This January, international design firm HOK finalized its acquisition of 360 Architecture, a leader in the design of sports and mixed-use entertainment facilities worldwide. Now with Missouri’s largest architecture firm consisting of 1,800 employees and offices on three continents, HOK has added a Sports + Recreation + Entertainment practice to its mammoth portfolio of architectural projects spanning aviation, healthcare, hospitality, and residential, among other areas.
A believer in the power of sporting facilities to gentrify urban areas, HOK’s president Bill Hellmuth sees the merger with 360 as a cross-fertilization of specialized expertise. He also believes it will be instrumental in extending the firm’s reach in Kansas City, San Francisco, and around the world. Aside from 360’s “demonstrated ability and reputation,” HOK had long eyeballed the 200-employee firm for a merger because of compatibility in both firms’ corporate culture and strategic vision. “Their desire aligned with our desire to become part of a larger entity and not be a standalone over in the corner, but to really leverage what HOK can bring to 360 as well as what 360 can bring to HOK, and really fully integrate these practices,” Hellmuth told AN. The two companies have gelled with respect to leadership (360’s co-founder and director, Brad Schrock, is now one of the directors of HOK’s new sports division) and the sharing of ongoing and upcoming design projects.
On the firm’s plate, among numerous still-baking projects, is a feasibility study undertaken with the governor’s task force for a riverside football stadium in St. Louis, Missouri, for NFL franchise the Rams. “It’s obviously a big desire of the city to keep the team in St. Louis and this proposal hopefully will do that,” explained Schrock. “There’s no determination yet in terms of who would construct it, but the goal is to produce a really compelling vision for the St. Louis Rams.” Costing between $860 and $900 million, the project will bridge I-44 and connect the expanding Great Rivers Greenway network of forested walkways and the CityArchRiver development along the Mississippi River.
Other sporting facilities currently on the board include the Atlanta Falcons Stadium, opening in March 2017, and the new Roger’s Place arena for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, slated for completion in Fall 2016. HOK’s re-entry into the sports firmament coincides with its 60th anniversary. The firm previously unloaded its sports division in 2008 due to differences of opinion and diverging cultures between corporate and the division’s leadership. The former HOK division is now the unaffiliated sports architecture practice Populous.
HOK’s leadership team now occupies three offices, including 360’s former headquarters in Kansas City, where the local professional sporting facilities are not well connected to the urban hub, said Schrock. “The Royals and the Chiefs are out off of I-70, not near the core,” he said. “I think the thing that we would still like to see and that people are starting to propose is that the Royals at some point build an urban ballpark downtown in Kansas City.”
Prior to joining HOK, 360 Architecture teamed up with Ellerbe Becket, Populous and Rafael Architects for the design of the Sprint Center, a groundbreaking sports and entertainment venue with a transparent glass exterior that opened in 2007. Hosting concerts, live theater and family events in addition to sporting events, the mixed-use arena revamped the face of Kansas City’s downtown district. The new Avaya Stadium opening this March in San Jose, California, hopes to achieve the same. “There are a lot of things to work on together and we’ve already formed new teams and worked to collaborate with a bunch of folks not only in the sports world but also across other disciplines,” said Schrock.