HKS’ Lance Evans Inspires Sports Heroes with Dazzling Venues

HKS’ Lance Evans Inspires Sports Heroes with Dazzling Venues

Designing dazzling sports venues wasn’t on the mind of Lance Evans when he began his architecture career at HKS in 2004. Then he was just hoping to refine his residential design skills in a fast-paced and diverse city.

Fate soon nudged him in a different direction.

Just months into Evans’ new job at the HKS Los Angeles office, the firm landed the opportunity to design a new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys. Evans, a Texas native and die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan, begged for a spot on the design team. When he finally got his wish, he worked many late nights to balance the stadium’s work with his other HKS projects.

“It was just by chance that the firm I had decided to work at . . . was going to design the future stadium of the Dallas Cowboys,” Evans said. “And that’s where the whole trajectory of my life changed.”

Evans doesn’t need to beg to be a part of big sports projects anymore. As a Principal and Venues Design Director at HKS, he’s often asked to help lead the design of them.

His biggest project yet is Southern California’s SoFi Stadium, the National Football League’s largest and home of the Los Angeles Rams, Chargers and Super Bowl LVI. It’s also just a mile from Evans’ Westchester, California home, a rare opportunity for the sports designer — who was the lead architect on the massive project — to work on a major venue practically in his own backyard.

Turning Sports Dreams into Design Dreams

Though Evans has spent most of his adult life in California, his roots trace back to Texas. He grew up in San Antonio, both playing and watching sports. He would often gather in the backyard with his friends to recreate the greatest plays of their childhood idols: Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin of their beloved Dallas Cowboys.

He played baseball and basketball in high school, but his dreams of athletic glory were dashed when a coach told him that a professional sports career was out of his league and advised him to develop more realistic career options.

He later decided to study architecture at Texas Tech University, a decision that didn’t surprise his family. On their vacations to Galveston Island, a young Evans didn’t really care to play in the ocean. He preferred to marvel at the island’s historic homes and sketch his own houses as an early foray into the built environment.

After college, Evans was ready to continue learning how to properly put together a building. A college professor said HKS was good at that, so Evans joined the Los Angeles office of the Dallas-based firm to focus on picking up new skills that would help him design homes eventually.

But when the AT&T Stadium project came around, Evan’ career trajectory became clear : What could be more special than designing sports venues to inspire athletes who have inspired him all his life?

“What I really took from that experience was this idea was that we were trying to invent something,” Evans said. “Through the process of invention – trial and error, research-based design, connecting with team’s culture and community – we were trying to build something that’s both unique and familiar to the team and its fans. That is what enticed me to stay at HKS and pursue sports as a career path.”

This mindset of invention and innovation led to many milestones for Evans and his colleagues.

At AT&T Stadium, the design team revolutionized the fan experience with a massive Mitsubishi screen that at the time was the largest LED videoboard in the world. Nearly 1,000 miles to the north, the Minnesota Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium built on the successes of AT&T Stadium for an unrivaled, yet localized, fan experience. That HKS-designed stadium has its own large LED videoboards, and America’s first ETFE stadium roof to give fans and players the feeling of being outdoors without having to be directly exposed to the area’s brutal climate.

The AT&T Stadium and U.S. Bank Stadium projects, along with Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, eventually teed up Evans and his HKS colleagues for their next big NFL project – SoFi Stadium — and when that opportunity came around, it only made sense to, once again, do something that had never been done before.

HKS’ Lance Evans and Michael Rogers at the opening of U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016.

Inspiring His Sports Heroes

Evans had worked his way up to becoming a leader within the HKS Sports practice when Mark Williams, now the Global Director of Venues at HKS, called him one day in 2014 and asked what he thought of HKS vying for the Los Angeles Rams’ new stadium in Inglewood. Evans was instantly fired up about the project.

“Designing sports facilities around the globe, not often do you get to design one in your backyard,” Evans said. “I live a mile or so from SoFi (Stadium), so this opportunity was jumping off of the page. I was screaming for the chance to be involved in this project from its early days.”

Rams Owner/Chairman E. Stanley Kroenke wanted the new stadium to accomplish two main tasks:  create an entertainment destination in the entertainment capital of the world and feature architecture embodying the spirit of southern California.

“Our design team took this to heart, and it led every decision on this building,” Evans said. “This was a chance to build an entertainment destination in the entertainment capital of the world. It was about authenticity and how you can capture the essence of a community in the ultimate fan experience.”

The result: a 298-acre sports and entertainment destination at Inglewood’s Hollywood Park that capitalizes on the Los Angeles area’s highly coveted climate and relaxed lifestyle, while also taking seismic challenges into consideration. As the project’s centerpiece, SoFi Stadium treats visitors to natural light, Pacific Ocean breezes, and landscaping inspired by Southern California’s topography as the NFL’s first indoor-outdoor stadium.

Lance Evans, his wife, and their daughter live just a few miles from SoFi Stadium

“The idea of authenticity really drives our architectural expressions, and that’s why the stadiums we designed for Indianapolis, Dallas, Minnesota, and now Los Angeles, all have a unique identity,” Evans said. “They are all representative of the place in which we built them and designed them, and the communities and teams that we designed them for.”

