Venues key for society: Food for thought


Riki Nishimura on Coliseum US 2023 Image: Coliseum GSVA

Riki Nishimura knows the warp and weft of venues. Presently in the role of Principal at the celebrated design firm Populous, he is based in San Francisco, and strongly feels that venues are not just buildings but they are kind of “animate” structures which can help build the society.

Riki Nishimura serves as the Principal of the global design firm Populous. He is an urban strategist with over two decades of experience in the strategy and design of Cities. His specialty is providing near-term and long-term design strategies for maximizing value for all stakeholders for next-generation venue-anchored destinations.

In a thought-provoking conversation with ‘Coliseum’, Riki Nishimura, Principal, Populous, US, asserted that the venue operators-designers-owners can build an amazing kind of relationships with the venues which, in turn, helps in building community not only outside the stadium but also building community within the stadium and it is this kind of social infrastructure that is key because it helps bring people together, creates networks and helps keep our Cities together.


Kansas City (US)-based Populous is a global architectural and design practice specializing in sports facilities, arenas and convention centers, as well as the planning and design of major special events.

Venues as Architectural Marvel

Riki Nishimura describes the sports-kind of arenas and stadium typologies as one of the most “incredible pieces of architecture and comparable projects around the world. And the most interesting thing about sports architecture is that what one can do to elevate that experience around the stadiums and arenas from a player perspective as well”.

Inflationary Pressure

He said the biggest challenge which people related with the venue industry face today is the rising cost and building arenas today cost a bomb – “Though majority of the venues are privately-funded but in some cases there is public funding as well. With public funding come the challenges especially with people who are not interested in sports and see no reason to open up their purse strings to build a stadium. Infrastructure transportation costs too are huge.”

Cohesive Force

He added, “Every time you put a venue into a City you have got to think about the kind of role that you are playing and how important it is because it can really impact both the City and the society itself. Mixed-use venues are a brilliant economic opportunity – building new infrastructure, building new housing but ultimately what matters is the social and cultural network. The venue itself is really about a network of places where people want to gather. The venue is the heart and soul of the City”.

Public Sentiment

There is a lot of public sentiment attached with venues. To buttress his point, Nishimura pointed out that the redevelopment work of the 18,300-capacity Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington (US) which was taken up by Populous was indeed challenging – “We were tasked with keeping intact the pristine sheen of the world’s first net zero carbon certification arena’s historic roof. We pulled off the task but what I want to put across is that a lot of public sentiment was attached with this building. It is more than just a building for the people and the majority of them who wanted the roof to remain intact were not sports buffs at all. So, we should know how to capture the audience beyond your kind of traditional sports fans.”

He further pointed out that the obituary of the 70,000-capacity Houston Astrodome in Houston, Texas, was written till Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. The Astrodome sheltered about 15,000 hurricane-struck residents. The Astrodome shut shop in 2009 -“The Houston Astrodome was actually considered a decaying building but it ended up being a piece of the social network infrastructure when Katrina struck. The people realized that the venue served a greater purpose than just holding sporting events.”

He tried to drive home the fact that venue operators/owners will have to think about these venues as “more than kind of stadiums and arenas and if they do so they will find an avenue to pay for the large construction costs”.


Riki Nishimura concluded by stating that while designing venues it is important “to think about the health and well-being of the people and enhance basically the happiness quotient around it. The venue is a common thread which binds all. To create these venues as incredible projects and being able to define them as infrastructure will help us to add substance and meaning to these venues as well.”

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