American Airlines Center – Project Overview

The American Airlines Center is a multi-purpose civic arena designed for the citizens of Dallas, Texas to host the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks Basketball Team, the NHL’s Dallas Stars Hockey Club, ice shows, concerts, conventions, and various other sports/entertainment activities. The Center is located in Victory, a sixty-acre development converted from a railroad yard to a pedestrian-oriented mixed-use community adjacent to downtown Dallas. Opened in August 2001, the 850,000 square foot facility can accommodate over 20,000 patrons, and hosts over 260 events each year.

During the course of design, our clients increased the program and budget of the American Airlines Center by approximately 30%. The resulting 850,000 square foot, $150M building was designed and built according to the original fast-track schedule of 36 months. Further, our clients desired a building that was cohesive with adjacent neighborhoods: downtown, the West End, the Arts district and the McKinney Street corridor. Although the site posed several obstacles to achieving these goals, we created a street grid that links the arena and the Victory development into the existing street network of these adjacent neighborhoods.


Relating to the Pedestrian on a Large Scale

Acting as the owners of image-conscious sports franchises and as developers of all the adjacent land, our clients were very concerned that this building project a strong image and at the same time create the beginning of a context for promoting a genuine urban experience. Because of the relatively large size of the building, its massing was conceived at two scales. The building’s roof (which is seen from the nearby freeways and downtown high-rise office buildings) responds to larger scale issues. The double-barrel vaulted roof provides an instantly recognizable image against the Dallas skyline, and proved to be the most economical form based on the amount of structural steel required for its design. We then created a secondary façade that breaks down the enormous scale of a five-hundred-foot-long wall into massing elements that better relate to the person on the sidewalk.


Rethinking the ‘Racetrack’

Another of our clients’ primary goals was to make the building’s users as comfortable as possible. As anyone attending a sporting event or concert will attest, the typical ‘racetrack’ circulation system found in most arenas is inherently disorienting. We clarified this circulation system into a series of rooms and connectors that allow the patron to experience spaces in a logical sequence. Visually unique landmarks define each space, resulting in an inherent orientation for the user. The concourses were developed into four major lobbies, one defining each side of the building with unique views of the city. The interior is designed in an understated palette of materials that allow the well-proportioned rooms to become the backdrops for the people and events that take place in them. As the host for extremely high energy public events, our clients wanted this building to exude optimism and excitement.