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Stadia Design & Technology Expo 2012 Conference speaker in focus: Conrad Boychuk, CEI Architecture
Conrad Boychuk, senior director for recreation and venue development at CEI Architecture is a life-long sports fan with a passion for construction. Here, he explains the importance of spectator experience in sports stadia
“I’ve always been fascinated with spectator facilities and the dynamic of bringing large groups of people together for a shared experience,” says Conrad Boychuk, senior director for recreation and venue development at CEI Architecture. A life-long sports fan, he still remembers his earliest spectator experiences watching live wrestling with his father and grandfather. “Building memories really enhances the human experience,” he reflects.
This fascination with the spectator experience has guided him throughout his career. His initial focus was on the performance venue side of things, although his first few jobs as a young architect concentrated on recreation, so the extension to spectator facilities was a natural next step.
The senior director’s current role is to grow the spectator facet of the business at CEI Architecture. He says that the firm has a great portfolio of projects in the recreation sector, which is quite a bit different to spectator facilities; “My role is to facilitate the transition to event-based facilities rather than programme-based ones,” he confirms.
Boychuk’s expertise has earned him a place within several high-profile projects throughout his career. Some 15 years ago, he was on the original design team for the redevelopment of BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, and was involved in a couple of concepts for a new retractable roof. He was subsequently involved in the current retractable roof, which has been a magnificent achievement – the largest of its kind in the world.
Despite this, Boychuk says his proudest achievement in the industry is not design-related. “One thing that was really gratifying for me was having a client say that my job was protecting him from himself,” he reveals. “When we first started the project, he felt he had a good handle on things. That was a bit simplistic and his growth in understanding the event centre (and how much he didn’t know and relied on others) was satisfying. My role was not as a designer but in a sense as a mentor.”
Moving forward, Boychuk foresees continuing improvement with regards to ‘the fan experience’ within stadia. “ I think we are going to see a continuation of highly technical productions, whether we are looking at concerts, sporting events, and even trade shows, “ he says. “Not so long ago, people felt that the ability of television to get close to the performer gave it a leg-up on actually being in the stands. I think that, while broadcasting is doing an even better job, the electronic enhancements and effects experienced in the bowl create an excitement that is not fully transferrable onto the smaller screen. I think audiences are requiring more stimulation and the creativity of performers and sports teams are more than capable of stepping up.”
He additionally hopes to see more attention being paid to the general ticketholder. “There has been a reliance on corporate investment for the leasing of amenity packages such as private suite, loge boxes and club seats,’ he explains. “I think that one of the areas for potential growth with the accompanying revenue stream centres around enhancing the before- and after-game/event experience for the general ticket holder. I think at this level there is a loyalty to a venue or home team, and that exists more with general ticket holders than at a corporate level. Although those revenues for amenity leases are great to have, the real untapped resource is the basic ticket holder and his/her/their ability to be moved into a more stimulating environment with the accompanying additional revenues.”
In terms of stadium design and functionality, Boychuk expects there to be less of a separation between the ‘performing arts venue’ and the ‘entertainment and sports venue’. “Although the performing arts venues will continue what they have done, I really believe that the larger facilities that incorporate sports events will make significant inroads into the traditional realm of performance and cultural events. The realm of the large-crowd spectator events is on a significant threshold,” he concludes.
Conrad Boychuk will be the moderator of Session 5: the Canada market report roundtable, within the Architecture & Built Summit at Stadia Design & Technology Expo 2012 (0900-10:00, Wednesday 9 May 2012).