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Volume 23 No. 23
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HOK-360 connection strong even before the deal closes

Don Muret
HOK had been so busy working with 360 Architecture on sports projects that it hadn’t had time to close the deal to buy the firm.
That ended last week, when the purchase became official. The deal was first announced in August, and at that time principals from both firms said it would close in late October.

The delay in completing the sale was due in part to both groups working on the initial design of a new NFL stadium proposed for the St. Louis waterfront and upgrades to Raymond James Stadium, where HOK is on the short list for the job. In addition, they have pursued a half-dozen jobs internationally, said Brad Schrock, who is leading HOK’s newly formed sports, recreation and entertainment practice.

HOK President Bill Hellmuth said, “These [mergers] tend to take on a life of their own, and we got busy doing work together.

HOK and newly purchased 360 Architecture worked on the initial design for a waterfront NFL stadium in St. Louis.
“Our first instinct is to go after work and drop everything else, and there have been several opportunities out there.”
The project attracting the most attention for St. Louis-based HOK is the effort to keep the hometown Rams from leaving for Los Angeles. Earlier this month, sandwiched between the news about the Rams’ potential Hollywood Park stadium development in Southern California and the HOK-360 closing, a state task force unveiled several images of a 64,000-seat facility sitting on the banks of the Mississippi River. HOK and 360 produced those renderings.

HOK and FleishmanHillard, its high-powered public relations firm, both have strong political ties in St. Louis. Those relationships led to the task force reaching out to HOK for help in finding a solution to keep the Rams in town, officials said.

Bill Johnson, 360’s lead architect for the Atlanta Falcons’ $1.4 billion facility, drew some St. Louis stadium sketches for the task force over the past four months in tandem with HOK, while his 360 colleague Ron Gans created three-dimensional images from the firm’s Kansas City office. Those renderings are a starting point for developing the stadium, which could cost up to $985 million. The stadium site ties in with waterfront redevelopment proposals surrounding the Gateway Arch and the Laclede’s Landing entertainment district. The project has yet to be financed.

“We were all excited and anxious to find an opportunity to test drive our ‘new car,’ so to speak,” Johnson said. “We hit the ground running. Often, when we come into a [market], the biggest question is, Who do we team with? It’s all about finding the right local connections politically.”

The merger pushes HOK back into sports design six years after several principals split off to form Populous in 2009.

> ICED COFFEE: If you want to buy Tim Hortons coffee in St. Louis, the only place it’s available right now is at Scottrade Center, home of the Blues.

The NHL team recently signed the Canadian brand to a three-year sponsorship. The agreement extends to Tim Hortons products served at arena concession stands and portable carts.

Tim Hortons is building a new store in Maplewood, Mo., the first of 40 locations planned for the St. Louis market, but it won’t be open until early in the second quarter, said Jeff Ajluni, the Blues’ vice president of corporate partnerships and community development.

The Blues’ deal is nonexclusive in the coffee category, which means the team can bring more coffee providers into the building, Ajluni said. Tim Hortons has 11 sponsorships with NHL teams in addition to a league deal, according to SportsBusiness Journal research.

> LEGACY PROJECT: Populous has honored the memory of a former architect by naming an award after him for its project of the year.

The inaugural Ben B. Barnert Award winner in 2014 was Baylor University’s McLane Stadium. The new college football facility won over 10 other candidates internally, Populous officials said. Barnert, hired as employee No. 8 at the old HOK Sport, died of brain cancer in 2013.

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