There’s no doubt about it: the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, is the most ambitious sports building ever conceived. Famous for being the most expensive stadium in the world, the building, just outside Los Angeles, is a jewel of architecture and modern technology, a one-off, unique of its kind. It isn’t easy to define the SoFi Stadium: it is certainly a stadium, but it’s also a pedestrian piazza and a venue for big shows, too. Behind this monument dedicated to sport and performance is the will and vision of Stan Kroenke, owner of the Rams – an American football team in the National Football League, that has won 2 Super Bowls – and of Arsenal F.C, a team that plays in the Premier League.
The cost of construction of the SoFi Stadium
The final cost of the new home of the Rams, commissioned by Stan Kroenke, was certainly astronomical: it is said to have been about 5.5 billion dollars in total. By comparison, the Juventus Stadium, inaugurated in September 2011, cost just 155 million euros, and the first stadium constructed in Doha in the run up to the 2022 FIFA Football World Cup in Qatar, cost “only” 515 million euros. So this is a stadium that has set the benchmark several orders of magnitude higher, including economically. It should be noted that at the start of the work, the estimated cost was about 2.66 billion dollars, but already by 2018, documents indicated that the final sum would be around 4.963 billion dollars, a figure that increased even further, by about 500 million dollars, over the subsequent months.
The construction of the SoFi Stadium
The site where the SoFi Stadium stands today was, until 2013, the site of a hippodrome called Hollywood Park, which was demolished in 2014. In 2016 it was announced that the HKS studio would be responsible for designing the new stadium, and that the construction work would be handled by Turner Construction and AECOM Hunt. The building work started in November that year, beginning with work to lower the ground level, in order to create the stadium’s deep arena with terraces. This is actually situated 30 metres below street level, double the average depth for multipurpose sports facilities of similar size. There were various factors that made it necessary to lower the ground level to such an extent, chief among them the specific restrictions in place regarding the height of buildings in the area, due to the vicinity of Los Angeles International Airport less than 5 kilometres away.
According to the project schedule, the construction work should have ended by 2019; however, it was already clear by 2017 that the opening of the facility would have to be postponed until 2020 due to the record rainfall of the preceding months. In this regard, it should be pointed out that while the Covid pandemic slowed down the construction work, it did not interrupt it, and the work continued, in compliance with social distancing. The official opening took place on 8 September 2020.
The roof of the SoFi Stadium
There are many distinctive features and intriguing characteristics in this unusual stadium in Los Angeles, a genuine stadium of the future from the point of view of the architecture and materials used. The most distinctive aspect is without doubt the building’s canopy, that makes the SoFi Stadium an extraordinary meeting point between an open and an enclosed structure. In effect, the stadium is completely covered by a fixed, translucent canopy made of ETFE, a particular type of plastic. This semi-transparent roof enables those inside the stadium to see the sky, while at the same time protecting them from the sun and the rain. The system also allows the exploitation of natural light for sporting events held in the mornings and afternoons.
It is not only the transparent canopy that makes the SoFi Stadium a hybrid between an indoor and outdoor structure: the huge side portico also contributes to this, as it allows a real connection between outdoors and indoors. Thanks to a system of mobile side panels, these openings can be altered depending on the weather conditions.
The giant screen
The other element that is impossible not to notice from the moment you enter the SoFi Stadium is the enormous screen dominating the stadium just below the semi-transparent ETFE roof. This huge LED screen was produced and designed by Samsung, and certainly lives up to its name of the Infinity Screen: it has a total surface area of over 6,000 square metres, making it the largest 4K screen in the world. Wider and longer than the actual football field that it rises over (1.2 times the length and 1.5 times the width of the field), the screen is 12 metres high and oval in shape, so that it can project images that are visible from every stepped terrace, and from every corner inside the stadium. The public sitting in the lower and central parts of the arena can watch the images transmitted on the inside of the screen, while those at the side and in the higher parts of the terraces, can enjoy the images shown on the exterior of the spectacular oval screen.
The total capacity of the SoFi Stadium
The vast capacity of the SoFi Stadium is also astonishing. It has a capacity of about 70,000 spectators, which can be increased by over 30,000 spectators for the most important events. Added to that is the capacity of the theatre section – the YouTube Theater – that alone has 6,000 seats.
Given its architecture and capacity, it’s not surprising that the SoFi Stadium has already been chosen to host some key events. In February 2022, for example, the stadium hosted the final of the National Football League championship, that is, the famous Super Bowl. It has also been decided that the SoFi Stadium will host the final of WrestleMania in April 2023, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies and the football and archery competitions at the Summer Olympics 2028.