The Body and the Ball

Children’s Mercy Park

  • Kansas City
  • 2011

CHALLENGE. Children’s Mercy Park, home of Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City, was a second chance to make a first impression. After 15 years of playing games in relative anonymity and in inappropriately sized venues, the new stadium presented the chance for Sporting Kansas City to re-define their organization and set a path toward long-term sustained growth and success. Ownership was clear about one thing: their passion for innovation drove an interest well beyond creating just another Major League Soccer stadium – they wanted something that would radically change the notion of soccer stadium design.

Conceptual, logistical and most of all, aspirational challenges inspired a design solution that established a new benchmark for mid‐sized stadiums in the United States, if not the world. The 340,000 square foot, $200 million stadium is anchored in the heart of a 400-acre mixed-use development and is situated in a way that both soccer and event attendees aid in the development’s success. The stadium is bound on all four sides by major traffic and utility corridors and is further complicated with a 40-foot elevation change across the stadium footprint.

INNOVATION. Based on the concept of stop-motion photography, the design of Children’s Mercy Park seeks to capture movement and motion by celebrating both the body and the ball.

The building’s exterior of repeating angular metal fins represent ‘the body,’ or, translated, the players’ athleticism and movement on the field. The fins align over the length of the building facade to recreate that appearance of animated movement. The signature 145,000 square-foot roof canopy is derived from the long floating arc of ‘the soccer ball’ as it soars across the field; from high to low point the roof arcs from 65 feet to 95 feet. The roof’s polycarbonate panels create an intimate, yet grand scale while amplifying crowd noise. Its material was specifically selected to allow sunlight to penetrate through to the pitch.

The building’s interior design expanded on the body and the ball concept by extrapolating the notion of angles. Hexagonal and pentagon shapes and forms, along with bold colors were used throughout Children’s Mercy Park. Sporting KC’s desire to create a fan-oriented experience was brought to life through various club spaces where fans can interact with players, suites with common lounges and rolling floor-to-ceiling doors, and a year-round sports bar designed with input from the soccer team’s most passionate fans – a first of its kind in Major League Soccer. In addition to hosting soccer, the stadium features a removable seating section in the seating bowl’s south end that, when removed, will reveal a stage that can be used for end-stage concerts.

IMPACT. Children’s Mercy Park incorporates the latest in sports technology aiding in fan connectivity and player development. The reaction to the venue has been universal: Children’s Mercy Park is iconic, fun, intimate, authentic and awe‐inspiring. In bringing to bear all of Populous’ global soccer knowledge, the team’s goals of a completely authentic stadium were realized. In short, it is simply a world‐class venue designed with the passion of the game it houses.