Appleman building a name for himself
Fans sitting in the newest section of Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, or listening to the Notre Dame Fight Song near Touchdown Jesus in South Bend, may occasionally entertain thoughts as to the brains behind some of the digs in which they’re seated.
One of the answers to the question is Williamsburg native Nathan Appleman, 39, a highly-skilled architect at the 360 Architects firm in Kansas City, Mo., which helps design and renovate some of the top college athletic facilities in the country.
“We design the facilities, then somebody else helps build them,” said Appleman, who lives with his wife, Christi and sons Drew, 10, and Cooper, 6, in Harrisonville, Mo., just south of Kansas City.
Among the biggest feathers in Appleman’s personal cap are the renovation and expansion of Beaver Stadium back in 2001, the renovation of the University of Washington’s football stadium that opened just this past year, and the current $400-million project that he and his group are working on to renovate and expand Notre Dame Stadium.
“There’s a host of folks that I’m working with,” said Appelman, the son of Brady and Debbie Appleman of Williamsburg. “There are the people who design the stadiums, interior designers, branding and graphics people, all in-house, a host of consultants like structural engineers, audio-video engineers, mechanical engineers, and coordinating engineers. There are also guys who manage the project with day-to-day oversight. In some cases, I’m assuming that role.”
In other words, plenty of hands contributing to the final product.
“There is a coordination of disciplines,” Appleman said.
While other employees in his company work with professional athletic venues, Appleman’s focus is solely on the college stadiums.
“All of my projects are collegiate projects,” Appleman said. “I made that decision to focus on that a long time ago. I don’t do any work that’s related to the professional market.
“I am a big college sports fan,” added Appleman, a 1997 graduate of Penn State. “I still root for my alma mater, but being out here in Missouri, I’ve adoped Mizzou [the University of Missouri].”
Appleman helped renovate Missouri’s football athletic training center – known as MATC – and, at the University of Missouri’s Memorial Stadium, he renovated the facility’s press box that was built in 1996, and that press box was moved to the stadium’s upper floor to make room for three founders’ suites for fans for the team’s first season last year in the Southeast Conference.
“We sold out those seats for the season,” Appleman said.
Appleman’s firm employs about 180 people, with a main office in Kansas City and other offices in San Francisco and Columbus, Ohio. Reputation is important in Appleman’s business.
“It’s true when they say that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” Appleman said. “My primary focus is business development and winning work. It’s really built on relationships based on the course of a career, and doing a good job.”
Appleman’s reputation for doing a good job earned him a prestigious recognition on March 20 by the Sports Business Journal, a 60-page weekly publication that covers sports from the National Football League to cricket.
Each year, the Sports Business Journal selects the top 40 people under 40 in sports business, and this year, Appleman was one of them. He was joined, among others, at the March awards ceremony in Dana Point, Calif., by fellow award winners Josh Croenke, who is the president of the Colorado professional sports franchises Avalanche and Nuggets, and Tucker Kain, the Chief Revenue Officer for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“If you go back and look through some of the people who are on this list, I think it’s really humbling, to be quite honest,” Appleman said. “It’s all about people recognizing me and knowing me. When it comes to our company, it’s tough to put a dollar value on that type of free advertising.”
There are over 500 submissions for the 40 citations that are ultimately picked, and each award winner is nominated by a colleague in the field and given references by people affiliated with the projects that they’ve worked on.
Personal enthusiasm is often a predicator to career and business success, and Appleman knew from a very young age that he was cut out to be an architect.
“I knew at an early age that I wanted to become an architect,” said Appleman. “That made it pretty easy going to college and picking a major.”
Dave Baker – who coached Appleman in football, basketball and baseball during Appleman’s days at Williamsburg Area High School – always took note of Appleman’s work ethic.
“He was a hard worker, and a real conscientious kid,” said Baker. “In sports, he was a kid who worked real hard to be able to maximize his potential. I think he did the same thing in the classroom and in architecture.”
Appleman has had a 17-year career in the field, the past three at 360 Architects. He was previously employed by the Populace company of Kansas City, which was founded by former Penn State linebacker Scott Radecic, who heads up the firm’s collegiate market.
“When I got there, he and I met, and he was kind of leading the chase to work on Penn State’s Beaver Stadium project,” Appleman said of Radecic. “We chased that project, eventually won it, and I got to be the designer on it.”
Through it all, Appleman – who worked on the renovation of Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Field while at Populace – has remained humble.
“I’m ultimately proud of the people I’ve gotten to know and the relationships that I’ve made in the 17 years in the industry,” he said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be successful.”