Could mass timber be a game changer for stadium design?

Photo from Nordic Structures | Photographer: © Stéphane Groleau

Laval University’s TELUS Stadium houses a 328-foot by 197-foot indoor practice field for soccer, football, and rugby. Thirteen arches span 222 feet and provide a clear height of 59 feet at the center of the stadium, which seats 450 spectators.


‘I wouldn’t take credit for paving the way, but we pushed the limits’, says Steve Turner, President of Western Wood Structures, who’s been working with large-scale wood structures since the mid 1970s. The Tualatin, Ore.-based firm has a long and storied history as the recordsetting design and fabrication company behind the world’s biggest timber arena domes. In fact, it holds the title for the three largest: Flagstaff, Ariz.’s Walkup Skydome, Tacoma, Wash.’s Tacoma Dome, and Northern Michigan University’s Superior Dome, in Marquette, Mich.

Turner and chief engineer Paul Gilham have seen an increase in the use of mass timber for arena structures. Thanks to new wood and connector systems technology, clear-span mass timber construction for sports and recreational facilities has become a competitive alternative to conventional concrete and steel techniques.

“Environmentalists are seeing wood as the more appropriate material because it’s a green resource,” says Gilham. “When you consider the amount of pollution it takes to build a wood structure versus steel or concrete, wood is way more advantageous in terms of being environmentally friendly.”

Turner says his company began to attract international interest for timber structures following the completion of the Tacoma Dome in 1987. Designed by local firm McGranahan Architects, the arena features an eye-popping 530-foot span. “We’ve grown by a factor of almost 20 in the last 25 years,” says Turner.

Western Wood Structures continues to take on major mass timber projects, and about 20% of its business involves the maintenance of large wood structures.


Mass Timber ‘brings ambience into the design’


Structural engineer Paul Fast, Founder of Vancouver-based design firm Fast + Epp, says increased interest in wood-constructed sports facilities is “absolutely” there, and his firm has several innovative large projects under way in the category.

A notable Fast + Epp project is the Richmond Olympic Oval, built for Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Games and now serves as a community sport facility.


Photo from Nordic Structures | Photographer: © Stéphane Groleau


Sources: BDC Network

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