Venue Inspiration: Intentional, Approachable, Accessible

Generator Studio is keen on building the experience so they will come.

This transcript has been lightly edited for content and clarity.

Can you give an overview of Generator Studio and your roles with the firm?

Jill Monaghan, Senior Project Designer, Generator Studio (JM): Generator Studio is a sports and interior design firm, located in Kansas City, Missouri. We do venue design and some lifestyle projects such as restaurants, hotels, bars, as well as multi-family housing developments. We don't tend to specialize, intentionally, because our projects are a reflection of our clients and their values. You won't see a consistent style across our projects and that's very intentional since the projects and the design solutions we come up with are a result of our clients’ needs.

I am a Senior Project Designer with Generator Studio. I've been with the firm for about 10 years and it's my job to work with our clients to develop their goals and make sure they are implemented through the design process and into the final result of the projects.

Christina Franklin, Director of Interior Design, Generator Studio (CF): Here at Generator, I am the Director of Interior Design and I come from a hospitality background. We've decided as a studio that we are going to approach every project with the hospitality focus knowing that that's really what the connecting theme is. Generator Studio is hospitality.

Regarding my background, I have worked on tons of hotel projects with food and beverage outlets, overseeing the design of 42 properties over the course of the past 10 years and about 25 independent food and beverage components within those. I bring that experience and a hospitality approach to Generator as we approach design, whether for a stadium, training facility, and even workplace environments.

ALSD read an article related to the new Kansas City National Women’s Soccer League Project that said, “ facilities have proven to be a catalyst in transforming all professional sports”, which was a quote from Angie Long, Co-Founder & Owner, Kansas City Current. Tell me more about world-class facilities and their transformative nature in sports.

JM: Angie and Chris Long, along with Brittany Matthews, are owners of the Kansas City Current here in Kansas City. That statement is very intentional. Over time, we've often seen that women's professional athletes are secondary tenants in their facilities. As part of becoming a catalyst, it’s mirroring a bit of what's going on in our society. The owners of the Current have made a commitment to say that women's athletics are not taking a back seat to men's professional sports. We're purposefully elevating women's athletics and creating equivalent investment in the facilities as well as the amenities for the athletes.

As part of that spirit and acknowledging women's athletics in the forefront, there is a commitment to making the Current stadium, as well as their training facility, highly visible projects. They’re both in close proximity to downtown Kansas City. The stadium is right off of one of the major highways into and out of the city from the airport. So mentally, culturally, and now geographically, the Kansas City Current are going to be front and center in Kansas City.

CF: Previously there wasn't room for women's facilities within the sports world. With the investments [the owners] made in this team, in the stadium, in the training facility, they're bringing women to the foreground and it's exciting as women within the studio to be working on the projects as well and to continue that story from beginning to end.

Let’s discuss Generator's perspective on where we're going with sports facility design and the current drivers, as well as uncovering local elements strategically weaved into Kansas City Current stadium design.

JM: Intentionality behind the stadium design includes local elements. Implementing both of those components is, first, the actual location of the project itself. It's going into the Berkeley Riverfront Development right along a great riverfront trail. It's going to have access from the trail. The streetcar line is getting extended not quite to the stadium, but into the riverfront. So, access to local transportation, access to runners and bikers, all embracing different modes of getting to the stadium itself.


We are definitely a sports city, so on top of that, we are integrating different aspects of Kansas City and its culture. Stadium conversations discuss embedding the sports culture of the city in a facility that is designed for women first.

The stadium is going to be the first purpose-built stadium for a National Women's Soccer League team which is huge in and of itself. All other teams right now are playing in shared facilities, versus this facility, which is intentionally putting the female athletes first. Every decision we're making, down to the layout and then all the way out into the overall aesthetic of the stadium, is being driven with the female athletes at the forefront.

How does Generator Studio blend hospitality and intentionality?

CF: As we are focusing on this facility, we have concluded that we really want to extend that fan experience. No longer can you get away with just providing a seat and a concession stand and here you go. We really want to tell a story. We want to provide that enhanced experience and start telling that story within the space and really view everything through that hospitality lens.

We're not just coming in and watching the game. We are creating an experience within the sponsor zones and loge boxes and bunker suites so that everybody can approach the game and be a part of it from a unique perspective and have a unique experience no matter where you are within the stadium.

We're proud that the project is so focused on women for the facility, but we're really focused on inclusivity for all within the space as well, so that everyone feels invited to come to this space and have a great day, night, whatever that experience is for them.

Let’s get granular about the stadium. Talk about capacities, premium elements, and other creative spaces.

JM: The stadium will have a capacity of 11,500, and that's made up by a whole variety of experiences. Building off Christina's earlier point about embedding hospitality into every experience, whether that is an SRO ticket at the huge north end bar that's right next to the river with a killer video board over it, or in the premium spaces like the suites or the bunker pitch club, there's something here intentionally for everyone and the capacity is a reflection of a large mix of different seating products.

We have a set number of general admission seats. We have the bunker pitch club. We have suites. We have loge boxes. We have what are being temporarily called “perch loges” which are at the back of the upper deck under cover of the roof with some really cool amenities up there. We have club seats center-pitch right above the team bench in the upper deck, and then along the entire north end of the stadium, which is really, really close proximity to the river, there's a huge section with a whole big mix of different seating types.

