Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010
K-STATE GRAD HITS HOME RUN WITH DESIGN OF YANKEE STADIUM, SITE OF THE PINSTRIPE BOWL
MANHATTAN -- When the Kansas State University Wildcats take the field Dec. 30 in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl they won't be the first K-Staters to feel the magical Yankee Stadium turf under their toes.
Architect Bradd Crowley, a K-State alumnus, was the project manager who led the team that designed the new stadium. Crowley works for Kansas City architecture firm Populous.
As a youngster growing up in Independence, Mo., Crowley said he was a huge Yankees fan and even dreamed, as many little boys do, of playing in the pinstripes. Although the dream of playing professional sports would never become reality, Crowley still loved sports -- he and his friends were some of the first students to enter K-State's new football stadium in 1968.
While at K-State, Crowley studied architecture.
"My dad is an engineer so I was exposed to the field, but I gravitated toward the design end of it," he said.
After graduation from K-State in 1973, Crowley worked for 17 years at different firms in Kansas City before he got the call up to the big leagues. At Populous, Crowley has worked on several projects, including Coors Field in Denver, Colo., FedEx Field just outside of Washington, D.C., and Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Ga.
"I had several friends who were working in the sports architecture field," Crowley said. "What they were doing was tremendously exciting. They got to deal in sports and were working on major projects. I had no idea my architecture education at K-State would lead me back to sports, but I'm glad it did."
He was just finishing up work on Petco Park in San Diego for the San Diego Padres when he got the call to work on a design for the organization of his childhood dreams.
"The timing was just right to be able to jump into the Yankee Stadium project," Crowley said. "I was just a little guy from the Midwest. This was architecture on a whole new level. It doesn't get much more high profile than that.
"The Yankees wanted to use the existing playing field configuration and the 1923 Yankee Stadium design as inspiration," Crowley said. "However, they also wanted it to be a very up-to-date facility. We took cues from the old design, but we made it very new and very modern."
Crowley started working on the new Yankee Stadium project in 2005. Over the five years working on the project he estimates that he spent nearly a year -- 324 nights -- in New York. When the Yankees played their first game in the new stadium in 2009, Crowley was on the field snapping photographs.
Yankee Stadium was designed first and foremost as a baseball stadium. But Crowley said the Populous team knew all along that it would be a multiuse facility. It has already been used for football games, concerts and even a boxing match.
"We knew we could make it work for football," Crowley said. "The football field end zone starts right at home plate and extends straight out into center field, so the seats on either side of the field are generally equidistant from the field."
Watching a football game in a baseball stadium is a different experience. Crowley said that the sight lines from the lowest seats in the stadium, while excellent for baseball, can make seeing the game a little more challenging with football players and coaches standing on the sidelines throughout the game. But those who have end zone seats will have a fabulous view.
"There's a reason why the stadiums for different sports are shaped differently," he said. "But it's going to be a lot of fun no matter where you are in the stadium. The atmosphere in Yankee Stadium during special events is electric."
For K-Staters at the Pinstripe Bowl, Crowley suggests they try the garlic fries, available at a concession stand on the 100 level near the right field foul pole. And he says a visit to Monument Park and the Yankees Museum inside the stadium are a must.
Crowley credits some of his tremendous success in his career to lessons learned at K-State.
"My five years of architectural education at K-State taught me to be a flexible problem solver," he said. "I try to remember not to have preconceived notions on projects or solutions, and to always be open to new ideas."