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Volume 20 No. 41


Don Muret

Mississippi State is developing residential lofts tied to a $40 million renovation of its baseball stadium.

The SEC school plans to build 25 lofts overlooking left field at Dudy Noble Field, all designed with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and living space, as well as outdoor seats. Buyers could use them year-round, MSU Athletic Director Scott Stricklin said. 

The ballpark is across the street from Humphrey Coliseum, the school’s basketball arena, and about a half-mile walk from Davis Wade Stadium, MSU’s football venue, making it a prime location for alumni attending those games. 

The project, pending the school’s $20 million fundraising effort, is still two to three years from breaking ground, Stricklin said. But the school is looking at pricing the lofts at $50,000 annually with five-year deals, similar to the traditional suites at Davis Wade.

Mississippi State officials believe the lofts will meet the needs of traveling alumni.

The lofts and the amenities connected to those premium spaces are believed to be the first of their kind directly attached to a college sports facility. Other SEC markets have developed sports-themed condos near college campuses, such as the Georgia Gameday Center in Athens.

MSU officials have seen the huge boom in that piece of the real estate market and they feel the ballpark lofts will meet the needs of alumni traveling from Jackson, Miss.; Memphis; and Birmingham, Ala., to attend multiple sports events during the school year, Stricklin said.

While discussing potential stadium improvements a few years ago, MSU baseball coach John Cohen mentioned to Stricklin the idea of condos near the park. After meeting with project architects, the idea evolved into integrating the concept into the building, Stricklin said.

MSU, a strong college baseball program, owns the top 10 on-campus attendance records in NCAA baseball history. It’s not uncommon for crowds of 15,000 to pack Dudy Noble Field, a facility with 6,000 fixed seats and room for thousands more, Stricklin said.

The goal for the renovation is to expand fixed seating to 7,000-plus with more chairbacks and less bench seating, in addition to creating a 360-degree concourse to improve the fan experience, he said. 

Local architect Wier Boerner Allin Architecture is designing the lofts in conjunction with Populous, the national firm working on the stadium renovation. MLB ballpark developer and urban planner Janet Marie Smith, an MSU graduate, is consulting on the project.

Residences at sports facilities are rare, even in the big leagues. In 1984, Charlotte Motor Speedway built a 40-condominium tower in the track’s first turn and added 12 more units in 1991.

The Hunt family, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, has a large two-level suite with second-floor bedrooms at Arrowhead Stadium. NBA team owners Paul Allen and Stan Kroenke have their own private apartments at Moda Center and Pepsi Center, respectively.

> DESIGN MOVES: HNTB has made some adjustments to its sports practice. Gerardo Prado is now the firm’s sports group director, and Scott Capstack, a designer for Levi’s Stadium, has been named director of design for the company’s Central Division practice in Kansas City. In addition, Tim Cahill, one of HNTB’s most senior sports designers, steps into the role of chief design officer for architecture, where he will focus on projects across all markets — sports, convention centers, aviation, transit and federal buildings.

Coming off Levi’s Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers’ new facility, HNTB continues to remain busy in sports, especially with college projects. It’s working on football stadium renovations at Kentucky, Arizona State, Iowa State and Kansas, as well as Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando.

Don Muret can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

HOK’s purchase of 360 Architecture is another example of the thinning ranks of stand-alone companies in sports facility development, as smaller firms sell to larger entities to expand business and form an exit strategy for senior leadership.

The design for the new Falcons stadium came from 360.
Rendering by: 360 ARCHITECTURE
The two architects last week jointly announced the acquisition, which folds 360 Architecture’s 180-person staff and its three offices into HOK, a much larger, global firm employing 1,600 people in 23 cities worldwide. Last year, HOK reported $400 million in gross fees, according to its website.

The agreement follows last month’s announced merger between AECOM, the world’s largest architectural services firm, and Hunt Construction Group, North America’s top sports builder. In both cases, the sellers looked to help expand business internationally, lay a foundation for the future and — industry observers said — ultimately give ownership of the smaller firms a clear path to retirement without the burden of finding a successor.

Brad Schrock, one of 360’s six senior principals, would not say how the HOK deal affects his long-term future other than that he’s excited about the increased opportunities his staff has now that it’s part of a larger firm that works outside of sports.

But his peers such as Ron Turner, Gensler’s director of sports and entertainment, say the deal gives 360 principals the buyout opportunities they’re looking for down the line in addition to creating greater resources within a larger company. The deal answers the big question many industry observers had regarding HOK’s strategy to return to sports design after an absence of more than five years. In 2009, a group of six principals and other architects at HOK Sport split from their corporate parent and formed Populous, a separation that included a five-year noncompete clause.

“Everybody in the sports architecture world knew when [the noncompete clauses expired] that HOK was going to get back in sports,” said Tom Tingle, Skanska’s senior vice president and national director of sports and entertainment. “If they did it without an acquisition, they would be behind everybody else and trying to catch up. This is a smart move. It gives them a new level of credibility and they are now an immediate player in the market.”

