INTUIT-ION: Scott Sayers, specializing in NBA arena design, including the Intuit Dome, shown here during construction in June, is now employed with Gensler after leaving AECOM, the Los Angeles Clippers’ project architect. (AP Photo)

Group sets foundation for Gensler’s new KC studio

Sports architect Gensler dropped a bomb on Wednesday — somewhat awkwardly — by disclosing the firm had hired veteran AECOM architects Greg Brown and Scott Sayers in a blog posted on the company’s website.

The news came despite the fact that Gensler has not issued a formal press release on the two hires, as well as three more AECOM designers that have joined the firm.

Gensler’s media relations staff said an official release would be distributed in the coming weeks after leadership works through some details for a new Kansas City studio, which adds a fourth destination for Gensler’s sports practice apart from offices in LA, Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C.

For now, Gensler officials declined VenuesNow’s request to interview Brown and Sayers, a designer of six NBA arenas, including the Intuit Dome, about their moves.

Scott Sayers

On Monday, Gensler distributed a graphic internally and obtained by VenuesNow that listed six new hires, including Brown, serving as studio director, and Sayers, senior project architect.

The others shown in the graphic include Hannah Bezerra, Nick Casertano and Josh Klooster, all of whom came over from AECOM in Kansas City.

Bezerra, Casertano and Klooster will be part of the KC studio, in addition to Brown and Sayers, confirmed Anuradha Koli, Gensler’s regional PR director in Austin. .

The blog, published in a Q&A format on Gensler’s website, is titled “Writing the Next Chapter of Sports Architecture in Kansas City. It includes interviews with Brown and Sayers, “both of whom recently joined the firm in Kansas City to lead the sports practice there,” providing their thoughts on why they joined the firm, along with comments on industry trends.

Ron Turner, a principal and leader of Gensler’s sports group, told VenuesNow he could not talk about the influx of personnel or confirm the total number of new hires until he meets with those individuals over the next few days. Turner did mention that more architects currently working at other firms in KC could join Gensler to help strengthen its foundation in the hub of sports architecture.

The exits are a big loss for AECOM, whose sports practice hasn’t been in the mix for many projects at the big league level in recent years. The company has maintained a solid presence in the college space, where Brown carved his niche over his 18-year tenure there.

The hirings come less than nine months after Jon Niemuth, the former head of AECOM Sports, joined Gensler as director of sports in May 2022. Niemuth worked at AECOM, and its predecessor Ellerbe Becket, for 28 years, forging strong relationships with Brown and Sayers in pursuit of arena and stadium projects.

Greg Brown

In some respects, Brown and Sayers reuniting with Niemuth is not too surprising, considering the close bonds they formed at AECOM over the past three decades.

Sayers alone was a big get for Gensler, which has made its mark in sports after launching its practice about 15 years ago under Turner, who stands among the pioneers in that part of the industry. Sayers has spent most of his 20-plus year career focused on NBA projects. The timing is fortuitous, considering Gensler is engaged with Monumental Sports and Entertainment to develop a proposed arena for Washington’s NBA and NHL teams in northern Virginia.

It’s unclear how Sayers’ move to Gensler affects the closing stages of development of the Intuit Dome, a $2-plus billion project, where he spent the better part of a decade working on the new LA Clippers arena. The building opens later this year, and most of the design work has most likely been completed leading up to the arena opening its doors.

In the blog, Sayers says, “It was both intriguing and exciting to me to see a firm who views its clients as partners and collaborators … and not as commodities to be collected.”

The mass exodus from AECOM to Gensler is reminiscent of 2005, the year in which six principals from Ellerbe Becket jumped to the old HOK Sport, now Populous. Four years later, AECOM, among the world’s biggest engineering firms, acquired Ellerbe Becket, which at the time was a 100-year-old brand.

Editor’s Note: This story has been revised.