Ron Turner, architect of major stadium venues including Staples Center, has moved his practice to the Santa Monica office of architecture giant Gensler.

He comes to Gensler, the largest architectural firm in Los Angeles, from RTKL's downtown L.A. office, which late last year shut down its sports and public assembly group, which he led as company vice president. The closure was attributed to a slowdown in sports construction.

Turner's expertise allows Gensler to compete for mixed-use projects anchored by stadiums. In the past, it has designed the retail portion of mixed-used districts such as AEG's L.A. Live or London's O2 complex, but other architectural firms did the stadiums and arenas.

"Architecture has evolved as an industry and become more sophisticated with advanced technology," said Turner, who now holds the title of director of sports/entertainment.

Mixed-use projects such as L.A. Live have become popular ways for cities to develop commercial and entertainment destinations. Frequently, municipalities are using new sports venues to anchor mixed-use districts.

Turner is working on proposals for stadium designs that will anchor entertainment districts for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia; a stadium in Istanbul, Turkey; and an arena in Beijing.

Gensler architects can now compete for projects and better integrate stadium design into the surrounding retail and entertainment components. The amount of potential work is great, considering the number of minor league ballparks and college stadiums in the United States, and professional stadiums around the world.

While stadium construction may have slowed recently in the private sector, bond measures and other public funds are still available to build sports and recreation centers on college campuses.

Turner is on a team with a French architect in competition for the contract to redesign the center court stadium for tennis' Roland-Garros Stadium complex in Paris, home of the French Open tournament. The team is one of four finalists short-listed from 91 for the project.

The new stadium will feature a retractable roof. Without one, a rainout could cost tournaments millions of dollars in lost television revenue when matches are postponed. The weather problems faced by the French Open and New York's U.S. Open have forced the tournaments to take out insurance policies to cover potential losses.

"The insurance policies keep adding up and the tournaments are looking at ways to avoid the problem altogether," Turner said.

While Turner's reach may be global, the Malibu resident has made his mark on several local venues. He is working on major modifications to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to make enhancements for its major tenant, the USC football team. Turner also worked on renovations at Dodger Stadium, and is in the final planning stages and approvals for sports facility upgrades at Pepperdine University in Malibu.

Bank Statement

Northern Trust Corp. has come under fire for sponsoring last month's Professional Golfers' Association of America event at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. The bank was a recipient of federal funds. U.S. Sen. John Kerry and other congressional leaders said that the bank should reimburse the government for the cost of its sponsorship. Media coverage has been highly critical of the bank's spending on the event.

In response, company Chief Executive Rick Waddell sent an open letter to its stakeholders saying that the company was profitable in 2008 and no Capital Purchase Program funds were allocated for operating expenses, including marketing, advertising, corporate sponsorship or charitable activities.

Furthermore, company officials point to the bank's return on investment to justify the expense.

"We track the clients entertained at this tournament as well as their referrals," said Kelly Mannard, executive vice president of marketing and community affairs. "After last year's tournament, we spent six months evaluating our investment and we found that we grew the bottom line. We will evaluate this year's tournament as well."

Northern Trust is in its second year of a five-year title sponsorship for the Riviera tournament. It raised $1.5 million this year for local charities, including the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce.

"Our goal is to increase that number to $5 million by the final year of our contract," Mannard said.



Tracking Success

While attendance at Auto Club Speedway for Nascar's Auto Club 500 race in Fontana was down Feb. 22, the bigger disappointment for track President Gillian Zucker was the lack of sponsor support in promoting the race.

Because the race closely follows the opening of Nascar season at Daytona, Zucker said, it's a hard sell.

"Sponsors spend three weeks leading up to Daytona promoting the race and entertaining clients," he said. "They are fatigued and don't put the same effort into our race."

As a result, she said that the track would like to move the February race to April in 2010. It has already moved an autumn race from September to October this year, and will take advantage of cooler weather.

But Nascar has been reluctant to take Fontana off the February calendar.

"There are only a certain number of dates available," Zucker said. "In some places, it's snowing or just too cold to race in February, so we get that date."

Staff reporter David Nusbaum can be reached at dnusbaum@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 236.

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