Chris Meany, who was part of Hollywood Park’s development team, said he was impressed with Evans’ work ethic from the start of the design process because of his ability to collaborate with a large team to balance multiple structures under tight schedules. And Evans managed to do this while maintaining his reputation as an “affable guy” with a passion for architecture, Meany said.

Evans and the HKS team took time early in the process to dig into the concept of “embedded places,” spaces that are quintessentially part of Los Angeles, to fuel the design process and inspiration for Hollywood Park’s new stadium. That approach, Meany said, resonated with the development team and the Rams.

“The process needs passion, and it needs the pressure of multiple people arguing with you. You need to have real debate, out of which emerge better ideas,” Meany said. “What Lance brings to the table is, and in a nice way because he’s a nice guy, a willingness to fight for what he believes is important in the design and out of that comes a better building.”

But SoFi’s unveiling was different than those of other Evans’ projects.  Because of COVID-19, the Rams and Chargers experienced their first games in the stunning stadium without fans.

Watching the team walk into an empty stadium did, however, allow the design team a rare look at their clients’ reactions to their new home. Evans describes it as a surreal experience, viewing the players’ walk on to the field with a sense of awe and wonder at the sight of palm trees, the translucent roof, and a massive Infinity Screen.

“Seeing your heroes be inspired is so rewarding,” Evans said. “When the players you look up to get inspired by something you contributed to, that’s the most rewarding thing.”

But Evans hasn’t just limited his observations of reactions to the stadiums to players. Since SoFi Stadium opened, he often tries to snag a window seat whenever he takes nighttime flights into or out of Los Angeles International Airport. That way, he can catch a birds-eye view of the glimmering stadium and the LED screen on top of it that makes the roof a giant TV screen.

Seeing fellow passengers react to whatever is playing on the screen – a playoff game, a Hollywood movie promo, celebratory messages related to Southern California – always brings Evans a touch of joy.

“The screen has become this great postcard to Los Angeles, where memorable things happen,” Evans said. “It’s become this wonderful message board for the community – something I wasn’t expecting.”

And Evans also may not have expected the stadium to gain as much attention as it has, even before the Super Bowl. Nearly a year and a half after the stadium opened, the Rams stood on the field to celebrate winning the 2022 NFC Championship title after a thrilling game against the San Francisco 49ers.

“Whose house?” Kroenke, the Rams owner, shouted into the microphone as he accepted the NFC Championship trophy.

“Rams house!”, players and fans bellowed back, as blue and yellow confetti reigned throughout the energy-filled stadium.

Architectural Record Details What Makes SoFi Stadium’s Environment So Special

Inglewood Gets New Image as Super Bowl Lands at SoFi Stadium

Inglewood Gets New Image as Super Bowl Lands at SoFi Stadium

In his 1995 classic, California Love, Tupac Shakur briefly described the city of Inglewood as “always up to no good.”

But the late rap legend likely wouldn’t recognize the Inglewood of today. Gone is the stigma of a city routinely avoided and oft-maligned — sometimes erroneously — for high crime, poverty and unemployment. Instead, steadily falling crime rates, trendy new housing opportunities and a sparkling global entertainment hub at Hollywood Park are quickly turning Inglewood into the place to see and be seen.  

On February 13 the crown jewel of that entertainment complex and Inglewood’s resurgence, HKS-designed SoFi Stadium, will be on display to the world when the stadium hosts Super Bowl LVI.

“We had a brand of a city that nobody wanted to come to. When asked where they lived, people who lived in Inglewood would say, ‘I live next to Westchester, or south of Culver City,’” Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. said in an interview. “And now when you ask them where they live, they say, ‘I live in Inglewood, California.’”

The climb back to being one of California’s leading communities has been a long one. Incorporated in 1908, Inglewood was America’s fastest growing city from 1920 to 1925, when it became the Chinchilla capital of the world. Decades later, the city gained prominence when The Forum was built there in the 1960s to house the Los Angeles Lakers and later, the Los Angeles Kings.

The Great Western Forum in Inglewood, 1989. (Credit: Rick Stewart/ALLSPORT)

But during the late 1970s, 80s and 90s, the city fell on lean times as crime and unemployment spiked to worrisome levels, putting a serious dent in the city’s image. The challenges mounted after the Forum closed in 1999 when the Lakers and Kings bolted for the Staples Center (now Arena) in downtown Los Angeles. The loss of revenue was devastating to Inglewood and the closure of 75-year-old Hollywood Racetrack in 2012 didn’t help.

But in his 2020 State of the City address — delivered from inside SoFi Stadium — Butts noted that overall crime in the city dropped by 73 percent from 1978 to 2019. The city’s alarming unemployment rate also began to fall, he said.

Much of that decline was aided by Los Angeles Rams owner/chairman, E. Stanley Kroenke’s decision to build SoFi Stadium at the site of the former racetrack to serve as the home of both the Rams and Chargers. More than 1,200 Inglewood residents worked on the project, Butts said, with more than $19 million paid to people who worked in the city. 

‘SoFi Stadium is Beautiful’

The stadium itself — the largest in the National Football League at 3.1 million square feet — was designed by HKS as the world’s first true indoor-outdoor arena to take advantage of the soothing Pacific Ocean breezes and showcase the diverse Southern California environment.

