Haley Balzano gives Cardinals’ stadium a makeover
The NFL is feeling the impact of women on what was a male-dominated sport. They now comprise 45 percent of the fan base and NFL owners are hearing their voice.
When The Arizona Cardinals envisioned a more balanced, sophisticated and entertainment charged Club Level at their University of Phoenix Stadium, they called upon Haley Balzano and her global hospitality design firm, Bar Napkin Productions to respond to these needs.
Balzano has been a true force in the design industry with over 20 years experience, including reimaging N9NE Steakhouse, Planet Hollywood, The Palms Casino & Resort, Hotel Valley Ho and Hyatt’s historic Royal Palms Resort & Spa. When tasked to revamp The Arizona Cardinals’ luxury Club Level, Balzano mapped out a design direction based on how the overall football experience has changed in the past 12 years since the stadium first opened. Gone are the simple days of beer and hot dogs – fans are expecting much more. Now with traffic and security concerns, fans are arriving earlier and staying later. And, of course, the significant demographic changes add new layers to be considered.
Leading her design team in collaborating with the Arizona Cardinals’ Michael Bidwill, Balzano has spent the past two years creating a new stadium game-day experience. Divided into two phases costing a total of $28 million, they have since created an upscale interactive concept that features a mixture of luxury and state of the art technology in a design that celebrates the Cardinal’s passionate “Bird Gang” culture.
“Our goal with the design of the Club level upgrades was to create an elevated yet comfortable fan experience that appeals to all fans and includes new more female-friendly experiences like a wine bar and the first ever stadium champagne lounge”, says Balzano.
Luxury suites have become a huge revenue stream across the NFL as they have provided an array of options for the ultimate game day experience. The first phase of improvements included extensive upgrades to the club concourse’s 50-yard line lounges, 2 new 50-Yard line all-inclusive VIP Suites, and the addition of two new premium hospitality spaces – the Flight Lounge and the Bubble Lounge.
The completed remodeled 50-yard line lounges were designed as the ultimate viewing experience. The focal point of each lounge space includes a dramatic LED, high definition video wall spanning 49’ feet long and more than 11’ high. The boards have split screen capabilities to show multiple games from around the league during pregame, and are dedicated solely to the Cardinals action once kickoff starts. For fans wishing to keep up with the out of town games, there are plenty of other screens around the columns featuring action from around the league. Each lounge also features “Arizona’s longest bar” – a stunning illuminated bar, which spans 65 feet in length and looks like a bird taking flight out of the space. Upgraded flooring, finishes and furniture create a variety of seating options befitting a premium seat experience.
The Flight Lounge, on the east Club concourse, is a full-service premium wine bar with over 100 wines to choose from. Warm woods, textured wavy walls and signature wine display create an inviting experience with views of the field. This was a space that was full of opportunity but sitting empty prior to the upgrade. “We took an underutilized area of the club level and turned it into one of the most popular and profitable areas on the Club Level,” says Balzano.
The Bubble Lounge is a brand new 3,300 square feet overlooking the West 50-yard line lounge. This is the very first Champagne bar in an NFL stadium. Evoking the feeling of a high-end Las Vegas club with high-end architectural finishes and furniture. Plush red velvet sofas are beautifully placed under a custom “bubble” chandelier centerpiece. This exclusive, reservation only areas will be on hit ticket on game days featuring champagne brunches, live music and on-going food and drinks offerings throughout the game.
The exclusive opportunities continue with the addition of 2 new 50-yard club level all-inclusive VIP suites know as 50 East and 50 West. Entering through the custom engraved Cardinal red doors flanked by full-height wine walls, one is immediately aware that this is a very special space. Black marble flooring, rich woods and cove lighting are the perfect backdrop to the full service bar and ever changing menu of delicious food that rivals a fine dining restaurant. Premium seating for a limited audience of 36 in each suite is perfectly situated on the 50-yard line for an unrivaled view of the game. Additional open-air bar height seating and lounge areas with large TV’s offer guest an array of viewing opportunities throughout the game.
In early August, Bar Napkin Productions completed the second phase of improvements, which targeted the remainder of the Club concourse and lounge spaces. The changes, which took place over the past two years to revamp hospitality areas on the stadium’s east and west sides, feature more bars and dining options as well as upgraded cabanas for fans to take in the game.
“The fans are what this is all about,” said team President Michael Bidwill. “We really try to focus on and listen to our fans to make changes and improve things, not just on the field, but off the field, as well.”
The second phase also included the art deco-styled new lounge, The Tail Feather. It is an opulent lounge featuring a full service bar that welcomes fans into a speakeasy style atmosphere. Rich red walls, plush velvet seating and ornate finishes are all highlighted under the glittering sparkle of a custom crystal chandelier.
A new private reservation only Bird’s Nest lounge has its own presence with a modern meets comfortable vibe featuring a new bar and buffet. “This space looks out onto the main entrance to the stadium with lots of outdoor light. We wanted to create a space that felt like an intimate nest floating above the activity”, says Ms. Balzano. Custom textural walls, suspended chandeliers and greenery add a fresh vibe to this area.
Haley and the Bar Napkin Productions team reinvented all of the concessions and specialty food concepts throughout the Club Level as well as new furniture, lighting and flooring in the area. New Club Level Cabanas were also added for private groups to lounge in comfort with stunning views into the stadium.
The upgrades continue into the restrooms to enhance the overall experience. New design features such as tiled walls, flooring, and metallic wall coverings assist in creating a sophisticated setting. Upon entering the restrooms, guests are greeted with artwork, illuminated mirrors, and an ivory stone, drop-in sink. Upgraded stalls add balance to the elegant atmosphere adding privacy and convenience.
“The stadium has never looked better,” Bidwill said.
The University of Phoenix Stadium will continue to evolve aesthetically with design upgrades, as it will be home to Super Bowl LVII in 2023.