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Kansas City-based Populous opens latest stadium project in Houston

By JEFF ROSEN
The Kansas City Star

The Kansas City-based sports-architecture firm Populous celebrates the grand opening of its third Major League Soccer venue Saturday afternoon when the Houston Dynamo play host to DC United at BBVA Compass Stadium.

The new facility, which seats about 22,000 and features a skyline view of downtown from Houston's formerly downtrodden East End, joins Populous' Livestrong Sporting Park and the Colorado Rapids Dick's Sporting Goods Park on MLS' growing list of soccer-specific stadiums.

Completed at a total cost of some $95 million, the Houston stadium is the sixth built primarily for MLS play in the last two years. New facilities are also in the works in Montreal and San Jose.

Populous' list of sports-architecture projects is long and diverse, including the new Yankee Stadium in New York, Wembley Stadium and the 2012 Olympic Stadium in London, as well as dozens of large and small venues across the U.S.

The Dynamo's ownership group of former boxer Oscar De La Hoya, Gabriel Brener and the Anschutz Entertainment Group (operator of Kansas City's Sprint Center) funded the majority of the BBVA Compass Stadium project.

The venue's futuristic architectural lines and signature orange color scheme add aesthetic value to a quadrant of Houston that features the Astros' Minute Maid Park, Toyota Center (home of the NBA's Houston Rockets and the Houston Aeros, a minor-league hockey team), the George R. Brown Convention Center and a growing assortment of dining and drinking establishments.

"Houston already has Minute Maid Park, Toyota Center and Reliant Stadium (another Populous project), so the bar for BBVA Compass Stadium was pretty high," Populous designer Jeff Spear said in a statement. "For the Dynamo, Populous wanted to create a home that would express the unique personality of soccer and the neighborhood -- a place the team and fans would be excited to call home."

Livestrong Sporting Park, which opened last June in the Legends retail area of Kansas City, Kan., rode a combination of public and private funding to completion. Seating about 18,500 for soccer (more for concerts), it was completed for about $200 million.

The list of events that Livestrong has hosted in its first year starts with soccer but also extends to musical performances and a variety of other sporting events, including the city's first high school lacrosse championship, which was held there Friday night.

Populous, founded in 1983, was formerly known as HOK.

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