SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/Forty Under 40
Published November 10, 2003
In his 14 years with HOK Sport, Bruce Miller has been primarily responsible for the architecture firm becoming an industry leader in designing minor league and spring training baseball facilities.
One of his first projects involved renovating Scottsdale (Ariz.) Stadium, Cactus League home of the San Francisco Giants. HoHoKam Park in Mesa (Chicago Cubs) and Tempe Diablo Stadium (Anaheim Angels) followed. Then he started specializing in minor league ballparks.
Four years ago, the 39-year-old Miller took leadership of the firm's Minor League Baseball Group. The last two years he has helped secure 16 new minor league facility contracts totaling $85 million in construction costs. Two of those venues opened in 2003: Isotopes Stadium in Albuquerque, N.M., and the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, Fla.
Earl Santee, HOK senior principal, said, "Bruce has found a niche in the minor league market and has been a godsend to the firm. When he first started, we were doing one minor league or spring training project a year. Ultimately, we're averaging at least five to six a year now.
"Bruce is really good with clients because he is focused on the market. He is extremely motivated about his work and has seen every issue there is to be seen. The last five to six years, we've made money and our clients are happy. All those factors weigh in on our success, and Bruce has played a big role."
Miller said his passion for sports and physical fitness ultimately led him on the path to becoming a sports architect. He competed in football and track at Marysville (Ohio) High School. He was a linebacker and offensive guard, ran the 400-meter dash and threw the discus.
"I continued my participation in sports with intramurals in college," he said. "I always ran and took up biking, so I started doing biathlons."
Miller competed in about a half-dozen biathlons, a combination of running and biking, in addition to entering bike races.
"That was before [having] children," he said with a laugh. "I have always wanted to do a triathlon, but I swim like a stone. I have worked up to 20 laps. I have actually swam the required distance in a pool but rested between laps. It's not like swimming in a lake."
Miller started his professional career early, combining secondary education with on-the-job training through a co-op program at the University of Cincinnati. He lived and worked in London as part of an international exchange.
"The first two years I went to school," he said. "After the second year, I alternated quarters with work, six months in school, six months at work. Back then, it was a six-year program at Cincinnati."
His senior thesis was titled "A Triathlon Training Center." The topic was "how to capture motion and spirit of the event through architecture. It was a design project followed by a big critique," Miller explained.
After completing internships in Baltimore and Panama City, Fla., he interned at HOK in 1987-88. Miller can indirectly thank his wife, Kerry, for that good fortune. "She got a degree in psychology from Cincinnati and then went to the University of Kansas for a degree in graphic design," he said.
Miller, self-employed at the time, decided to get a job in Kansas City, 30 minutes from the KU campus in Lawrence. "At that point, HOK Sport as a whole had only 45 people. I have seen the whole evolution of the firm. There are now about 220 people in Kansas City, 75 in London and 40 in Brisbane, Australia."
He considers it a blessing to blend outside interests with his occupation. "I'm still a big sports fan and really love what I'm doing. It's a melding of personal passions and professional aspirations."
Miller said he is proud that his work goes beyond the realm of organized sports. "It's become a way of revitalizing downtown areas of cities," he said. "A catalyst-type project can go a long way toward re-invigorating a downtown environment."