43US Bank Stadium
Photo Credit: Bruce Hemmelgarn/USA Today Sports

Know Your Arena Designers: HKS

Our next potential designer is one of the older architecture firms of its kind in the United States. HKS has extensive experience with football and baseball stadiums. Would they be able to swing an arena?

A brief history

Named after its founder Harland K. Smith, HKS was founded in 1939 in Dallas and has been involved in architectural design for decades. As we’ll get into, they’ve had their hand in a lot of major stadium projects over the past two decades, but they’ve also designed hotels, casinos, office towers, hospitals and airports.

Major sports projects since 2005

  • NFL: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis), A&T Stadium (Dallas), U.S. Bank Stadium (Minnesota), Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park (Los Angeles)
  • MLB: Globe Life Field (Arlington)
  • CFL: Mosiac Stadium (beautiful Regina)

HKS designs won the 2009 and 2010 Sports Business Awards Facility of the Year honour, with Lucas Oil Stadium winning in 2009 and AT&T Stadium in 2010.

General trends

HKS has designed a lot of cool, big, showy projects over the past few years. I spent a bit of time around AT&T Stadium during WrestleMania 32 weekend and was absolutely blown away. It’s a gorgeous, well-designed, well-constructed place to watch sports (or simulated sports).

Mosiac Stadium has also gotten rave reviews since it opened, and Calgary Flames fans (and ownership) will get a nice look at everything during the 2019 Heritage Classic (in scenic Regina). The building is everything Riders fans hoped it would be when it was initially announced.

The Minnesota Vikings blog The Daily Norseman had mixed reviews of the new U.S. Bank Stadium:

I can’t say that I was thoroughly impressed overall. It had sort of an industrial ambiance, mostly due to the fact that there was still a ton of unpainted concrete all over the place, mostly on the floors. It gave the building a less appealing feel inside the hallways and concourses, and continued to the seats. Really wish they would paint the stairways to the seats, I think that would go a long way towards giving the stadium a better overall feel. A great thing was the giant screens. Should make viewing the game much better for those in the nosebleeds or end zones away from the action.

HKS’s projects are big and fancy and their attention to detail is superb. But the big challenge when it comes to their work is a lack of smaller-scale success stories. They’ve done a tremendous job with the sports facilities they’ve work on, but they’ve all been massive football or sports stadiums. They haven’t worked on any recent hockey or basketball arenas, so it’s difficult to tell if they could maintain their superb work on a smaller scale, a smaller footprint, and a smaller budget.

If the Flames could get assurances that HKS could do for the arena what they did for Mosiac Stadium within a $550 million budget, they would be a strong contender for the gig. But in the absence of a body of work on an arena scale and on that budget. Mosiac Stadium was more or less on budget (around $275 million), but AT&T Stadium cost over $1.1 billion (nearly double the original budget). Some of that was inevitably Jerry Jones being Jerry Jones, but it doesn’t exactly instill confidence.