More than 40 years after the opening of the Truman Sports Complex launched Kansas City’s reputation as a world center for sports architecture, an award is being created to honor the year’s best achievement in the field by a local firm.
On Nov. 15, the Kansas City Chapter of the American Institute of Architects will unveil its first-ever award for sports architecture. Mayor Sly James is expected to hand out the honor at the AIA’s annual Design Excellence & Allied Arts & Craftmanship Awards ceremony.
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Ever since Charles Deaton, a Denver architect, teamed up with the local firm of Kivett & Myers to break the one-size-fits-all mold to building stadiums by designing adjoining custom facilities for football and baseball, Kansas City has been a hub for sports architecture.
Sports architects who learned their chops on the Truman Sports Complex, which opened in 1972, went on to found some of the biggest names in the business: HOK Sports, which became Populous; HNTB Corp.; Ellerbe Becket, now part of AECOM; and 360 Architecture.
Together, they’ve designed some of the biggest and most high-profile venues in professional and college sports across the United States and, lately, the world. For example, Populous designed the 2012 Summer Olympics stadium in London and the stadium for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“This is the intergalactic headquarters of sports design,” said Paul Jorgensen, one of the two jurors for the award this year.
Jorgensen, a sports architect who has also written about the field for trade publications, will be joined by Kiku Obata, founder of a St. Louis firm that provides retail and graphic design, signage and way-finding for sports projects around the nation.
Dawn Taylor, executive director of the Kansas City AIA, said the new sports architecture award is intended to celebrate the community’s contribution to the field.
“The concentration of world-class sports architecture firms in our metro area is impressive, and these firms have delighted the world with project such as the London Olympic Stadium and Sporting Park, home of Sporting Kansas City,” she said.
Seven projects have been nominated for the first award: BBVA Compass Stadium, home of the Houston Dynamo Major League Soccer club, Populous; Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets NBA team and New York Islanders NHL club, AECOM; University of West Virginia basketball practice facility, AECOM;
California Memorial Stadium at the University of California-Berkeley, HNTB; JELD-WEN Field renovation, home of the Portland Timbers MLS club, AECOM; Marlins Park, home of the Miami Marlins baseball team, Populous; and Matthew Knight Arena at the University of Oregon, AECOM.
A few years ago, an estimated 350 sports architects worked in Kansas City, and the number is still robust, though it might have dropped a bit because of the economic slowdown.
“From a historic point of view, this may be unique in architectural history that a market has become so concentrated in one geographic place,” Jorgensen said. “Everybody started from the same base and then moved from one firm to another.”
Tom Proebstle, a principal at Generator Studio, suggested the idea of honoring sports architecture to the AIA board last summer. He thought the award would add some dazzle to the AIA’s annual ceremony.
“We wanted to bring back some prestige to it and get people excited,” he said. “We have this amazing network of Kansas City sports architects, and the AIA KC is potentially the only chapter in the United States that can celebrate this.
“Why not an awards program that celebrates the architects and the impact that Kansas City sports architecture has around the world?”
The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. at The Guild, 1621 Locust St., which the program to start at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are required. For more information, go to the AIA website at www.aiakc.org.