ALSD Spotlight 2020: A Clear Focus for the Sports Venue Marketplace

In a year of extraordinary uncertainty, the ALSD’s annual design contest shined through the 2020 clouds onto the sports and entertainment industry’s showcase projects.


This year has challenged all people in all industries, perhaps none more so than the sports hospitality industry. After it became obvious the ALSD could not host an in-person event this year and still protect the health and safety of our members and their families, we quickly pivoted to a virtual show.

This decision meant sacrifice. As not all elements of the physical conference translate to the digital field, some experiences ALSD attendees know, love, and have come to depend on simply could not go on in 2020. But ALSD Spotlight was one event staple never considered for the chopping block.

At the ALSD’s 2020 Virtual Conference and Tradeshow, which included The Sports Venue Design & Build Forum and Premium Buyers Group, this year’s judges recognized winning submissions in 11 Spotlight categories.

The first winner announced was Gensler in the Club Spaces category for the architectural firm’s interior design work at Chase Center, the new multipurpose arena in San Francisco. Despite covid-related shutdowns cutting short the venue’s first season of hosting Golden State Warriors basketball, concerts, and other community events, the Spotlight judges were impressed by the true sense of luxury felt in its hospitality spaces reminiscent of upscale hotels and bar lounges.

A variety of elevated club experiences with multiple storylines are supported by warm woods, natural stone, custom rugs, brass metal accents, and visual connectivity to add to overall activity, starting in the Theater Lobby with its centerpiece 80-foot LED chandelier that changes colors to set the mood depending on the event.

“I’ve been in this business a long time. This one really blew me away,” says Tom Wilson, President and CEO of Olympia Entertainment and 2020 ALSD Spotlight judge. “We’re going to be chasing the Chase Center for a long time.”

In the Suites category, Populous was awarded for the design of the Starting Gate Suites at Churchill Downs, a project that pays homage to a treasured past while also looking into the future.

The 77,250-square-foot project added 32 new suites above an existing grandstand. These trackside suites, distributed among three levels, feature access to three new viewing terraces, three large bars, three large buffets, and 71 new wager machines.

Unlike a typical suite experience, the Starting Gate Suites do not have doors to encourage social interaction. The wide openings allow the personality, style, and guests of each suite to spill out into the lounges. There is an energetic quality to this connection that contributes to the experience for all Starting Gate Suite ticket holders.

“Suites like these are very unusual in horse racing,” says Terry McIntyre, Director of Sports Venues at Shawmut Design and Construction and 2020 ALSD Spotlight judge. “Populous did an incredible job that impressed all the judges.”

Populous was a two-time Spotlight winner this year, also impressing the judges in the Overall Architecture category with the design of Allianz Field, the instantly iconic home of Minnesota United that has transformed the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul.

Monumental Sports & Entertainment also earned two honors in 2020, first for best Sponsorship Activation of Leidos, the official presenting partner of Wizards District Gaming, the professional NBA 2K League affiliate of the Washington Wizards and 2020 NBA 2K League Champion.

Roy Westwood, Founder of Forward Associates and our third 2020 Spotlight judge, was attracted to how Monumental Sports & Entertainment took a “physical and digital approach to brand recall.”

To target Leidos’ desired audience, Monumental deployed a combination of in-game virtual signage with permanent branding at the Wizards District Gaming practice facility and through a designated 2K Gaming Zone prominently positioned on the concourse of Capital One Arena. Monumental also developed a “Sights and Sounds” social content series, following the team and providing fans with access to unique behind-the-scenes storytelling throughout the season.

Monumental Sports & Entertainment was also recognized as best-in-class in the Video Boards category for its signature Skyring, a first-of-its-kind, 9,000-square-foot LED system that wraps the upper ring of Capital One Arena. Monumental also better delivers content to fans in the upper level via four curved, dual-sided corner boards whose heights adjust depending on the event.

The San Diego Padres where honored with an ALSD Spotlight Award in the Alternative Premium Seating category for the Cutwater Coronado Club at Petco Park. This formerly underutilized space was reimagined as a theater box concept and cantina-style club with beautiful views of San Diego Bay. Club patrons enjoy all-inclusive food and non-alcoholic beverages and seats in the ballpark’s second level between home and third base.

Additional ALSD Spotlight 2020 winners were Calgary Stampede (Premium Gift), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Premium Experience or Event), Bartesian (Premium Food and Beverage Offering or Culinary Presentation), LG Business Solutions (AV Enhancement or Experience), and Branded Seats (FF&E).

If ever there was a year short on celebrations and in need of acknowledging its bright spots, it’s 2020. While some capital projects slowed or postponed and premium department budgets were cut or went to zero in some cases, ALSD Spotlight 2020 demonstrates a vision absent of doubts: that especially in times of extreme duress, we must continue to fall forward, improve our venues, innovate our experiences, and put our clients and employees first, as we look to the future.

As Seth Fine, CEO at and manufacturer of the ALSD Spotlight trophies, notes, “I’m excited to see how the industry uses all these case studies to come up with the next great idea that could turn into the future entries into ALSD Spotlight.”

We’re excited too, Seth. We invite ALSD members to review all photos and project descriptions from this year, as well as all archived entries in our Spotlight Galleries. These resources will spark your imagination and help inform your decisions when planning to invite fans back into your venues in 2021.

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 Tom Wilson, President and CEO of Olympia Entertainment, Terry McIntyre, Director of Sports Venues at Shawmut Design and Construction, and Roy Westwood, Founder of Forward Associates, for their sincerity, objectivity, and leadership during the 2020 selection process.