Burns & Mac Hire ups the Ante for Sports Design-Build



Burns & McDonnell made a splash recently with the hiring of Jeff Sittner, a former HOK designer.  Sittner, a veteran designer in Kansas City, has worked on sports arenas and stadiums in the United States and around the world. The firm said it made the hire to develop the sports design-build side of their team.  

Sittner says he made the move because some colleagues had made the same choice to join the firm, and he saw the path that Burns & McDonnell has taken “to up the ante with the design side,” adding, “The design-build aspects are exciting and a game-changer.”

Sittner’s first job will also be to keep up with the saturated market of experienced design-build firms in Kansas City, especially in the sports architecture niche. Well-known names like Populous, MANICAHNTB , and Sittner’s old stomping grounds, HOK, will provide stiff competition for a budding division. “I think it goes back to expanding that integrated design-build and bringing it to sports, that gives us the ability to step into the market.  There are some very talented firms in Kansas City and going head-to-head on design only is always going to be tough. I think this process allows us to come in at it with a solution from a different angle.”


You may not know his name, but you’ve likely used a stadium seat Sittner had a hand in designing. Sittner worked on Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and MetLife stadium in New York.  He says his proudest achievement is still the addition of a soccer stadium in Basrah, Iraq.  “It allowed us to be designers, get engaged with a contractor in the community in a part of the world that needed a boost, if you will.”

But the project that Kansas Citians may want to pay attention to the most is his work with Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. The stadium was built in the ‘80s, so it definitely needed a face-lift. Building a new stadium, however, isn’t always an option. So Sittner, with a previous firm, went in and transformed everything from the seating bowl to upping the fan-engagement experience for everyone from general ticket holder to suite owner. It took three off-seasons to make it happen, but the results were impressive—it’s the host for the 2020 Superbowl.  

Arrowhead Stadium was built in 1972 and renovated in 2010 but still leaves a lot to be desired for many fans. Using Arrowhead as a hypothetical, Sittner said that “our goal is to go into some place like Arrowhead and analyze ‘what are the fans asking for?’ and find a way to give them that. It might be a part of the seating bowl that isn’t gaining the value that it probably can, so how do you change a seating area into more of a social aspect is something we are going to try and do. Right now, the things that are changing are the way that friends and family go to a game and the info they expect to be with them when they’re at their seat,” says Sittner. “Even beyond sports, the way people are shopping, choosing entertainment, is so much more complex, so much more based on personal devices. That’s going to continue to evolve, I think stadiums are going to have to keep up.”

Sittner’s first job will also be to keep up with the saturated market of experienced design-build firms in Kansas City, especially in the sports architecture niche. “I think it goes back to expanding that integrated design-build and bringing it to sports, that gives us the ability to step into the market.  There are some very talented firms in Kansas City and going head-to-head on design only is always going to be tough. I think this process allows us to come in at it with a solution from a different angle.”