We've got high top tables. We've got drink rails. We have SRO party platforms and then behind all of that within all that activity, we also have just a place for people that want to be in the venue, want to hang out, want to eat good food, want to drink good drinks, and just be with their friends and be part of the excitement.

It sounds as if design was not solely encouraging fans to come out to a women’s soccer game, but for an experience.

CF: We've done a really great job of looking at everything with the sense of “if you provide the experience, they will come”. If we create this environment for people to attend, they're going to attend, and we are not ashamed to be a part of this cultural shift. We are really proud of it, and we want to create moments for the whole community to come and experience and really lift up female athletes and female athletics in general.

JM: One of the other things that has been guiding our decision-making process is the desire to make the stadium an integral part of the community and an asset to the Kansas City community. We're having conversations about different areas of the stadium that could potentially be open to the public and anchored, again, in a hospitality-oriented experience. Whether that means potentially one of the bars becomes sponsored by a local brewery, or we get local restaurant partners integrated with the goal of creating different environments that are always open to the public regardless of if it's an event day or not at the stadium. Again, always keeping in mind and going back to the idea of creating a true community asset in the stadium itself.

Let’s switch focus a bit. Talk about the particularly well thought out practice facility.

JM: It's designed intentionally for the athletes. Every decision that we made leading into the layout of the training center itself, including the location, was about providing the best, most functional, and exciting experience for the athletes day in and day out.

The first floor is all team spaces. It's dedicated to the athletes that and the coaching staff. There's a whole bunch of glass right along the main practice pitch, so it's connected to the outside visibly. As well, we've got garage doors that open up to create that flow from pitch to the team lounge, the team servery, the team's strength and cardio room. All of those spaces open out directly onto the practice pitch.

Above that floor is where all front office staff is going, and they too have a view to the pitch. Culturally the team made the decision to have everyone together so that the team and front office is fully connected.

On top of that, one of the things that was near and dear to the Longs’ hearts as we were developing the practice facility was sustainability. There are things happening in the world that we need to acknowledge as a construction industry and as part of that, the Longs intentionally made a commitment to creating the most sustainable building possible. As part of that, the primary structure as well as all of the floors are all made out of wood. There is very limited use of steel in the building to help reduce the carbon footprint, help reduce the embedded carbon, and also to capitalize on the aesthetic and well-being benefits of being in a wood environment. So, mostly wood, very little steel, lots of glass, lots of light. It's going to be a killer, killer place to be.

CF: Generator did a really good job of bringing to the Longs’ attention ways that we could create that component within the space and really honor that sustainability approach.

One of the Longs’ primary concerns with the training facility is ‘What's that player experience? How is the player interacting with the lobby, with this hallway, with the training workout equipment, with the lounge?’ Everything always goes back to the player in the view of the pitch. She looks at every space with that lens of What's the ultimate goal here and what are we trying to do? And how is the player impacted with every square inch of that space?

Is that community element weaved into the practice facility as well?

JM: From the start, one of the goals for the training center is for it to actually become the anchor of a multi-pitch development that will become a community asset. In terms of access for the community, there are certain areas outside the building that are geared towards a selfie moment, that are geared for people that look up to these athletes to come and get to get a glimpse of what their daily life is like.

On top of that, over time as the rest of the surroundings develop, ultimately there will be loads of pitches around the area where the team practices, anchored in the center with a championship pitch that will become an asset for tournaments as well as other local sports around the area.

In terms of community engagement, the practice facility is going in first, but by no means will it be the final tenant of the whole development. There will be lots of other teams coming to play on the pitches that are going to ultimately surround where the team practices.

Philosophically, what else is Generator Studio focused on?

CF: Generator moves forward. We are really trying to make all things accessible. This is an amazing project to be a part of. What we're doing with the training facility and ultimately the stadium is, it feels approachable. There's something really inspiring for a child to be able to witness and feel like they're invited to be a part of the shift culturally and really promoting women's sports, and little girls being able to look up and aspire to something versus a shared facility down the road, or a smaller weight room and training facility as opposed to male athletics. That's really important.

We're really excited to continue to be a part of that, to promote inspiration for the next generations and how they get to see these spaces come together and know that that's actually a possibility.

From that hospitality side, we have to create experiences in order to continue to have repeat customers and clients come back to us. So we are really honing in on that storytelling piece. What do these spaces say about where they're located, how do they feel authentic? What is that story from beginning to end and how does Generator plug in?

How do we bring a local community together within the space so that it feels like they have some ownership of it as well and that it wasn't just placed within the city, and they have to navigate around it?

JM: Not just as architects and designers but globally, we've all seen that customer values are changing. People want to support a brand or a team that has meaningful values at its root. As part of that and as part of the conversation about inclusivity, recognizing a more value-driven brand and creating experiences for people that are anchored and rooted in those values is becoming more and more prevalent.

We've seen it with different projects that have been recently completed all around the United States and for us, that's one of the conversations that we're going to continue to have as we work with our clients and internally on the design of our venues. How do we create an experience that people can engage with based on their interests, but also their values? Whether that is dedication to preserving what's left of our climate, or whether that's more time with their families, or you name it.

Everyone experiences and enjoys space in different ways. Recognizing that people experience space in different ways is how we get back to the idea of inclusivity. Recognizing 80 different people are going to experience things 80 different ways, and looking to support their interests and their values and the design solutions that we ultimately come up with.

About Generator Studio
Generator Studio is an architecture and interior design firm specializing in sports venue design, hospitality, and mixed-use developments.