The Inglewood mayor described his first visit to SoFi Stadium as “the metaphorical equivalent of walking into the inside of a video game” with its Infinity Screen by Samsung dual-sided video board that immerses fans into the action on the field, and ocean breezes that ventilate the indoor-outdoor space.

“It was not real,” he said. “It’s the most magnificent stadium in the world, and it’s in the city that’s working on becoming the most magnificent city in the world.”

SoFi Stadium puts Inglewood on the map as the home of the largest stadium in the National Football League at 3.1 million square feet.

In addition to the 70,000-seat stadium, which opened in 2020, the Hollywood Park mixed-used development also includes the 6,000-seat YouTube Theater; the 2.5-acre American Airlines Plaza; a 6-acre lake; 25 acres of public space; as well as retail, residential and office space.

And in addition to Super Bowl LVI, SoFi Stadium will be the site of the 2023 College Football Playoff Championship Game and the Opening Ceremonies of the 2028 Summer Olympics.

“SoFi Stadium is beautiful,” said Terry Dulan, owner of Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, a Los Angeles-area institution with three locations, including one in Inglewood. “What SoFi (Stadium) has done is help reignite this whole area with beautiful architecture, and I love the space.”

So does fellow Inglewood business owner, Jasmine Summer Ohtman, co-owner of Orleans & York sandwich shop. Ohtman said that Orleans & York is the only local business with space inside SoFi Stadium, which Ohtman says gives her goose bumps whenever she’s there, even when it’s empty.

“It’s definitely driving in new business and new customers,” Ohtman said of the stadium’s impact on Inglewood. “Imagine having a stadium that’s the most talked about stadium in the world in your back yard. It’s amazing.”

Antoinette Davis of Inglewood has a dual interest in SoFi Stadium. Not only has she been a resident of the city for 26 years, but she also works at the stadium.

“Before, Inglewood would be a place that a lot of people would be scared to come to because when you heard the name Inglewood, you thought it was the hood,” Davis said. “When SoFi (Stadium) started, new businesses started opening up, high-rise buildings are being built. Once SoFi (Stadium) came, everything completely changed. Now everyone is trying to get into Inglewood.”

Left: Terry Dulan, Owner of Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen; Right: Jasmine Summer, Co-owner Orleans & York Deli

‘We’re Different Now’

Butts was born and raised a mile from Inglewood. He moved to the city in 1972 and was a longtime member of the police department, serving as deputy police chief at one point.

Despite being the home of the Lakers and Kings, and hosting patrons of the Airport Park Hotel and a racetrack that attracted thousands of people weekly, the mayor said Inglewood wasn’t historically considered a destination city. It was an entertainment city that people drove to and left immediately after an event.

“We’re different now,” he said.

Football fans attending games at SoFi Stadium tend to arrive early to Inglewood or leave late to avoid heavy traffic, which provides a big boost to Inglewood businesses.

Indeed, SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park are at the forefront of Inglewood’s economic and cultural renaissance. In his 2020 State of the City address — delivered from inside SoFi Stadium — Butts ticked off a litany of new developments opening or planned in the city including a $23 million senior center; a new Hilton-brand hotel; the NFL Network relocating from Culver City; and a LA Philharmonic Youth Orchestra site.

Los Angeles Chargers Owner/Chairman Dean Spanos, Los Angeles Rams Owner/Chairman Stan Kroenke and Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. attend SoFi Stadium’s ribbon-cutting event on September 8, 2020 in Inglewood, California.

A Source of Pride

In addition, the Rams and Chargers soon won’t be the only professional sports franchises to call Inglewood home. In 2024, the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers will begin play inside their new $1.8 billion Intuit Dome located only a few blocks from SoFi Stadium.

“We’re a city that believes in the concept of self-determination,” Butts said. “We’re providing employment opportunities for our residents, providing recreational and cultural opportunities for our children. The only thing that’s changing, is everything.”

Even Butts serving as mayor is a continuing sign of extraordinary change in Inglewood. A century ago the city, which is 41 percent Black, was the Southern California regional headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan and an all-white community where people of color were not allowed to purchase homes.

Now, it is an international entertainment and destination spot, with SoFi Stadium serving as the city’s unofficial welcome ambassador as millions of air passengers fly over it on their way into nearby Los Angeles International Airport. Real estate flyers for homes in surrounding cities now mention “Inglewood-adjacent” to capitalize on the added value of living near the area’s newest entertainment venues.

“Ultimately for the fans and the surrounding area, it’s a source of pride to have one of the nicest stadiums in the world,” said Dulan, a Rams season-ticket holder and lifelong Los Angeles-area resident, “It’s going to uplift the entire area with the amount revenue it’s going to bring, it’s going to improve the tax base. It’s very good for Inglewood. It’s a boon.”

Seven Surprising Things about SoFi Stadium’s Design

Seven Surprising Things about SoFi Stadium’s Design

As the National Football League’s newest and largest venue, much has been said and written about HKS-designed SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. The picturesque home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers is an entertainment and destination spot that will ultimately attract millions. But there are several captivating aspects of the amazing stadium that many fans — including those who attend Super Bowl LVI — might never know about. Here are just a few:

The stadium’s roof doesn’t touch its walls.

