GATEHOUSE GANG: M&T Bank Stadium upgrades extend to the concourses, such as the Gatehouse, a two-level social space, shown here in a rendering. (Courtesy Gensler)
Sports architect Gensler’s design concepts for M&T Bank Stadium renovations were influenced by landmark hotels and restaurants in Baltimore, said Ryan Sickman, the firm’s global director of sports.
Details of the $435 million project, taking place over the next three years at the home of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, were unveiled during a press conference on Tuesday.
The improvements at the 25-year-old stadium showcases new premium inventory at field level with club lounge and suite retrofits.
The dozen new bunker suites planned for behind the west end zone are Gensler’s spinoff of The Gallery at Bank of America Stadium. In Charlotte, North Carolina, the architect designed a three-in-one theme with field level seats, a common dining area and lounge and private hospitality spaces in back with views to the tunnel where the Panthers walk to and from the field.
But that’s the only NFL venue to which Gensler leaned on for inspiration in developing M&T Bank Stadium’s makeover over the past six months.
In one respect, the Gatehouse, a two-level social space spanning 5,000 square feet on the stadium’s east side, speaks to Baltimore’s prevalence of rooftop bars at The Chasseur, The Bygone, Watershed, Skybar and 16 on the Park, Sickman said.
The Gatehouse features a sports bar surrounded by video screens. Each level accommodates 350 to 400 people. It’s part of the first phase of renovations that opens in 2024.
In addition, the Sagamore Pendry Hotel, a century-old pier warehouse rebuilt in 2017 as a five-star property, provided inspiration for high-end interior design of the new club and suite products, Sickman said.
Gensler’s team on the Ravens’ project includes Vaki Mawema, managing principal, and Dom Sanchez, both in Baltimore; and Serge Plishevsky and Andrew Jacobs, from the D.C. office.
“We wanted this to be about Baltimore,” Sickman said. “With us having our sports group in Washington D.C. and our (general) office in Baltimore, we have intimate knowledge of the market. We are fans of the team in a lot of ways and had an insider’s knowledge of what people wanted (the project) to be. We talked a lot about creating experiences that were commensurate in a certain way, but to exceed what fans are used to.”
There was no formal research process for improving the building. More than anything else, Sickman said the Ravens enjoy a great relationship with their fans under team owner Steve Bisciotti, who’s owned the team since 1998. It’s a strong bond, unlike some other NFL teams, and team officials had a good pulse on what their customers like and dislike, based on ongoing fan satisfaction surveys, he said.
All told, most of the new premium spaces are tied to existing seats in the stadium with the exception of the bunkers and the Blackwing Suites, a series of 10 new suites that replace the existing press box at midlevel along the south sideline. Reporters and broadcasters will be relocated to a new press box in one corner of the suite level, a space that will provides good sightlines of the field, Sickman said.
The “massive overhaul” to the field level extends to a new club along the south sideline with direct access to the Ravens’ player tunnel with a view into the postgame press conference, following a trend that originated at AT&T Stadium, the Dallas Cowboys’ facility that opened in 2009.
An “everyman’s” club will be situated along the north sideline, providing fans that opt in for that premium package easier access to food, drink ad restrooms. The third club at field level will sit behind the bunkers in the west end.
Considering the extensive makeover at field level, there’s not a lot of infrastructure to tear down to build the new premium inventory. Most of that square footage under the seating bowl served as overflow storage areas, and the Ravens are using the renovations to recapture what was essentially wasted space and convert it to new sources of revenue, Sickman said.
Apart from premium, both the lower and upper concourses will be expanded with upgrades to concessions and restrooms. Over the years, the upper deck in particular had long lines for the bathrooms and the goal is to increase ratios as much as possible, Sickman said.
The Gatehouse is part of expanding the concourses, plus a permanent beer garden above that area, designed with an enclosed, heated space As it stands now, it’s a Miller Lite sponsored pregame tailgate zone that stays open through the game, and it could potentially be folded into the Gatehouse concept, Sickman said.
The project’s second and third phases, to be completed for the 2025 and ’26 seasons, will include extensions to the two plazas outside the stadium, one of which will provide a stronger connection to an entertainment district south of the building, which encompasses a casino and a Topgolf facility. A new team store and a branded premium tailgate experience are part of the south plaza extension.
On the north side, facing the city, there are plans to build a small outdoor concert stage for game day entertainment and non-game day events, Sickman said.
The final two phases will extend to new premium entrances to the club level with direct connections to the stadium’s northwest side, plus a secondary team store on the north side tied to a hall of fame destination on the second floor of in the northeast corner, he said.
“There’s a lot going on over the course of the next three seasons,” Sickman said. “Foundations and infrastructure work is already going on for the first phase. It’s progressing at breakneck speed.”