With creative use of metal and high-tech digital components, the Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., is a major score for both the city and its resident team.
Before the stadium opened in June 2011, Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City lacked a permanent home, making do with unsuitable venues for about 15 years. Its first temporary home was an 80,000-seat NFL stadium that dwarfed the relatively modest Major League Soccer crowds. The team next took up residence in a Minor League Baseball stadium—a better fit in terms of size, but the configuration wasn’t ideal for soccer.
In the summer of 2009, locally based team owners OnGoal decided to undertake a new state-of-the-art, mid-size stadium project. Partnering with Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation, OnGoal enlisted the help of Kansas City, Mo.–based architecture firm Populous, which specializes in sports facilities and convention centers. A 14-acre site was selected to accommodate a field designed to FIFA standards. The resulting 340,000-square-foot Livestrong Sporting Park occupies a 400-acre mixed-use development in a busy traffic corridor in Kansas City and makes interesting use of metal to create an impression of movement.
On the Move
The stadium’s design centers on the concept of stop-motion photography that captures the player’s body and the soccer ball in motion, explains Brad Albers, associate principal at Populous and lead designer on the project. “Perforated metal fins surround the exterior of the building and go all the way around the outside. As you move past the building, the edge of the fins looks like it’s moving because the shape changes and the angle changes.” This effect brings to mind the players’ movement on the field.
Cladding for the exterior metal fins and the interior concourse is made from aluminum composite material. The team chose the material because of its ease of fabrication, contemporary feel, and crisp look. “We looked at some inflated panels and weren’t able to get the corners as sharp or the reveals as clean,” Albers says. “The aluminum seemed to be a more refined system.”
The stadium uses about 60,000 square feet of 6mm-thick panels composed of two sheets of 2mm-thick aluminum thermobonded to a polyethylene core and finished with a resin-based coating. Custom fabricated and installed by Kansas City, Mo.–based A2MG, the panels attach to different materials—tube steel, masonry, and precast concrete—in different areas of the stadium. This required a complex installation process.
Installation of the panels was further complicated by the fast-paced schedule, according to Martha Leahy of Kansas City, Mo.–based Turner Construction Co., the project’s general contractor. From start to finish, the project took approximately two years, even though last-minute adjustments brought challenges. “If there were changes or issues with the fins, getting them [the panels] remade and anodizing them on site was quite a time constraint,” Leahy explains. “Also piecing them together—there’s a seam through the middle of each fin, so we had to make sure those matched consistently along the whole exterior.”
Populous selected a neutral palette of three shades of gray, with steel- blue accent panels that echo the team colors. The blue accent panels also highlight different areas of the stadium, such as the concession area and restroom facilities. “The concession front is a blue archway so visitors can recognize it from anywhere inside the concourse,” Albers says. On the exterior, a varied pattern of panels in all four shades ties everything together and gives the stadium a modern feel.
Ahead of the Curve
Continuing the theme of stop-motion photography, a 145,000-square-foot metal roof canopy starts at 95 feet on one end and gradually tapers down to 65 feet as it curves around the seating bowl, imitating the long arc of a soccer ball curving through the air. The main canopy section, a simple corrugated metal deck, shelters the nearly 18,500 seats from the elements. A transparent section along the edge—made up of a clear polycarborate panel set in an aluminum curtainwall frame system—allows sunlight to penetrate through to the natural grass field. It also lightens the feel of the metal roof canopy.
The intricate pieces of the canopy system had to be field cut. Despite all the challenges, installation of the fins and roof canopy went well. “We had excellent coordination with the contractor and architect and structural engineer to make sure the panels worked the way they were supposed to, with no bowing,” Leahy says.
Elements of the $200 million stadium were designed with input from fans. During the planning process, fan comments on Sporting Kansas City’s Twitter feed and Facebook page influenced some of the owners’ design decisions. High-tech components include a 40-by-80-foot LED scoreboard, one of the largest high-definition scoreboards in the world. Wi-Fi is available throughout the stadium. IP television in the 36 luxury suites allows guests to select from a wide variety of channels; they can watch a live feed of the game on one screen and bring up a restaurant menu on another. “This technology enhances fans’ ability to interact with the team and with each other,” Albers says.
The project team scored a goal with the new stadium. Albers recounts that his wife recently heard a radio DJ “going crazy about his first visit” to the Livestrong Sporting Park. “There’s always an initial boost of excitement when you built a new stadium, but it tends to fade away,” Albers says. “So far things are going strong. And the team’s playing well, so that helps too.”
Heidi Moore writes about architecture and sustainability from Chicago.