It’s completely free-standing, hovering above, around and over the massive venue. It’s held up by 37 massive earthquake-resistant columns. The roof is open on three sides, which allows for a fantastic ocean breeze to flow through the seating bowl.

The videoboard’s weight holds the roof down in high winds.

Fans love the NFL’s only 4k, 70,000 square foot, double-sided videoboard, called The Infinity Screen by Samsung. Suspended 120’ above the playing field, it weighs 2.2 million pounds. It’s heavy, and that’s important because SoFi Stadium’s enormous roof can act as a wind sail in a major storm. That’s when the videoboard’s weight comes into play, anchoring the roof.

A giant, “seismic moat” up to 12’ wide and 100’ deep encircles the stadium to keep it safe during earthquakes.

If there’s a temblor, the roof and stadium move completely independently from one another, separated by the massive moat. If you’re in the canyons and notice a giant paneled door on the north or south side? You’re likely looking at the details around that joint. 

Who sees the games that are projected onto the top of the stadium’s roof?

The 80 million annual passengers who travel through LAX, which is 3.8 miles away. SoFi Stadium is directly in the LAX flight path. That’s why…

The field is 100’ below ground

To keep the structure’s overall height below FAA flight-restricted areas, crews had to dig deep to accommodate the massive, vertical seating bowl for the 70,240 fans who attend events at SoFi Stadium.

Standing on the field, the quarterback can look to his side, through the seating bowl, and see palm trees.

How’s that possible if he’s standing 100’ below ground? There are two landscaped canyons carved down into the east and west sides of the stadium, which bring natural light (and native plants!) down to the lowest public levels of the stadium.

It’s not just a stadium.

In fact, the 6,000-seat YouTube Theater and 2.5-acre American Airlines Plaza are also under that one massive, swooping roof, which also protects the NFL’s largest stadium.

Inside SoFi Stadium’s Innovative Design

View Transcript

Inside SoFi Stadium’s Innovative Design

Unlike any stadium anywhere, SoFi Stadium reflects the finest aspects of life in Southern California with a true indoor-outdoor experience and boundary-pushing design.

“Our mission was to create the best version of an outdoor stadium that we could.” – Lance Evans, RA, HKS Principal

“Our mission was to create the best version of an outdoor stadium that we could.”

Part of the 300-acre Hollywood Park mixed-use development in Inglewood, CA, SoFi Stadium is the NFL’s largest at 3.1 million square feet. Designed by HKS, the stadium combines Southern California’s indoor/outdoor lifestyle with state-of-the-art sports and entertainment architecture.

Open-Air and Below Ground

SoFi Stadium sits directly in the flight path of Los Angeles International Airport, located just three miles away. Designers placed the stadium 100 feet below ground to adhere to strict Federal Aviation Administration height restrictions. It also provides airline passengers with a breathtaking view as they approach landing.

What The Fans See

Open concourses and landscaped canyons draw visitors into the stadium, which has approximately 70,000 fixed seats and can expand to accommodate up to 100,000 guests with removable seating. The stadium’s club spaces, suites and concourse areas that extend as far down as the field provide a diverse array of opportunities for fans to engage with the NFL experience, whether first-time visitor or season-ticket holder.

An open-air design capitalizes on Southern California’s mild climate, allowing visitors to feel as if they are inside and outside at once. The design encourages wind flow, provides relief from direct sun and protection from rain while maintaining connection to the sky and surrounding nature. Whether they’re walking through the wide concourses or catching the action from their seats, people who visit SoFi Stadium enjoy cooling ocean winds that make attending events in the LA heat feel like a breeze.

Infinity Screen by Samsung

The first dual-sided 4K LED display system, the Infinity Screen by Samsung is the largest in sports, suspended above the playing field and visible from every seat. The largest video board in sports, the Samsung Infinity Screen is 70,000 square feet, displays 80 million pixels and weighs 2.2 million pounds.

“I believe SoFi Stadium is the best stadium in the world. Architecturally, it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever been in.”

“I believe SoFi Stadium is the best stadium in the world. Architecturally, it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever been in.” – Lebron James

“There is no comparison. SoFi [Stadium] is above and beyond what anyone could imagine.” – Mike Pugrad, Los Angeles Rams Fan

“For the fans and surrounding area, it’s a source of pride.” – Terry Dulan, Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, Inglewood, CA

“Not one bad seat, just really well-designed stadium.” – Bee Maeda, Los Angeles Rams Fan

A Structural Marvel

The building’s monumental exterior shell and roof structure has a distinct form reminiscent of Pacific coastal waves that wash ashore just over five miles away. The stadium’s porous canopy is comprised of more than 35,000 anodized aluminum panels, with each panel conforming to the geometry in a way that no two are the same.

HKS’ Laboratory for INtensive Exploration (LINE) developed a custom computational tool that could handle the panels’ complex geometry and generate a massive digital model. The City of Inglewood accepted a stamped and sealed digital Model of Record in lieu of paper drawings, establishing the first instance in the United States of a Model of Record being allowed for permitting an architectural project. This process ensured construction accuracy and helped the project come in under budget and ahead of schedule.

