Getting in the Game: The History of Venue Design at Henderson Engineers

Getting in the Game: The History of Venue Design at Henderson Engineers

When Henderson Engineers started 50 years ago, we were recognized primarily for retail design, our origins firmly attached to some of the world’s biggest brands. Over the years, we began to diversify, using our retail knowledge to expand into other vertical markets, including grocery, healthcare, workplace, and restaurant before moving into a market that incorporated it all —venue design.

In the early 90s, Kansas City was becoming known as the epicenter of sports and venue design globally. With our diverse market experience across a variety of building types, Henderson was uniquely positioned and began stepping forward into recreation and convention center projects. Plus, thanks to our retail roots, we knew how to deliver out-of-the-box design solutions and memorable customer experiences, which was becoming increasingly important as venues competed for events, conventions, fans, and patrons.

We were ready when a successful, on-call relationship with the University of Kansas (KU) led to a one-of-a-kind sports project — the Booth Family Hall of Athletics addition to Allen Fieldhouse, a shrine to college basketball. Henderson followed up with stadium projects for Notre Dame University softball, University of Missouri baseball and football, University of Michigan baseball and softball, and the Rutgers University football end zone expansion and fill-in.

In 2007, Henderson landed the Matthew Knight Arena at the University of Oregon, a basketball facility subsidized by the Athletic Legacy Fund established by Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike. A year later, we helped survey damage from Hurricane Katrina at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans and served as the telecom and security consultant on the subsequent restoration and improvements. That same year, we began work on the Bartle Hall Grand Ballroom expansion over an active interstate at the Kansas City Convention Center before starting work the following year on GCU Arena at Grand Canyon University.

Over time, we’ve introduced new venue design engineering services creating a convenient one-stop shop for our venue clients that includes acoustics, architectural lighting, audio-video, broadcast, code consulting, electrical, fire and life safety, mechanical, plumbing, security, and telecom.

We also launched Henderson Building Solutions to provide construction management, commissioning, and controls services under the same roof.

We’ve challenged ourselves along the way to solve some of the industry’s biggest challenges. We designed a patented seat-cooling material to keep fans comfortable in outdoor arenas, researched ways to optimize LED and circadian lighting to improve performance, and worked closely with AECOM to develop a first-of-its-kind under-seat air distribution system. Lately, we’ve been busy helping reconfigure and repurpose venues as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and developing design guidelines to help reduce the risk of infection.

Today, Henderson has completed high-profile venue design projects for convention centers, expo centers, performing arts, and collegiate and professional teams across the country, in every major sport: NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, and MLS. The venue practice has grown from 10 employees to more than 120 nationwide, and Henderson can regularly be found on industry lists, including Building Design+Construction magazine’s annual ranking of sports facilities engineering firms.

Throughout it all, we’ve remained focused on forming close client relationships, hiring great people, and figuring out how to do what’s never been done before.

The opening of SoFi Stadium & Entertainment District, including the Hollywood Park Performance Venue, is the latest example of our innovative approach to venue design. The following represent a few of our notable projects over the years:

  • Sacramento Kings Golden 1 Center: We worked with the project team to develop an under-seat air distribution system for the award-winning Golden 1 Center, the first entirely solar-powered, LEED Platinum arena in the world.
  • Oklahoma City MAPS3 Downtown Convention Center: Coming in under budget and on track for early completion, the MAPS3 Downtown Convention Center is the largest construction project in OKC history and the anchor of an $800 million mixed-use project focused on revitalizing downtown.
  • San Antonio Spurs AT&T Center Renovation: We identified energy-saving initiatives through a facility assessment that helped fund multi-year renovations and facility updates to the AT&T Center.
  • Dallas Cowboys Ford Center Stadium & Training Facility at The Star in Frisco: Show-stopping, 91-acre mixed-use headquarters that creates an immersive Cowboys experience for fans and visitors from around the world. The campus includes a state-of-the-art practice facility, hotel, retail, and restaurant. Our design focused on sustainability utilizing counterflow chillers to minimize energy use and LED lighting for the indoor playing field.
  • Olathe Community Center: Winner of the ULI Development of Distinction and the KC Business Journal Capstone Award, as part of our overall recreation center building systems design, we incorporated an HVAC system to maintain pool temperature and minimize condensation for the expansive indoor aquatics center.
  • Hy-Vee Arena: Repurposing a former arena space into a double-level youth sports facility required innovative design. Our team saved the client more than $2M through a code modification.
  • Arizona State University Sun Devil Stadium Improvements: Using intricate sequencing of our designs, this six-phased, five-year project stayed on track without having to postpone or relocate a single game or event.
  • Columbus Crew SC New MLS Stadium: Serving as the lead building systems designer on this fast-track design, we’ve pulled in local and minority partners to help Columbus reach its record-setting involvement goals.
  • Chicago Cubs Sloan Park Spring Training Facility: With experience on almost every spring training facility in Arizona, we worked closely with the design team to incorporate amenities to make this a home away from home for players and fans.
  • Esports Stadium Arlington: Considered the model prototype for the future of esports stadiums in North America, we helped design this first-of-its-kind 100,000 SF dedicated gaming and esports facility. This facility garnered many design awards including the 2018 SportTechie Award for Outstanding Venue.
  • University of Illinois State Farm Center Renovation: LEED Gold certified renovation required innovative systems to compliment the iconic arena’s design which resulted in multiple awards including IES Illumination Award of Merit.
  • Columbia Fireflies Segra Park: 2016 Ballpark Digest’s Ballpark of the Year this multi-use baseball stadium served as the centerpiece for a new mixed-use destination.
  • Delaware Blue Coats 76ers Fieldhouse: 140,000 SF pre-engineered building system design for multi-purpose training complex and recreation center. It is home the 76ers NBA G League affiliate team and also serves as a training center for youth in Wilmington.
Written By

President & CEO


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