KC Sprint

Yesterday the final design for downtown Kansas City's Sprint Center Arena was unveiled, "a glistening jewel in the revitalization of downtown...[that represents] Kansas City's honesty, clarity, vision and the Midwestern values we all cherish." The "we" refers either to Kansas Citians in general or the Downtown Arena Design Team, made up of HOK Sport+Venue+Event, Ellerbe Becket and 360 Architecture.

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The design is envisioned as an "arena in the park with fountains and outdoor gathering space," with these elements visible across the street from the arena. A connected piece in the arena's foreground is the National Association of Basketball Coaches'’ College Basketball Experience. Together these three elements (arena, covered open space, NABC) attempt to define the entry for the Sprint Arena. It's difficult to ascertain, but it appears the outdoor space across the street actually sits atop a structure, perhaps a parking garage. Ideally the "arena in the park" would not be separated from the park by a street or a one- to two-level grade change. But people gotta park their cars and buses, right?

This view also shows the immense opportunity for a Sprint logo to land upon the smooth and empty white roof of the arena. The airport can even reroute planes over the arena for even more corporate exposure!

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The biggest criticism of the design has been the sharp turn-of-face from the previous design towards an Allianz-esque exterior design. The simpler, and probably cheaper, design is actually an improvement over the fussy and flashy early design, though the articulation and detailing of this wall is going to make or break the arena's appearance. Renderings of the NABC component, though, already make that piece look dated, like it's a hold over from the 1960s.

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Although floor plans aren't available, it appears that the concourse will be pushed to the exterior, along the "jewel-like" glass wall. This should help to activate the facade, at least on game days, and help achieve the views in and out of the arena that the designers desire. This rendering shows a pretty run-of-the-mill circulation space, jazzed up by random strip lighting and populated by the same old RPC people in just about every interior rendering these days.

Ultimately, Kansas City is a city in need of some revitalization. Is an arena the means to this? I don't think so. In my book, they're like casinos: seen as that "magic solution" by local governments for their taxes, jobs, and activity, but when done they actually drain vitality from the city, either by keeping people indoors (casinos) or being used for only a few days or weeks a year (sports stadia). But it looks like it's past the time to criticize the validity of the development. We can only hope that other public developments follow in its footsteps.

(Thanks to Eric M. for the heads up)


  1. John,

    Thanks for featuring the KC Sprint Arena on your website. It has been a great task to revitalize downtown Kansas City and we have needed a new sports venue for some time. The design team has been hard at work for the past year and have done an amazing job.

  2. It IS good to see something like this in a downtown rather than the 'burbs, I will admit. Chicago is blessed with a few.

  3. Yes, I've had the pleasure of seeing them a couple times this year.

  4. HOuston's new ballpark (enron now minute maid) came about just after the revitalization/rediscovery of houston's central business district. It ripened for residential use in the late middle 90s. Now the Rockets have a new arena down there too since a church took over their old home.

    I haven't spent much time back in HOuston since 2000, but I understand downtown to still be healthy.

  5. Well, we are hoping that this will give KC a big shot in the arm and bring life to our otherwise, barren downtown area. The new entertainment district that is going up alongside the arena and the new H&R Bloch headquarters (which will also house a theatre) will boost more people to move downtown. There has been a big push to renovate alot of our vacant buildings into residential properties now.

  6. LOL, it may only be 3 miles away, but just how many airlines fly to Omaha anyway? And for the ones that do, I bet it's just near impossible for anyone in the country to get a direct flight there. So Ha, take that O!


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