“Delivering a digital model allowed us to achieve exactly what we wanted from a design perspective rather than trying to explain that in two dimensional drawings that would be re-interpreted.” – Heath May, AIA, HKS Principal

“Delivering a digital model allowed us to achieve exactly what we wanted from a design perspective rather than trying to explain that in two dimensional drawings that would be re-interpreted.”

Three Venues Under One Roof

Three interconnected venues — all housed under the massive roof — can host simultaneous events that don’t disrupt one another. A concert at YouTube Theater, a Rams or Chargers game at SoFi Stadium and a watch party at American Airlines Plaza can occur at the same time, making Hollywood Park an integrated entertainment destination.

SoFi Stadium

SoFi Stadium does not have exterior walls. Instead, the long-span cable roof structure anchors to the ground in four locations. The roof, bowl and concourses were sculpted to evoke an outdoor venue while providing the flexibility of a traditional domed stadium.

American Airlines Plaza

The roof canopy covers American Airlines Plaza, a 3-acre multipurpose outdoor event space. Visitors can gather for events free from obstructed views while the ocean breeze circulates to keep them comfortable.

YouTube Theater

YouTube Theater is Hollywood Park’s only fully enclosed indoor space. The theater brings world-class performance design and entertainment technology together in an intimate venue.

Seismic Safety

The entire building is engineered to withstand seismic events. The roof is detached from other components, meaning the stadium bowl, Youtube Theater and American Airlines Plaza can independently move in response to shifts in the Inglewood seismic fault line.


Made of single layer ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), the fritted roof is comprised of more than 300 panels. 46 of the 300 panels can be opened to take advantage of prevailing winds without the need for air conditioning. ETFE reduces solar heat gain and allows natural light to flood into the stadium and nearby plaza.

ETFE was also used on HKS-designed U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis

A Bird’s-Eye View

An LED system embedded in the ETFE panels projects video without sacrificing transparency inside the stadium. Live feeds can be seen from the air by passengers traveling in and out of LAX.

“We want the first-time fan that comes to SoFi Stadium to be blown away by what they see, hear, and experience. Hopefully we’ve created something that will become one of the next storied elements of Southern California.” – Lance Evans, RA, HKS Principal

“We want the first-time fan that comes to SoFi Stadium to be blown away by what they see, hear, and experience. Hopefully we’ve created something that will become one of the next storied elements of Southern California.”

A New Community and Entertainment Destination

Within a few hours’ drive of Inglewood, Californians can visit the beach, the mountains, and the densest metropolitan area in the United States. Inspired by the unique local climate and geography, Hollywood Park features climate-adaptive landscape architecture, including a 6-acre lake and network of green spaces.

SoFi Stadium: An Ecosystem Fit for a Super Bowl Ring

With 25 acres of open public space and year-round events, SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park will boost overall tourism revenue for the City of Inglewood and the Los Angeles area. Beyond Super Bowl LVI, events slated for the venue include the College Football Championship Game in 2023, and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic Games in 2028. As the world’s first true indoor/outdoor stadium — where visitors are immersed in the Southern California lifestyle — SoFi Stadium is the ultimate entertainment destination in the greater Los Angeles area.

HKS Design Team:

Mark A. Williams, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C (Principal in Charge), Kevin Taylor, AIA, LEED AP BD+C (Principal Project Manager), Jay Caddell, AIA, LEED AP (Project Manager), Lance Evans, RA (Design Principal), Greg Walston (Lead Project Coordinator), Chad Scheckel, AIA (Senior Construction Administrator), Mike Rogers, AIA (Senior Designer), Anice Stephens, AIA (Senior Project Architect), Bryan Mounger, AIA, LEED AP (Senior Project Architect), Michelle Stevenson, RA, LEED AP BD+C (Senior Project Architect), Niel Prunier, AIA (Senior Project Architect), Morgan Newman, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, RID (Project Architect), Manzer Mirkar, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP (Project Architect), LaKendra Clark (Job Captain), Mark Timm, IIDA, RID (Senior Interior Design Project Manager), Katy Cagle, IIDA, LEED AP (Interior Designer), Amanda Trimble, IIDA, ASID, RID (Interior Designer), James Warton (Senior Computational Designer), Sean Huynh (Construction Administrator), Steve Bayne, AIA (Senior Construction Administrator), Scott Hunter, FAIA, LEED AP (Principal Project Director), Heath May, AIA (Senior Designer)

SoFi Stadium: An Ecosystem Fit for a Super Bowl Ring

SoFi Stadium: An Ecosystem Fit for a Super Bowl Ring

When football fans make way to their seats at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, they behold things never before seen at a sports venue. At once, they have views of an expansive playing field; The Infinity Screen by Samsung, a 360-degree dual-sided video board; and a massive, semi-transparent roof with LED lights.

But they can also look through open air concourses and see a diverse Southern Californian landscape — a newly designed local ecosystem that preserves and restores natural resources.

Open to fans and visitors this year, the Hollywood Park mixed-use development comprises the 70,000-seat SoFi Stadium, the 6,000-seat YouTube Theater and American Airlines Plaza. Situated on the former grounds of Hollywood Park Racetrack, the development also includes a vast network of green space and a six-acre lake.

