of getting it right,” says Russ Simons, Chief Listening Officer and Managing Partner at Venue Solutions Group and 2019 Spotlight Judge. “And we have now, through Spotlight, this entire institutional body. I look at it like Wikipedia for trends in business and how to be thinking about pulling together a wide variety of things.”

ALSD Spotlight 2019 drew all venue types for award candidacy, from professional stadiums and arenas, to theatres and college athletic facilities – a segment that continues to be a beehive of construction activity, including at Villanova University’s Finneran Pavilion, recognized this year in the category of Overall Building Architecture.

“When I saw the result of the Pavilion project, I thought, ‘Holy Toledo’,” says Simons. “I can’t even imagine the amount of work that had to go into taking something that looked the way it did and turning it into something that when you go in there, you can’t imagine that it’s the same place. It’s just completely, completely different.”

The entire venue marketplace from around the globe was represented this year, inclusive of ALSD International member facilities, such as ODEON Luxe Leicester Square in London, awarded in the Alternative Premium Seating Product or Space category.

ALSD 2019 host venue Wrigley Field picked up two Spotlight Awards in the New or Renovated Suite Design and Sponsorship Activation categories.

“When I think about Wrigley Field’s Maker’s Mark Barrel Room, it just gives me a warm feeling, and not just from drinking the Maker’s Mark,” Hastings says. “It really embraces that brand, and it integrates so well with the Cubs brand itself. It was beautiful. It was rich. It felt historic.”

“Whenever you’re monkeying around with a historic icon like a Wrigley Field, you’ve got to be pretty careful about what you’re doing and make sure you’re not going to get out of sync with the history and the expectations,” says Simons. “When you start making a list of all of the people who have an opinion about what you’re doing, the idea that you can survive a project that is as effective as I believe that one was, it’s a testimony to the vision of the team and their design team.”

Of the new Spotlight categories for 2019, the Premium Gift submissions stood out to the judging panel. At Little Caesars Arena, the Detroit Pistons gifted a unique and memorable item in partnership with Open Me When.

“When you first look at it, you’re not sure what it is,” Simons says. “You open it up, and it’s a vinyl record player, so that harkens back to the history of Detroit. There’s something to be learned from that. What is it in your community? What is it in your building? What is it with your franchise where you can honor the past, meet the expectations of people today, and provide something that is going to service your customers and your brand expectations in the future?”

The ALSD has our Visionary Award, but that’s the extent of our awards programming, in addition to the Spotlight Awards. And that’s by design in an effort to prioritize quality and scarcity.

“There aren’t a million awards going on at the conference,” says Hastings, “so it feels important, yet collaborative, because you’re sharing it with your colleagues. It’s never just one person behind that award. It is really the culmination of so many people’s work together.”

“We’re really talking about the best of the best,” says Simons. “That’s something for ALSD and all of our membership to be proud of.”

Review photos and project descriptions for all archived entries in our Spotlight Galleries.

ALSD Spotlight winners are determined by a panel of select judges, all seasoned veterans with résumés demonstrating their accredited authority in our industry. We thank Jennifer Ark, Director of Stadium Services, Green Bay Packers, Russ Simons, Chief Listening Officer, Managing Partner, Venue Solutions Group, and Annemarie Hastings for their sincerity, objectivity, and leadership during the 2019 selection process.