There is an interesting piece in the New York Times about modern stadiums and the new philosophy behind stadium and arena construction for major-league sports.
I think the Times missed the story by just a bit, though. The prime focus for their story was that stadiums are moving downtown, rather than to suburbs. That's been going on for quite a while, though. And I believe the real story is not the location, which is not nearly as important as the way these venues are being financed. In Atlanta, for instance, one of the ballparks that best symbolizes the new trend is the one the Braves built in Cobb County, after moving out of downtown Atlanta.
The real driving force for today's modern stadium/arena/ballpark is to secure the area around it and build mixed-use retail and residential that helps defray costs of construction and provides sources to service the construction debt. It's going on everywhere.
... Across the country, in more than a dozen cities, downtowns are being remade as developers abandon the suburbs to combine new sports arenas with mixed-used residential, retail and office space back in the city. The new projects are altering the financial formula for building stadiums and arenas by surrounding them not with mostly idle parking lots in suburban expanses, but with revenue-producing stores, offices and residences capable of servicing the public debt used to help build these venues.
It used to be that groups trying to sell cities or counties on providing public funding for venues, tried to sell the idea that a downtown stadium would revitalize sections of town and provide economic development. But it was a tough sell. Now, though, the franchises are doing their own development.
The property development model is a foundation of the construction of the new basketball arena in Sacramento -- which did move from the suburbs to downtown.The San Francisco Giants are preparing to spend $1.4 billion developing a parcel near AT&T Park. SunTrust Park in Cobb County, Ga., remains a shining example of the new philosophy, with the ballpark construction including "The Battery Atlanta." Los Angeles' Staples Center, of course, is located across the street from "LA Live."
There have been attempts to construct such a district near the Rose Quarter but they never got off the ground, mainly because of ill-advised moves that left Memorial Coliseum untouched and standing. But what would have been -- a lively entertainment district featuring retail, housing, nightclubs and a (once-proposed) Nike sports museum -- would have changed the face of that district. It was to be called "Jumptown."
The mistake that was made with the Rose Quarter, of course, was that the entertainment/housing district should have been built in concert with the arena. It would have helped Blazer owner Paul Allen recoup much of his investment in the project and given Portland a lively new place to see and be seen.
Something any city would welcome.