If all goes as planned, global architect-engineer-planner HOK will be back in the sports design game, almost six years after HOK Sport + Entertainment broke free of its parent company to become Populous. By November, HOK expects to seal a deal to acquire the decade-old sports-venue specialist 360 Architecture.

Since January, when the five-year noncompete clause lapsed between HOK and Populous, HOK has been "trying to figure out how to get back into sports architecture," says Bill Hellmuth, HOK's president. Architect 360 seemed like a good match because the two privately owned firms "share a lot of common culture," adds Hellmuth, who declines to reveal details of the purchase.

360, which will lose its name in the acquisition, was interested because, "over the last five years, we had been studying ways to stay fresh and competitive by diversifying the practice" into other geographic markets and building sectors, says Brad Schrock, a 360 senior principal.

The firm, formed in 2004 by the merger of Heinlein Schrock Stearns and CDFM, is perhaps best known for its edgy design for the Atlanta Falcons' new football stadium. Plans call for a kinetic roof that opens, in concept, much like a camera aperture.

Some of 360's other sports work includes the renovation of the Sun Life Stadium for the Miami Dolphins; the Rogers Place arena for the National Hockey League's Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton, Alberta; the AT&T Center renovation for the National Basketball Association's San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio, Texas; the design of Cisco Field, a proposed ballpark for Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics, and a new stadium for Major League Soccer's San Jose Earthquakes, in San Jose, Calif.

After the merger, HOK will jump to 1,800 from 1,600 people in a total of 25 offices, including 360's Kansas City, Mo., and Columbus, Ohio, offices.

HOK's move back into sports design is part of a goal to improve urban culture, says Hellmuth: "A big piece of our cities is what happens around sports venues."