Clad in shiny black and glass and featuring a prow stabbing westward toward downtown Minneapolis, U.S. Bank Stadium will be a bold departure from sports venues around the country, a space-age longship that should quickly become iconic.
But people attentive to architecture and design say the look of the building will be weakened by its heavy commitment to branding.
I wrote recently about the business case for the naming rights deal. It appears to be a no-brainer for U.S. Bank, which had a $382 million marketing budget in 2014 and won't be troubled by another $10 million or so per year.
A debate over the look of the stadium is now starting to stir, however. As Nick Magrino at Streets.mn points out, the 467-foot-long name across the stadium's slanted roof will be visible from a great distance, and that's "a pretty big symbolic piece of public space."
Generally, the architects and urban planners I spoke with like the way the stadium (designed by HKS Inc., the big Dallas firm also responsible for AT&T Stadium in Texas and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indiana) looks from 1,000 feet, but aren't as thrilled with the branding or the street-level experience.
"The stadium will look intriguing from a blimp or at a distance, but will be both overwhelming and bland to the pedestrian on the ground, especially during the 355 non-game days," said Max Musicant, who runs the Musicant Group, a firm that seeks to better utilize public spaces.
Andy Campbell, a Minneapolis-based architect, said he doesn't have high expectations for buildings like this, given the branding that typically covers them.
"I assume that it's going to be plastered with signage and advertising," he said.
However, the U.S. Bank logos around the building may not look so prominent, he said, once banners and other types of adornment cover the stadium. And he likes the look of the building, from a distance.
"There's a lot more decoration that will be on that facility by the time it opens, and at that point maybe the U.S. Bank logos aren't going to stick out quite so much as they do on those renderings," he said. "I applaud the fact that the architects tried to do something new and innovative and different — it's not just a giant oval."
Tom Fisher, who teaches at the U of M College of Design, lamented the signage but added that it just may be part of the price for a giant football stadium.
"Putting corporate names on buildings — especially sports facilities — has become what some have called 'corporate graffiti,' " Fisher said. "But it may be the only way to afford such expensive buildings."
Adam Belz • 612-673-4405 Twitter: @adambelz