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"We've gone from spaceship to pillow to -- now I'd like to add one -- a crystal bowl."

With those words, Kansas City Mayor Barnes voiced her approval for the final design for the 18,500-seat, $250 million Sprint Center arena.

The arena is on schedule to open by late summer of 2007, project officials said.

The Downtown Arena Design Team (DADT), a consortium of four Kansas City architecture firms chosen for the project, unveiled the design Thursday during a City Council meeting.

The design is expected to achieve the crystal sparkle the mayor alluded to through an all-glass exterior, with the metal framework on the structure's inside, rather than the outside.

The glass panels between that framework will alternate between clear glass and translucent pattern glass, which will give the structure different appearances from different sides and at different times of day.

"It will have almost a chameleon look," said Brad Clark, one of the designers.

Brad Schrock, the lead arena designer, said the glass exterior would reflect surrounding downtown structures while allowing views into the arena from outside it and out of the arena from concourse areas.

The arena's west side, facing Grand Boulevard, for instance, will be clad with a higher percentage of transparent panels to allow event-goers to look out on the Power & Light District directly across Grand. Another feature, a short band of glass above the seating bowl, will allow natural lighting into the arena -- a la Allen Fieldhouse at the University of Kansas, Clark said.

One unique feature will be the arena's extra-large lower bowl, which will include about 11,000 of the arena's 18,500 seats.

Although Barnes called the arena a crystal bowl, the design actually depicts a facility shaped more like a man's wedding band, albeit a seven-story one, lying on its side, bulging slightly at the center.

Renderings of the arena can be viewed at

"It's all about the wall," Clark said of the exterior, adding that the architects had decided not to emphasize the roof so that the project would stay under budget.

A preliminary design unveiled in January depicted an exterior that reflected the shape of the bowl, prompting comparisons to a spaceship, and electronically projected video images through the glass. The DADT, which includes architects from 360 Architecture, HOK Sport + Venue + Event, Ellerbe Becket Inc. and Rafael Architects Inc., included a model of the glass "spaceship" in the presentation that persuaded a city-selected team to choose the DADT over world-renowned architect Frank Gehry in August 2004.

But in May, the DADT announced that it had dropped the spaceship space and electronic visuals because those design elements put the project about $20 million over budget.

The iteration unveiled at that time called for an exterior featuring a "slight pillow shape," in Schrock's words, and clad with either all translucent glass, clear glass interspersed with opaque panels or a combination of clear and translucent glass.

Councilman Chuck Eddy said Thursday that the "pillow" design had sparked criticism from the public and doubts about where the final design would lead to a world-class arena for Kansas City.

"But you've outdone yourself," Eddy said.

"Wow," said Tom Murphy, vice president of sponsorships for Sprint Nextel Corp. "We are extremely proud to put our brand -- our new brand -- on this facility."

Murphy was referring to the new Sprint logo developed in conjunction with Sprint Corp.'s merger with Nextel Communications Inc., which closed on Friday.

Despite the merger, the arena will be called the Sprint Center, reflecting the continuation of the Sprint brand name.


Sprint bought the arena naming rights on July 22, 2004, for $62.5 million.

All the main stakeholders in the arena have signed off on the final design, including Anschutz Entertainment Group, which will operate the arena in exchange for paying $50 million of its development costs.

In addition, AEG agreed to help the city land National Hockey League and/or National Basketball Association tenants for the arena.

To accommodate both, the DADT included home and visitors locker rooms for two professional teams as well as a pair of auxiliary locker rooms.

Kansas City voters approved hotel and rental-car tax increases on Aug. 4, 2004, to help finance the Sprint Center.

A week later, the team of Burns & McDonnell and HNTB Cos. , both based in Kansas City, was chosen to oversee construction.

On Dec. 10, M.A. Mortenson of Minneapolis, Minn., was chosen as construction manager for the project.

In response to a question from Councilwoman Becky Nace Thursday, the architects said the narrow design window and tight budget were key reasons why they couldn't achieve the silver-level certification for green building design that some council members had pushed for.

Kansas City Area Development Council  

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