GOTHAM CITY: The proposed New York City Football Club stadium, shown here in a rendering, is among the soccer projects Chris DeVolder is working on as he shifts focus to growing HOK’s presence in that space. (MLS)

DeVolder tasked with growing sports architecture stalwart’s soccer portfolio

HOK announced this week some key changes in leadership for the Kansas City sports, recreation and entertainment practice.

Chris DeVolder, previously managing principal, has shifted to a new role as director of the SRE group and tasked with growing its soccer portfolio. In addition, Paul Jacob has been elevated to fill the managing principal position.

Chris DeVolder

DeVolder, a sports designer for 30 years dating to the old Ellerbe Becket, is currently leading the design of New York City Football Club’s new Major League Stadium, a $780 million project and the most expensive MLS development to date. DeVolder has extensive experience planning soccer-specific stadiums, including CityPark, which opened in 2023 in St. Louis, Missouri; PayPal Park in San Jose, California; Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of Atlanta United FC; and Lynn Family Stadium, a USL venue in Louisville, Kentucky.

Jacob, in his new role, moves to Kansas City from St. Louis, where HOK’s corporate office is headquartered. He has 40 years of experience, including MayotteJacob Architects in Lansing, Michigan, a firm he owned for 14 years. Jacob joined HOK in 2017, where he was initially a principal and senior project manager. He was project manager for the CityPark job.

Paul Jacob

hok-shifts-devolder-jacob-to-new-roles, whether it’s MLS, USL or the National Women’s Soccer League, which is just starting to build sport-specific venues, starting with CPKC Stadium (designed by Generator Studio).

In MLS alone, the sophistication and detail of the newest stadiums continues to evolve, as well as the escalating costs to build the future generation of soccer buildings at the sport’s highest level in North America.

NYCFC, where DeVolder is presently immersed in the Willets Point project in Queens, and Inter Miami CF’s new stadium development, designed by Manica Architecture and Arquitectonica, represent the next level of those building types, as new MLS venues start to approach the $1 billion benchmark.

“The evolution of MLS stadiums has come in three phases,” DeVolder said in describing CityPark, which cost about $460 million to construct. “Columbus, Ohio was the first, then Salt Lake City, Dallas, Colorado and Chicago as phase two. For phase three, it was Minnesota, Nashville, Austin and Columbus (again). St. Louis is phase four, taking a deep dive on understanding the different fan journeys, from the family attending the match, all the way to the highest level of premium. There are amenities for every fan group that you wouldn’t find at other stadiums.”