Event Recap: TQL Stadium Tour

Cincinnati's newest major league sports venue, the TQL Stadium, stands boldly in the West End community as a testimony to the city's love of sports. It is the home of FC Cincinnati, which quickly won the hearts of Cincinnatians as a United Soccer League team and joined Major League Soccer in 2018. TQL Stadium was designed through a collaboration between Populous, MEIS Architects, and Elevar Design Group. Populous, the host of SEGD's second behind-the-scenes tour of 2021, specializes in venues and events with a long history of designing MLB, MLS, NFL, and other large-scale sporting venues. Their experiential graphic design team, led by Jemma Radick (SEGD Kansas City co-chair) and Nick Abele, invited us to explore the "design-nerd" nuances that go into the experience of such a large-scale project.

Tour leaders Nick and Jemma on the pitch.
Nick and Jemma invite the tour onto the pitch to see the stadium from an athlete's perspective.

Our tour started in the Medpace Tunnel Club, where we were struck by the elegant integration of interior finishes and experiential graphics. This space is designed for premium club members, who get the pitch-side experience of the team. At the beginning of the match, both teams flow into the space from the locker rooms and ascend to the stadium, all while the Tunnel Club members cheer them on.

Medpace Tunnel Club
The elegant Medpace Tunnel Club, where players walk past on their way to the pitch.

The FC Cincinnati team locker room mirrors the same level of integration between disciplines with a perforated version of Gary the Lion in the ceiling, a subtle nod to the team's brand.

Gary the Lion on the ceiling of the locker room.
Wherever they could, Populous incorporated the FC Cincinnati brand into playful and unexpected EGD moments. Team mascot Gary appears in the ceiling of the locker room.

The elevated finishes continue through the club spaces, each with its own experiential identity. The CTI Cincinnatus Club uses copper, plants, and white surfaces for an upscale interpretation of the brand. KMK Law Terrace is bright and vibrant, with modern outdoor furniture. The First Financial Club is an ode to Cincinnati breweries, with vintage cans and signs adorning a high brick wall. The Pitch View Club fittingly prioritizes views of the pitch, and its muted materials don't distract from the action outside.

Side-by-side comparison of different club aesthetics.
Club aesthetics, side-by-side: CTI Cincinnatus, KMK Law Terrace, First Financial, and Pitch View.

A mural of Cincinnati with gold painted accents.
Cincinnati architectural icons decorate the cafeteria dining space. The grayscale photos were digitally printed onto wall coverings, with gold paint accents that were painstakingly hand-applied to add texture and dimension.

As one transitions into the general stadium space, the FC Cincinnati and TQL brands are elevated to pump up team pride. The presence of oranges and blues increase the closer you get to the Bailey, a special section for FCC's devoted (and noisy!) fan club.

Images of the Bailey, FC Cincinnati's cheering section
Left: Nick conveys to our group just how loud the Bailey is on game nights. A native Cincinnatian, he was responsible for incorporating many local history cues into the EGD. Right: Tasked with creating noise warnings for the Bailey, the Populous team decided to have some fun and turn the messaging positive.

Environmental graphics aligned with the structural steel of the stadium.
Stadiums and their many layers can be complicated to navigate, so the wayfinding system is bold and consistent. The arrows are meant to evoke the forward momentum of the new team. Further strengthening this language, Populous aligned the graphics with the stadium's structural supports.

Tour group seated in stadium press box
The group got a bird's-eye view from the press box.

Chapter chairs Lisa Bambach and Blake Kishler
SEGD Cincinnati co-chairs Lisa Bambach and Blake Kishler with the city skyline, from the open-air KMK Law Terrace.

Looking up at LED fins on the outer structure of the stadium.
The stadium's iconic fins, edged with programmable LEDs.

Group photo of SEGD Cincinnati tour in front of TQL Stadium
Group photo!

The LED fins of TQL Stadium seen at night.
We closed the evening watching lighted animations on the fins of the stadium from The Pitch, a new bar across the street. Shout-out to Michael Costa of Paramount & Co., lead fabricator on the project, who graciously picked up the tab!

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