HKS Principal Lance Evans said that in 2014, Los Angeles Rams Owner/Chairman E. Stanley Kroenke asked HKS to create a “uniquely Angelino” destination. That edict quickly became a guiding light for the design team as they set out to honor Southern California’s unique qualities and create a one-of-a kind place for public enjoyment and environmental well-being.

The 300-acre master plan harkens back to the historic racetrack — which closed nearly two decades ago — drawing inspiration from the small lakes and fields previously encircled by the track where people picnicked and gathered for 75 years. HKS, in collaboration with landscape architecture firm Studio-MLA transformed the site by re-introducing open landscaping and water to create an inviting place for area residents and visiting fans.

“From day one, we took hold of this idea that we’re building for something bigger than NFL Sunday. We’re building for a community and for Southern California,” said Evans, who served as lead designer of the stadium, which will host Superbowl LVI in February.

A Complex Site Yields an Innovative Design

The Hollywood Park site presented a range of site conditions that required complex design solutions. Due to its proximity to Los Angeles International Airport, the stadium needed to adhere to a strict height limitation, resulting in a semi-subterranean building design.

But while the idea to place a large portion of the seating bowl 100 feet below grade solved one problem, it presented new challenges for the design team: How could they create a welcoming experience without having visitors feel as if they were going underground? And how could their design achieve an authentic indoor/outdoor environment connected to the natural world?

The solution was all around them in the unique architecture and geography of Southern California. Designers researched Los Angeles area landmarks that also had challenging sites like the Getty Center and the Hollywood Bowl and crafted a new vision for what a civic entertainment destination could be. Evans and fellow HKS Principal, Mike Rogers call the stadium, with its recessed seating bowl and wave-inspired roof, an “embedded object” that creates harmony between the natural and built environments.

“Through this notion of an embedded object, the stadium takes on a really beautiful relationship with the site,” said Rogers.

The team also studied cliffside architecture and ocean access points throughout the region. Inspired by the naturally occurring formations and design solutions they saw, they devised a series of terraced, landscaped canyons that lead visitors down into the stadium’s seating bowl — a walk that takes them on a tour of local flora and fauna.

Paying Homage to SoCal’s Climate

A microcosm of Southern California’s geography and climate, every aspect of the development’s landscape design delivers on the project’s “uniquely Angelino” promise.

“Within a two-hour radius of Los Angeles, there is access to a variety of plant and wildlife, from the Desert of Joshua Tree to the Montane of Big Bear,” Evans said. “We decided to make the landscape strategy around SoFi Stadium an educational journey.”

Architecture and the surrounding landscape were designed completely in conjunction, according to Evans and Kush Parekh, the project’s lead landscape architect. The stadium’s passive ventilation and daylighting strategies — both defining features of its indoor/outdoor atmosphere — capitalize on the sun’s position and ocean winds throughout the day, resulting in a series of small microclimates on the site that informed landscape planning.

“Our idea was to take this transect of Southern California, use elements and plantings from different areas and apply them to sides of the stadium based on those microclimates. We explored and celebrated California’s unique geography and created smaller ecological areas,” said Parekh, an Associate Principal at Studio-MLA, the renowned firm led by Mia Lehrer that’s been involved with various landscape projects at Hollywood Park.

Featuring plants from the Mediterranean biome, which exists in several regions around the world (including Southern California) that share similar climates, the landscape palette is diverse and carefully planned to contribute to a functional, healthy ecosystem.

The landscape design spreads out like a pinwheel from the stadium, giving each side a unique personality with one of five different plant communities found in Southern California that all fall under the umbrella of the Mediterranean biome. Montane evergreen trees and dark foliage populate the East Canyon while the West Canyon, which is closer to the ocean, emulates Chaparral coastal bluffs. Desert elements can be seen on the stadium’s north side, and the lake park is surrounded with sycamore trees and tall grasses characteristic of Riparian ecosystems. Throughout the entire site, climate-responsive plants from other Mediterranean biome regions will sustain the local ecosystem even in the face of harsh environmental changes predicted for the future.

A new take on an environmental education center, the landscape surrounding SoFi Stadium also includes informational signs about the biomes and plants, encouraging visitors and residents to learn about local climates and even take steps toward environmental action in their own backyards.

“The goal is absolutely that people will come to the site, know more about where they are and what they can do to make our world better,” Parekh said. “Even if it’s just a little bit of knowledge, people take that when they leave.”

Rounding out the new ecosystem, the landscape palette generates wildlife habitats that the area hasn’t seen in nearly 20 years. As soon as planting started on the site three years ago — far before construction on the stadium was completed — birds and insects returned.

“Along with the landscape flourishing, we’ve seen a lot of the wildlife starting to come back in and an ecosystem start to actualize,” said Evans, who recently saw butterflies below grade in the stadium’s club level. “You notice the energy and the life,” he said.

A “Water Wise” Strategy

While SoFi Stadium’s award-winning design and its landscaped canyons may appear to some as the focal point of the development, designers say Lake Park is the project’s true heart. With its lushly planted walking trails and gathering spots, the lake and its park provide an enriching and beautiful environment for visitors, regardless of whether they attend a game or concert.

Driven by their on-going work on Southern California water conservation projects and advocacy, Studio-MLA designed the lake and landscape surrounding SoFi Stadium to tackle one of the region’s most complex climate challenges: water scarcity.