About two months ago, HOK contacted 360 about the potential merger, and 360 officials quickly agreed on signing a deal with the larger firm, considering their strategy for expanding their business.

“We’ve been thinking about doing something like this,” Schrock said. “Along came a phone call from these guys at HOK that we know and respect. From the moment we met, we really hit it off.”

The purchase price was not disclosed. The deal is expected to close in late October, Schrock said. The 360 Architecture name goes away after a brief transition, and the sports practice will carry the HOK brand.

The acquisition marks a return to HOK for Schrock and fellow 360 co-founder and senior principal George Heinlein. Both architects essentially started their careers at HOK in the 1980s designing arenas and stadiums before leaving in 1995 to form Heinlein Schrock Stearns.

In 2004, Heinlein Schrock Stearns merged with CDFM2 to form 360 Architecture.
Considering their history at HOK, both architects said they felt comfortable selling their business to a larger firm they say has similar values and philosophies. What remains to be seen is how things shake out on the personnel front after the merger is completed, industry sources said.

“What stays and what leaves is important,” Turner said. “Somewhere along the line, Populous and HOK didn’t get along. Maybe HOK has changed. What’s key is how cultures merge and create something bigger and better but also harmonious.”

Bill Hellmuth, HOK’s president and senior design principal, said he expects his company to be in a hiring mode for sports projects. On its own, 360 has been looking to hire about a dozen designers during one of the busiest periods in its 10-year history, senior principal Tom Waggoner said.

Over the past 15 months, 360 Architecture has won jobs to design new facilities for the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Red Wings, in addition to renovating arenas for the San Antonio Spurs and Carolina Hurricanes. Over that same period, 360 won the contract to help design a $400 million renovation of Notre Dame Stadium.

HOK’s global practice provides 360 with a greater number of opportunities to design sports venues overseas.

“We’ve dabbled in that a little bit, but it’s been a case of [potential clients] coming to us,” Heinlein said. “Now, we can be more proactive marketing projects on the global front.”

Legends Hospitality has formed a partnership with Wolfgang Puck Catering to take over premium dining at Rose Bowl Stadium.

The five-year deal covers the Terry Donahue Pavilion, a new structure on the stadium’s west side named for the former UCLA football coach. The 55,000-square-foot addition, the centerpiece of a $181 million renovation, has 54 suites, 1,400 club seats and 48 loge boxes.

Wolfgang Puck Catering will focus on food in the club spaces, including Puck’s Tavern, in the new Terry Donahue Pavilion.
The Legends-Puck partnership, in place since July 1 but not made public until now, has worked four concerts plus the Manchester United-LA Galaxy soccer match at the venue, generating an 18 percent bump in sales compared with comparable events last summer, Legends officials said.

UCLA’s first home football game this season is Sept. 6, against Memphis. Legends replaces Bristol Farms, a local caterer.

Over the five-year term, the Legends-Puck partnership could produce about $2 million in commissions paid to the Rose Bowl Operating Co., the stadium’s management firm, said Darryl Dunn, the Rose Bowl’s general manager.

For Legends, landing the premium food piece comes more than three years after its sales division started selling premium seats for the Rose Bowl.

The relationship between Legends and Rose Bowl officials on the sales side evolved into discussions about Legends potentially running premium food, said Shervin Mirhashemi, the company’s president and COO. Legends brought Wolfgang Puck Catering on board as a partner to help win the business.

The two firms worked together on a few smaller projects last year at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, another Legends food account.

Mirhashemi is friends with Carl Schuster, Puck’s president and CEO, dating to Mirhashemi’s days working for AEG. They were talking about business in general one day, and the Rose Bowl food situation came up.

“We thought it would be interesting and fun to collaborate and we were fortunate enough to win the bid,” Mirhashemi said. “Wolfgang Puck fits perfectly within our infrastructure and the way we look at assets … trying to do things at a very high level and create a great guest experience.”

In general, Legends will run the suites while Wolfgang Puck Catering’s focus is on the club spaces, including Puck’s Tavern, branded after a similar restaurant it runs at Honda Center, home of the Anaheim Ducks.

On its own, Wolfgang Puck Catering has done corporate hospitality in the Rose Bowl parking lots and provided food service for the last three national championship parties tied to the Tournament of Roses Parade, Schuster said. In the past, it has has teamed with Levy Restaurants at sports venues; Compass Group North America owns Levy Restaurants and co-owns Wolfgang Puck Catering.

“We’ve had a history with the Rose Bowl for 15 years,” Schuster said. “It’s our home field in L.A. Our commissary is right up the street.”

In Pasadena, the deal extends to Legends-Puck helping stadium management book non-game-day functions at the Rose Bowl.

Keri Johnson, most recently employed by Legends at Yankee Stadium, is general manager of the Rose Bowl’s premium food business.

The Rose Bowl is Legends’ third food contract in Southern California, joining the Coliseum and Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

Ovations Food Services and Patina Restaurant Group were the other two finalists.

SodexoMagic, a joint venture between Sodexo and Magic Johnson Enterprises, maintains the Rose Bowl’s general concessions.