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Synapse challenge winners propose a festival powered by tech at Al Lang

Margie Manning

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Al Lang Stadium

Geodesic domes that incorporate technology to showcase the arts, music, education and sports would fill Al Lang Stadium when it’s not hosting Tampa Bay Rowdies games, under a vision by two St. Petersburg architects.

The architects, Lance Moore and Nolan Christensen, are working to bring their vision to life, after winning a Synapse Innovation Challenge posed by the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays took over management of Al Lang after buying the Rowdies last year. The stadium is used by the Rowdies for about 20 games a year. There are also concerts at Al Lang and the parking lot is used for the Saturday Morning Market every October through May. Still, there are about 320 days of the year that Al Lang Field goes unused. The Rowdies asked how to maximize the use of the stadium in the off-season.

“We decided to submit our idea and see where it goes,” Christensen said.

Their proposal, called Domescape, would be a revolving festival within geodesic domes of various sizes that can be linked together or stand alone.

“We curate those venues based on the theme of the month, such as arts, music, or education,” Moore said. “We offer the venues and what’s inside them can change, depending on what the community desires or current events, the time of the year or holidays.”

They propose using eight cameras placed throughout the domes to create 360 degree three-dimensional projections and immersive experiences. That technology could allow participants to see a basketball game played in the Coliseum in Rome, for instance, or allow artists to turn their work into 3D virtual reality experiences.

“Domescape is a place the community can go and be transported to other areas of the world,” Moore said. “Nothing like this exists yet at a festival scale. There are small scale installations at galleries … but 360 degree projections are only in large cities. This is a great opportunity for the community to not have to travel and have that in our backyard.”

Nolan Christensen and Lance Moore after winning the Synapse Innovation Challenge

The domes are temporary structures that can be erected in less than a week. They have an aluminum and steel frame, covered with canvass tarps and tied down with jackscrews. They are weathertight and hurricane resistant, holding up in wind speeds of 140 to 150 miles an hour, Moore said.

Domescape won the $3,500 first place prize money from the challenge, one of a series of challenges supported by a $50,000 grant from the SunTrust Foundation-Tampa/Southwest Florida. The Rowdies announced their win at halftime at the June 8 game.

Moore and Christensen are funneling the prize money back into the project, using it to build out a website and for other operations.

“In order to make sure we’re offering the best to the Rays and Rowdies, we held a lot of meeting with potential partners at other companies that would provide services to make this work,” Moore said. Non-disclosure agreements have been signed, and they are in the process of securing letters of intent from those firms to better understand the costs involved. “We’ll report back to the Rays and Rowdies in a few weeks with a more formal proposal and see where those discussions go.”

The Rays were less committal when contacted for comment about the winning proposal.

“Thank you to all those who participated in the challenge and for their time and energies that went into their presentations, and a special congratulations to the winners. It’s great to see so many people thinking creatively and bringing ideas to their community,” said a statement from Robbie Artz, the team’s director of strategy and development.

The contest was close, said Brian Kornfeld, co-founder and president of Synapse, the Tampa-based nonprofit that connects entrepreneurs, talent, investors, corporations, schools and other stakeholders to accelerate success. The second-place team in the Synapse challenge proposed using augmented and virtual reality to build a virtual world within the stadium.

“While one team was deemed the ‘winner,’ there can be multiple wins for the Rays, the Rowdies, the city of St. Pete and Tampa Bay. That’s what we hoped for – multiple wins and community driven wins,” Kornfeld said.

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