Parekh explained that because droughts and fires are common in California, water is one of the state’s most precious resources. The success of the design, which includes more than 5,000 trees and native plantings, hinges on responsible water use. Incorporating as many performative landscape elements as possible and saving and re-using water were key design drivers, Parekh said.

Though the LA area experiences significant rainfall somewhat infrequently, designers incorporated multifaced stormwater capture strategies to capitalize on every possible opportunity to keep naturally occurring water on site. The lake, as well as bioswales, storm drains and rolling arroyos all collect rainwater that gets filtered by wetland vegetation and soil so it can be used to irrigate the rest of the landscape. The stadium’s 28-acre roof and subterranean cisterns also collect and store rainwater, leveraging the architecture as a tool for environmental health. Approximately 75% of stormwater that reaches the site is retained there for irrigation, according to the designers.

“We had a very water-wise strategy,” Evans said. “With every decision we made, we took into account how we could be responsible stewards of water with an appropriate level of planting that will allow for the site to thrive and not be a burden on our environment. It will be something that actually heals and helps.”

To ensure water would be high enough quality to maintain healthy ecological conditions regardless of the season, Parekh said the team devised a custom filtration system that allows reclaimed water from a nearby water recycling plant to be used as lake infill. Before construction began, the team set-up a “water laboratory” on site for six months to test out different methods and chemistries, resulting in a filtration process that could support a thriving ecosystem over time.

“This system is the first of its kind. It hasn’t been done before on a scale like this,” Parekh said.

The water-wise strategy and filtration system are working. Now, an estimated 26 million gallons of water per year — 100% of all irrigation water used on site — is reclaimed. The landscape flourishes without taking away precious potable water from area residents and those who visit and work at the entertainment venues.

“In the next 20 years, we feel that water is going to become one of the scarcest resources on the planet, so we really need to think smartly about how we use and conserve our water for our future,” Parekh said.

An Example for the Future

With an eye toward upcoming high-profile events at SoFi Stadium, including the 2028 Olympics, plans for Inglewood and the land surrounding Hollywood Park include new commercial and mixed-use properties as well as connections to the region’s public transit system. As those projects come to fruition, the design team hopes that the landscape will influence future designers and developers working in the area.

“It’s not just a stadium and a parking lot. This landscape is intended to promote education,” Rogers said. “As the site develops and becomes denser, hopefully this landscape strategy can be applied to retail establishments, offices, and hotels.”

Parcels of land near the stadium, currently used for temporary parking, will likely be developed at some point. To help ensure future projects at those sites contribute to environmental health and maintain the rich landscape, Parekh and his team designed a series of tree boxes with planting palettes that sit on the parcels today.

“As these lots are highlighted to get developed, each of them has a series of trees maturing over time already in place that developers will get as part of the land and that they can implement within the landscape,” Parekh said, adding that each box’s plantings correspond with the plant community on its respective side of the stadium, which he hopes inspires other designers to incorporate them in their own way.

Symbolizing Design Excellence

Hollywood Park highlights how stunning architecture, environmental sustainability and high performance can coexist in one special place. Though the project implements strategies outlined in every one of AIA’s 10 Measures for Design Excellence — the industry-leading sustainable design framework — the most surprising, perhaps, is “Design for Ecosystems.” The project’s environmentally sensitive design is a rarity for large sports and entertainment venues, which are often surrounded solely by parking lots and secluded from the natural world.

In addition to employing Design for Ecosystems’ best practices that promote resource conservation and environmental regeneration, the project’s architecture and construction also reduce ecological impact. Almost all dirt from the stadium excavation was re-used on site, decreasing the need for trucked-in soil and reducing the project’s carbon footprint.

The stadium’s open-air, partially subterranean design is free of tall vertical enclosures and limits the need for loud and energy-intensive mechanical systems, which reduces the building’s potential to disturb regional wildlife and migrating birds. All lighting on site also adheres to Federal Aviation Administration guidelines that accommodate planes flying into LAX and in turn, cuts back on light pollution, especially on non-game days.

Evans says the HKS sports practice is committed to an integrated, sustainable design approach and that SoFi Stadium is the continuation of an exciting journey he and his colleagues have undertaken to transform stadium design.

“We see ecologies playing a large role in this venue type in the future. We’re trying to evolve stadiums into destinations that provide something memorable for everyone — places that are not burdens to communities but enhance them and provide necessary public amenities,” he said.

Creating a ‘Tangible Connection’

To create this “uniquely Angelino” destination for today and for the future, the designers all said the inspiration comes back to the people — to Angelinos themselves.

Parekh, who believes that any conversation about ecology and the environment “must include humans and how we interact with where we live,” said that the project’s green space drove all design program decisions his team made and, “created a connected fiber that brings people from around Inglewood into Hollywood Park.”

For Evans, who lives very close by, Hollywood Park and SoFi Stadium offer new spaces that combine the best of Southern California’s unique climate and culture for all to enjoy.

“We really wanted to create a place for people to go for entertainment that also had a tangible connection to its surroundings and would strike an emotional chord and resonate for generations to come,” he said.

