Populous (company)

Populous is an American multinational architectural and design practice specializing in sports facilities, arenas and convention centers, as well as the planning and design of major special events.

Number of locations
Kansas City, Missouri (US)
London (UK)
Brisbane (Australia)
New York City, San Francisco, Denver, Boston, Knoxville, Norman, Pittsburgh (US)
Sydney (Australia)
Singapore (Singapore)
New Delhi (India)
Beijing (China)
Dubai (UAE)
Area served
  • Sports, entertainment, events, conference and exhibition center architecture
  • Interior design
  • Environmental branding
  • Wayfinding
  • Events planning
  • Overlay
  • Masterplanning
  • Landscape architecture
  • Sustainable design consulting
  • Facilities operations analysis
  • Aviation experience design

Populous was created through a management buyout in January 2009, becoming independently owned and operated. It is reported to be one of the largest architecture firms in the world.[1][2][3] Populous formerly operated as HOK Sport Venue Event, which was part of the HOK Group.


Company developmentEdit

In 1983, HOK under Jerry Sincoff created a sports group (initially called the Sports Facilities Group and later changed to HOK Sport Venue Event). The firm initially consisted of eight architects in Kansas City, and grew to employ 185 people by 1996.[4]

On several projects, HOK Sport had teamed with international design practice LOBB Partnership, which maintained offices in London, England, and Brisbane, Australia. On HOK Sport's 15th anniversary in November 1998, the firm merged with LOBB. The new practice retained headquarters in all three cities.

The Kansas City, Missouri, office was first based in the city's Garment District in the Lucas Place office building.[5] In 2005, it moved into its headquarters at 300 Wyandotte in the River Market neighborhood in a new building it designed, on land developed as an urban renewal project through tax incentives from the city's Planned Industrial Expansion Authority. It was the first major company to relocate to the neighborhood in several decades.[6] In March 2009, HOK Sport Venue Event changed its name to Populous after a managers' buyout by HOK Group.[5]

In October 2015, Populous relocated to its new Americas headquarters at the newly renovated Board of Trade building at 4800 Main street near the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City.[7]

The company is one of several Kansas City-based sports design firms that trace their roots to Kivett and Myers which designed the Truman Sports Complex which was one of the first modern large single purpose sports stadiums (previously, stadiums were designed for multipurpose use). Other firms with sports design presence in Kansas City that trace their roots to Kivett include Ellerbe Becket Inc. and HNTB Corp.. 360 Architecture is also based in Kansas City.[8]

"Retro" era of baseball parksEdit

The red brick facade of Camden Yards was designed by Populous to blend into the surrounding neighborhood of downtown Baltimore, especially the nearby B&O Warehouse.

Populous is credited for spearheading a new era of baseball park design in the 1990s, beginning with Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.[9] At Camden Yards, and in other stadiums built by Populous soon thereafter, such as Coors Field in Denver and Progressive Field in Cleveland, the ballpark was designed to incorporate aesthetic elements of the city's history and older "classic ballparks." Camden Yards's red brick facade emulates the massive B&O Warehouse that dominates the right field view behind Eutaw Street,[10] whereas Progressive Field's glass and steel exterior "call to mind the drawbridges and train trestles that crisscross the nearby Cuyahoga River."[11] Starting with Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati in 2003, a number of Populous Sport's stadiums featured more contemporary and even futuristic designs. Subsequent stadium exteriors featuring this motif opened in Washington, DC and Minnesota.[9]

In addition to moving away from the concrete exteriors of the "cookie-cutter" multi-purpose stadiums that preceded the new parks, Populous incorporated other innovative touches: natural grass playing surfaces (instead of artificial turf), asymmetrical field dimensions, various park-specific idiosyncrasies (like Tal's Hill in Houston), and less foul territory that would keep fans farther from the diamond.[12][13][14] And because the stadiums were designed for baseball instead of several sports, the sightlines were "uniformly excellent."[15]

Camden Yards was hugely popular with baseball fans, and its success convinced many cities to invest public funds in their own new ballparks to help revitalize struggling urban neighborhoods.[14] From 1992 to 2012, HOK Sport/Populous were the lead architects on 14 Major League Baseball stadiums and helped renovate four existing stadiums.[16]


Populous's designs across Major League Baseball have become so prevalent that some critics have asserted that the distinctiveness that was originally found in early "retro" ballparks is impossible to maintain: "There are nearly 20 [new ballparks] around the league, [so] their heterogeneity has come to seem altogether homogenous." Whereas "classic" ballparks like Fenway Park were given strange dimensions simply because of the limitations provided by the plots of land on which the parks were built, new stadiums do not feature such restrictions. One sportswriter said the attempt to emulate the old parks in this way is "contrived."[15]

In addition, a number of commentators have criticized what they see as a tendency to cater new ballparks toward wealthier ticket buyers, such as with expanded use of luxury suites instead of cheaper, conventional seating.[15][17][18][19] Several writers have noted that upper deck seating at new ballparks may actually be farther away from the field than in the older parks, partly as a result of these new upper decks being pushed higher by rows of luxury suites.[20]

One writer in The New Yorker said it is "not quite right to credit or blame Populous" for trends in their new stadiums—as it is ultimately team owners that plan what they want in future stadiums—but they "certainly enabled" such changes.[21]

