Populous designing desert stadium for Didier Drogba's Phoenix Rising football franchise

Phoenix Rising fans deserve a state-of-the-art MLS stadium, and we couldn’t be more excited to create that environment
– Scott Capstack, Populous principal

Sports architecture firm Populous will design a 365-day stadium for Didier Drogba’s US football franchise Phoneix Rising FC, which has ambitions of joining Major League Soccer (MLS).

Local design firm Gould Evans will collaborate on the project, which the club has described as “a world-class venue that serves fans and the broader Phoenix community as a full-scale entertainment destination”.

Phoenix Rising FC is co-owned by former Chelsea and Ivory Coast striker Drogba, who also plays for the team.

Gould Evan is optimistic the ground will be ready to open in time for the 2021 MLS season and prove a key selling point in its expansion goals.

Stadium proposals had been submitted from six other design firms, with the Populous and Gould Evans bid chosen from a shortlist of three. Global architecture and engineering giant Arup and Phoneix firm Mortenson Construction advised on the final decision.

Little has been revealed about the winning design, but the club said it was swayed by its innovative response to Phoenix’s challenging climate, with the stadium to be located in the Sonoran Desert.

“Part of designing the optimal desert soccer experience includes employing heat mitigation tactics through a carefully choreographed strategy,” said Krista Shepherd, principal for Gould Evans, who revealed that tactical shading and natural ventilation are important components of the design.

“As Phoenicians, we're calibrated to living with the sun, and we know what is needed to make comfortable outdoor places.”

Brett Johnson, co-chair of Phoenix Rising FC, said: “It was important for us to make sure the selected firm really understood our needs.

"We need to build a stadium that will be comfortable for both the fans and players, so it was crucial that the winning architectural design team understood the challenges and opportunities associated with the Sonoran Desert.

“We conducted months of analysis with multiple organisations to ensure we were picking the ideal companies for the job and we could not be more excited or confident in this partnership. This announcement represents another milestone in Phoenix Rising’s ‘Rising is Ready for MLS’ campaign.”

Populous have designed US stadiums including the Orlando City SC Downtown Stadium, the BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston and Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City. The firm is currently working on the stadium for David Beckham’s new MLS Miami franchise, which officially launched this week.

“Phoenix Rising fans deserve a state-of-the-art MLS stadium, and we couldn’t be more excited to create that environment,” said Scott Capstack, principal at Populous. “We'll bring the best of our global soccer design experience to this wonderfully exciting project.”

Established in 2016, the club is one of 12 applying for a spot in MLS’ expansion – it currently plays in the United Soccer League. Kona Grill CEO Berke Bakay and a collection of business leaders and international celebrities also own stakes in the franchise.

Populous  Phoenix Rising FC  Didier Drogba  Gould Evans  Major League Soccer  Sonoran Desert 
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Sports architecture firm Populous will design a 365-day stadium for Didier Drogba’s US football franchise Phoneix Rising FC, which has ambitions of joining Major League Soccer (MLS). Local design firm Gould Evans will collaborate on the project, which the club has described as “a world-class venue that serves fans and the broader Phoenix community as a full-scale entertainment destination”. Phoenix Rising FC is co-owned by former Chelsea and Ivory Coast
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Phoenix Rising FC, co-owned by Didier Drogba (second from left), hopes its new stadium will help it win a place in the MLS / Phoenix Rising FC
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