SoFi Stadium Wins 2021 Prix Versailles World Prize for Architecture and Design

SoFi Stadium Wins 2021 Prix Versailles World Prize for Architecture and Design

HKS-designed SoFi Stadium has won the 2021 Prix Versailles World Prize for Architecture and Design in the Sports category. The Prix Versailles, in conjunction with UNESCO, honors outstanding architecture around the world that promotes the intersection of culture, economy and social recognition through beautiful and sustainable design.
SoFi Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, is the world’s first true indoor-outdoor stadium, providing the feel of a venerable open-air stadium while providing the flexibility of a traditional domed structure. It is designed to enhance the experiences of everyone from the first-time fan to longtime season-ticket holders and at 3.1 million square feet (288,500 square meters), the 70,000-seat stadium is the largest in the National Football League. It is the centerpiece of a three-venue entertainment destination that also includes the 6,000-seat YouTube Theater and the 3-acre American Airlines Plaza, all three of which can operate independently of each other.

Anchored 100 feet below ground to comply with strict federal flight regulations due to its close proximity to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and designed to withstand seismic events, SoFi Stadium offers guests sweeping landscaped paths or “canyons” to help them navigate to their seats; constant and calming Pacific breezes; and the mammoth Samsung Infinity Videoboard, a 2-million pound, dual-sided, 4K LED scoreboard that provides real-time visuals and information to fans from any place in the venue.

The stadium’s single-layer ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) roof allows ample natural light and serves as a single canopy covering all three SoFi venues. The ETFE film features a 65% frit pattern that protects guests from direct sunlight and reduces solar gain into the venue, and an LED system embedded into the panels of the roof allows passengers flying in and out of LAX to see live stadium feeds from the air.

Lebron James Calls HKS-Designed Sofi Stadium ‘Best Stadium in the World’

How Sofi Stadium Makes a Revolutionary Design Promise: A Place for All To Play

SoFi Stadium

Case Study

SoFi Stadium An Unrivaled Sports & Entertainment Destination & Homage to Southern California

Inglewood, California, USA

The Challenge

Los Angeles Rams Owner and Chairman E. Stanley Kroenke is the visionary and driving force responsible for the design, development and financing of SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park, a 298-acre sports and entertainment destination. Designed by HKS Architects, SoFi Stadium is the centerpiece of the live-work-play development, located at the site of the former Hollywood Park Racetrack and Los Angeles Forum.

Kroenke challenged HKS to design an iconic civic gesture and revolutionary stadium destination and experience worthy of Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world.

The design team was also challenged by Federal Aviation Association (FAA) height regulations due to the stadium’s proximity to LAX just three miles away.

The Design Solution

SoFi Stadium’s architecture is informed by extensive research into Southern California’s industry, architecture, lifestyle, climate, geography, and landscape, combining to create an authentic Southern California expression and experience. The sweeping coastline and the beauty and strength of the Pacific Ocean contribute to the clean and dramatic curves of the stadium’s unmistakable architecture that reflects the region’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle. The stadium’s translucent roof, seating bowl, concourses and landscape were sculpted and designed to create the feel of an outdoor venue while providing the flexibility of a traditional domed stadium.

The FAA’s height restrictions, one of the project’s initial design challenges, became one of the most prominent features within the overall project: the seating bowl sits 100-feet below the existing grade – about two to three times the depth of other similar multiuse venues. To create a memorable procession experience for patrons navigating their way down to their seats and concourses, HKS demurred from the typical series of elevators, escalators, stairs and ramps, and created an indoor/outdoor meandering series of paths that guide fans through visually rich landscaped environments replete with amenities along the way.

The open-air SoFi Stadium is the first indoor-outdoor stadium to be constructed and the NFL’s largest at 3.1 million square feet (288,500 square meters). Situated under one monumental roof canopy, three state-of-the-art venues – the 70,000-seat SoFi Stadium, the 2.5-acre covered outdoor American Airlines Plaza and a 6,000-seat performance venue – can simultaneously host different events.

The stadium’s single layer ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) roof provides a guarantee, rain or shine, for the multitude of events hosted by SoFi, all while maintaining connectivity to the outdoors and flooding the venue with natural light. The ETFE film features a 65% frit pattern that shelters guests from direct sun and reduces solar gain into the venue. The roof also features a series of operable panels distributed around the perimeter of the ETFE that can open and close, depending on the climatic conditions to promote airflow in the stadium and a comfortable environment for fans.

The Design Impact

When conceptualizing an unparalleled experience in a thriving metropolis like Los Angeles, HKS considered its impact on the region, well beyond sports and entertainment events. Local residents and visitors alike enrich L.A., one of the world’s most diverse cities, representing myriad and colorful heritages and cultures steeped in art, food, entertainment and social experiences. SoFi Stadium pays homage to Los Angeles in every sense.

With more than 12 different club spaces and 7 suite experiences, SoFi Stadium’s diverse spaces were designed to cater to a variety of user preferences. Guests can enjoy a cocktail with panoramic views of downtown or hang out in an immersive football experience right behind the players – it’s the closest any fan can get to the action in an NFL venue.

Just like SoFi’s architecture, you can’t turn a corner in the venue without discovering something new and exciting, yet in a familiar and quintessentially relaxed Southern California environment.

Virtual Tour

Project Features


Mark A Williams


Case Studies


News, Announcements and Events


Lance Evans


Case Studies

News, Announcements and Events