In early 2018 Populous, together with Madison Square Garden Company, announced plans to construct two grandiose entertainment arenas: Sphere Las Vegas and Sphere London. According to plans, both vast venues will be futuristically designed and equipped with advanced acoustic and visual technologies.[22] While some, including Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, support the development of the London Venue,[23] others are concerned about the feasibility of the plans. Chris Kyriakakis, audio signal processing professor at the Los Angeles USC Viterbi School of Engineering, foresees serious acoustic problems due to the venue's spherical shape.[citation needed] Additional criticism has come from the property industry where claims have been made that the dedicated plot could accommodate up to 1,400 new homes in an area in which there is a shortage of affordable housing.[24]


Former Americas headquarters of Populous, in Kansas City, Missouri

Sports projectsEdit











Association footballEdit








South AfricaEdit


United StatesEdit

American footballEdit



Australian footballEdit

E-sports and Performance VenuesEdit

General purpose arenasEdit

Horse racingEdit

Ice hockeyEdit




Motor Sports FacilitiesEdit




Training facilitiesEdit

  • Pennsylvania State University Training Facility – University Park, Pennsylvania (1999)
  • GWS Giants Learning Life Centre, Sydney, Australia (2013)
  • Texas A&M Bright Football Complex, College Station, U.S. (2015)
  • Brisbane Broncos Training, Administration and Community Facility, Brisbane, Australia (2017)

Venue projectsEdit

Convention and civic centersEdit

Music and entertainment venuesEdit

Event projectsEdit


Commonwealth GamesEdit

National Football LeagueEdit

(selected events)

Major League BaseballEdit

Major League Baseball All-Star Game

Association footballEdit

(Selected events)

Other eventsEdit

(Selected Events)


  1. ^ Kevin Collison, "HOK Sport Venue now stands alone", The Kansas City Star, January 5, 2009.[dead link]
  2. ^ "POPULOUS – Drawing People Together". POPULOUS. Archived from the original on June 13, 2016. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  3. ^ Kevin Collison, "Sports architecture firm changes name" Archived April 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, The Kansas City Star, March 31, 2009 (access date March 31, 2009).
  4. ^ "History of HOK Group, Inc. – FundingUniverse". www.fundinguniverse.com. Archived from the original on March 1, 2012. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "HOK Sport Venue Event changes name to Populous – Kansas City Business Journal". Kansas City Business Journal. Archived from the original on October 24, 2012. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  6. ^ Martin, David (February 1, 2007). "Thanks. Now Scram – An $8 million "public" parking garage in the River Market looks awfully private". www.pitch.com. Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  7. ^ "Populous will move from River Market to Plaza area – Kansas City Business Journal". Kansas City Business Journal. Archived from the original on February 24, 2015. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  8. ^ "New game plan". Kansas City Business Journal. Archived from the original on September 17, 2008. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  9. ^ a b Byrnes, Mark (March 30, 2012). "Is the Retro Ballpark Movement Officially Over?". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  10. ^ Santelli, Robert; Santelli, Jenna (2010). The Baseball Fan's Bucket List: 162 Things You Must Do, See, Get, and Experience Before You Die. Running Press. p. 73. ISBN 9780762440313. Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  11. ^ Mock, Joe (June 18, 2013). "Indians' Progressive Field sustains splendor". USA Today. Archived from the original on July 20, 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  12. ^ "OriolePark.com: History". Baltimore Orioles. Archived from the original on June 2, 2016. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  13. ^ Ward, Geoffrey C.; Ken Burns. "Fields and Dreams". PBS. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  14. ^ a b Rosensweig, Daniel (2005). Retro Ball Parks: Instant History, Baseball, and the New American City. Univ. of Tennessee Press. ISBN 9781572333512. Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  15. ^ a b c Lamster, Mark (July 2009). "Play Ball". Metropolis Magazine. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  16. ^ "About the Architect". Miami Marlins. Archived from the original on June 30, 2016. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  17. ^ DeMause, Neil; Cagan, Joanna (2008). Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit. U of Nebraska Press. ISBN 9780803228481. Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  18. ^ Lupica, Mike (May 23, 2011). "Subway Series: Only affordable aspect of Yankee Stadium experience is the 4 train fare". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  19. ^ deMause, Neil (April 2, 2009). "New Yankee Stadium Opens Its Vast, Expensive Gates". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  20. ^ Levin, Josh (October 7–13, 2005). "Rich Fan, Poor Fan". Washington City Paper. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  21. ^ "The End of the Retro Ballpark". The New Yorker. April 6, 2012. Archived from the original on April 1, 2016. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  22. ^ "Populous to Design Spherical Music Venues in London and Las Vegas | Architectural Digest". Architectural Digest. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  23. ^ Booth, Robert (February 9, 2018). "MSG Sphere: plans offer glimpse of London's next venue". The Guardian. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  24. ^ Booth, Robert (January 24, 2018). "The Golf Ball: the next addition to London's skyline?". The Guardian. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  25. ^ Schlueb, Mark. "Architects, Dyer and Lions to brainstorm ideas for MLS stadium design". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on January 7, 2014. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  26. ^ "Las Vegas Breaks Ground On INSANE New Venue". Your EDM. September 30, 2018. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
  27. ^ Booth, Robert (February 9, 2018). "MSG Sphere: plans offer glimpse of London's next venue". The Guardian. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
  28. ^ a b c d e f "Fifa World Cup". Populous. Retrieved March 15, 2021.

External linksEdit