After making it through a year filled with unimaginable challenges, it’s time to examine new opportunities, embrace fresh perspectives and share lessons learned. As a global community, we have become accustomed to an on-demand lifestyle — perpetuated by life during a pandemic — with immediate accessibility at the touch of a button, wave of the hand or scan of the face. Though adoption has been slow in some markets, this widespread expectation is propelling the sport, performance and entertainment industry to embrace technology in new ways, and faster than ever before.

With a crushing decline in ticket sales and live events, these recreational venues have been diligently exploring ways to safely welcome patrons back, upping their game plans by implementing innovative interior design to deliver a premium patron experience.

This design approach offers a higher level of hospitality to the public, no matter the seat. From private suites and owner’s boxes to those in the upper deck, a new look and feel focused on convenience, well-being and materiality is digitally and aesthetically transforming the sport, performance and entertainment industry.

Architects and interior designers are looking at design a little differently these days, integrating durable materials reported to have antimicrobial properties and contactless technology that streamlines concession and store purchases. In addition, ticketless entry could soon become the norm.

Interior Design Trends for Inventive Venues

With technology and materiality leading the revamp of such spaces, the following design enhancements are garnering interest and growing in popularity.

To be thoughtful design stewards, material choices with dual purposes should be considered when updating public gathering spaces, such as selecting a luxurious product with inherent antibacterial and antiviral properties. Copper, for instance, is one such material that’s garnering increased attention. Though this metal has been around for a while, it continues to be a popular design choice, expanding its use in high-end jewelry and light fixtures to cabinet hardware and door handles. It’s also used to create serving utensils with specially designed handles — which have been reported to inhibit bacterial spread — a welcome addition in stadium suites.

Like copper, leather is a tried-and-true material that can enrich key locations within sports and entertainment venues. It’s soft, sturdy and water-resistant and, when treated appropriately, comes with its own set of bacteria-inhibiting properties. Used in thoughtful ways — on highly used, high-touch banquettes in a club or as coverings for handrails in highly trafficked areas — its versatility can be extremely beneficial in creating a premium experience.

Concrete, on the other hand, might not come immediately to mind. However, some venues and brands are drawn to this choice because of its ability to reduce the amount of allergens as a dust-repellant material. Presenting an unexpected high-end aesthetic, concrete also is strong and durable — all characteristics that we embody after emerging from 2020 — while providing clean lines and a modern look in everything from accessories to flooring.

But such tactile products aren’t the only trends to watch for in sports and entertainment design. While not soft to the touch — quite touchless, in fact — technology is reimagining lighting and flooring to complex systems and everything in between. Here are a few examples:

  • Lighting options with UV properties can help kill bacteria, a viable option not only for team spaces to protect players, staff and the overall investment but also in public concourses with high traffic.
  • Cashless payments and in-seat service for food, drinks and merchandise have become more of the norm in recent years. Future fans can expect the ability and ease of making purchases from a single touch on their personal devices.
  • For added convenience and safety, touchless elevators can be activated by phone or the push of a foot. “Premium” these days is almost synonymous with “touchless.”
  • Ticketless entry also has been on the rise throughout many venues and is steadily becoming the norm.

When it comes to large gatherings, the fewer surfaces touched, the better. With technology advancements, there’s no need to lift a finger — OK, maybe one in some instances — eliminating the exchange of money and tickets.

Finally, while teams have their own brand identities and colors, mixing in an additional hue or texture can stimulate the senses and elevate the experience. Bringing the outside in, for example, isn’t only a concept for residential home design. Incorporating serene colors like green, greenery or other natural elements to furnish a space makes fans feel at ease in their surroundings. Collectively, the world has spent much of life during the pandemic inside, inducing a longing for nature. That’s why designers are seeing this concept trending across the architecture, engineering and construction industry. Though adding palm trees around Hard Rock Stadium in Miami is a natural, easy fit, there’s plenty of opportunity and ideas for venues in every climate and local style.


The pandemic has changed our way of life, prompting businesses to shift traditional practices on how they engage with the public. Learning from the past and focusing on the future, the sport, performance and entertainment industry is reimagining the built environment to provide safer, high-tech and high-quality entertainment areas. But the evolution doesn’t stop there. Utilizing stadiums and venues for more than just games or concerts will open gates more frequently for patrons to revel in a refined, first-class experience.


Creating a premium experience not only requires innovative design but also an integrated team to tackle the challenge. Our diverse group brings human scale to the complex planning, design and construction of sports and entertainment facilities.

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Erica Muhlenbruch leads design projects in the sports, performance and entertainment practice at Burns & McDonnell. With more than 20 years of experience as an interior architect, she has led over $1 billion in projects in all phases of design for NBA, NHL, NFL and MLS stadiums, arenas and training facilities.