Iraq 'sports city' to be designed by Kansas City architecture firm

A Kansas City architecture firm, treading where its competitors fear to go, has won a contract to design a $500 million "sports city" in Basra, Iraq.

The designers from 360 Architecture last month were in Iraq's second-largest city to participate in a ceremony to launch the massive endeavor. It will include a 65,000-seat soccer stadium, a 10,000-seat practice stadium, dormitories and training facilities on a 360-acre, fortified campus.

If all goes according to plan, Basra Sports City will host the Gulf Cup of Nations in 2013. The premier soccer tournament is held by Arab nations in the Persian Gulf region every two years.

"I was proud to be part of an effort like this," said George Heinlein, a principal architect at 360. "To take the experience we've gained over 25 years in the United States and share it with Iraq gives me a tremendous sense of pride."

In choosing to pursue the project in the Iraqi port city on the gulf, however, 360 is tackling a venture considered too risky — for financial or security reasons — to pursue by Kansas City's other large sports architecture firms: Populous, formerly HOK Sport Venue Event; HNTB Corp.; and Ellerbe Becket.

"There are projects all over the world," said Gina Leo Stingley, a spokeswoman for Populous. "That's one area of the world we wanted to be more cautious."

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