While studying for his degree in architecture at Syracuse, David Rockwell spent a summer working for a Broadway lighting designer. That's when he realized the two disciplines could be fused into something he calls entertainment architecture. "I was interested in theatrical excitement," says Rockwell, 43. "The building is part of the show."
Now his Rockwell Group is one of the hottest stadium design firms in the world. Its first sports design was Coca-Cola Sky Field, a 22,000-square-foot rooftop playground that opened in 1997 at Atlanta's Turner Field. Dominating Sky Field is a 42-foot Coke bottle made partly of catchers' masks and batting helmets that shoots fireworks after Braves home runs.
Theatricality runs wild in Rockwell's designs for Comerica Park (above), the Tigers' new home that's scheduled to open next season. The park will feature huge tigers guarding the entrance, columns fluted with tiger-claw scratches (right), and an ivy jungle on the centerfield wall.
Also on the drawing board is Rockwell's proposal for the Steelers' new stadium, scheduled to open in 2001. The plan includes a grassy bank in the south end zone affording an unobstructed view across the Allegheny River to downtown Pittsburgh. That view is framed by two huge towers, which Rockwell would like to belch 30-foot flames after Pittsburgh scores. "David has captured the spirit of the town and team," says Steelers president Dan Rooney. And the flamethrowers? "We aren't sure about that," Rooney says. "This city is a little sedate. It's not Disney World."