By Design: Renewing SC’s birthplace

On ESPN’s Bristol campus, new buildings are always sprouting up that need interior graphics.

Working in these spaces is easy because the walls are fresh and the occupants haven’t moved in yet.

Meanwhile, the older buildings need love, too; they are very active, busy places that have a lived-in feeling, and usually have had numerous renovations.  

Prime example:  The first building on campus was constructed in 1979.

At the time it was just called “ESPN” because that was the only building other than a couple of production trailers.

This structure finally became Building 1 when Building 2 opened in 1981.

History was made in here: The first SportsCenter emanated from the studio in Building 1 on Sept. 7, 1979.

Legends abound from those pioneering days, like the robotic camera operated with a Stanley garage door opener.

Today in Building 1, Production Operations Network Control operates eight control rooms that feed ESPN networks to the various regions throughout the world, transmitting  primarily in Spanish and also in English.

The total footprint of this network control area is only about 40 feet by 50 feet.

It’s loaded with equipment and workstations, and peopled by 8 different teams working round the clock.

In February 2011,  I met with folks from Production Operations who asked me to help them brighten up their space because its hospital-scrubs-green walls made it feel “like an emergency room.”


The new and improved Production Operations took almost four months to complete, during which time various members expressed the importance of making their work place more visually compelling because of the intensity of their work.

The network control area is very close quarters, so the strategy was to keep the graphics simple.  

We needed to make a strong visual statement, but not overwhelm the people who spend lots of time there.

Mauricio Sanchez, senior designer in Marketing, created a visual system that relies primarily on a deep blue color in the main room, with delicate sweeping lines and subtle glowing shapes and textures.

A different color accent is used within each of the eight control rooms, and each room features the fans and the athletes who are popular in a particular region.

The final effect is like a breath of fresh air that also makes the space feel larger.

It might sound a little corny, but to me the expansive spirit of the graphics sort of captures the idea of sports energy expanding out into the world; which is kind of fun, especially considering the humble history of Building 1.

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