Laval University’s TELUS Stadium, Saint-Foy, Quebec | Architect: ABCP et Coarchitecture | Photographer: Top: Stéphane Groleau

Projects throughout North America are showing how mass timber is helping change the game when it comes to long-span roof designs for a range of sporting facilities. From an aquatic center showcasing the world’s longest timber catenary roof to a one-of-a-kind crisscrossed lattice structure crowning a brand-new soccer stadium in Montréal, wood is proving it can hold its own as a material of choice for sport architecture. Building Design + Construction recently featured these projects and more in Kerry Gold’s article “Could mass timber be a game changer for stadium design?”

And while mass timber is rising in popularity in recent years, large-scale wood structures for sport facilities can be traced back more than three decades. Such is the case for Steve Turner, president of Western Wood Structures, the Tualatin, Ore.-based firm that can be credited with the design and fabrication of some of 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.

Technology has advanced considerably since then, offering all kinds of new possibilities with wood. And with a growing interest to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment, today architects are seeing mass timber as an eco-friendly way to achieve long-spanning, expressive roof structures that become, for many of these projects, the centerpiece of their design.

Get inspired from some of the latest cutting-edge sport facilities showcasing mass timber construction and design:

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.

Saint-Michel Environmental Complex Soccer Stadium image collage

WOOD WINS | Montreal’s Saint-Michel Environmental Complex Soccer Stadium’s mass timber structure is a one-of-a-kind, with its crisscrossed lattice design achieving an uninterrupted 225-foot (67 meter) span. | Architects: HCMA Architecture + Design and Saucier + Perrotte architectes | Photography: Top: Stéphane Groleau; Bottom: Oliver Blouin

Jean-Marc Dubois, director of business development with Nordic Structures, says his company is stretched because of growing demand for mass timber. The firm is a major player in the sport arena market, including its roof work on the highly ambitious and technically complex Saint-Michel soccer stadium in Montreal.

“As the architect was standing across from the site, he looked at the gravel quarry there and started sketching what he was seeing with the quartz intrusions in strata. That became his inspiration for the roof, and to take that and turn it into wood was a stroke of genius,” says Dubois.

Laval University’s TELUS Stadium image

HOME ADVANTAGE | Timber for Laval University’s TELUS Stadium was sourced locally and houses a 328-foot (100 meters) by 197-foot (60 meter) indoor practice field for soccer, football and rugby. Thirteen arches span 222 feet (67 meters) and provide a clear height of 59 feet (18 meters) at the center of the stadium, which seats 450 spectators. | Architect: ABCP et Coarchitecture | Photographer: Top: Stéphane Groleau

Grandview Aquatic Center in Surrey British Columbia image collage

MAKING WAVES | Grandview Aquatic Center in Surrey British Columbia looks ready to take flight, as its undulating suspended glulam timber roof swoops skyward. Swimmers look up to a soaring 213 foot (65 meter-long) catenary wooden roof, the longest clear span of its kind. The prefabricated Douglas fir beams were crane-lifted into place in just eight days. | Architect: HCMA Architecture + Design | Photographer: Top: Stéphane Groleau

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. Wood, says Fast, brings a warm, human element into the experience, “instead of having this faceless piece of structure floating above your head.”

Richmond Olympic Oval image collage

OLYMPIC-SIZED FEAT | The Richmond Olympic Oval, built for the 2010 Vancouver-Whistler Winter Olympics, is an extraordinary testament to the architectural feats made possible with wood. Making use of standard lumber, its WoodWave design is made of 3-200 foot (6 meter) pieces of lumber spanning 42 feet (12.8 meters) between the arches, while the primary structure spans nearly 330 feet (100 meters) across and is supported by 15 composite glulam-and-steel arches.