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Volume 21 No. 2
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Developers call commitment key for projects tied to stadiums

Don Muret
For mixed-use projects tied to sports facilities, the location isn’t as critical as the commitment required by teams and developers to see them come to fruition, officials with The Cordish Co. and AEG Facilities said.

The Atlanta Braves are building a new ballpark north of the city in Cobb County, tied to a retail and entertainment district. It goes against a 20-year trend of building arenas and stadiums to serve as anchors for revitalizing downtowns. Regardless of location, the stadiums on their own serve as regional attractions, providing a boost for developing neighboring attractions, two panelists said at the Sport Entertainment and Venues Tomorrow conference in Columbia, S.C.

Chase Martin, Cordish’s development director in charge of Ballpark Village across the street from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium, sees one similarity between his firm’s project with the Cardinals and the Braves’ proposed development: Both teams draw fans from multiple states, which provides them with a golden opportunity to create destinations outside the ballpark for those who have driven an hour or more.

The Braves’ development plans around their planned ballpark will serve a fan base that travels from surrounding states.
“The hardest thing in real estate is to get someone to your front door,” he said during the meeting’s Nov. 22 session on entertainment districts. “If you can get them there and it’s a clean, safe environment … a value-added experience … they’re going to come back.”

Combined, AEG and Cordish have seen about 150 million people pass through their entertainment districts over the past decade covering, among other projects, L.A. Live; 4th Street Live in Louisville, Ky.; Xfinity Live in Philadelphia; and the Kansas City Power & Light District.

Most of those developments are tied to arenas and stadiums, but others, like Louisville, are several blocks away from the primary sports venue. The South Philadelphia Sports Complex, where Xfinity Live opened in March 2012, is set apart from the city’s downtown district.

Every project has its own challenges and issues, Martin said. In St. Louis, the Ballpark Village finally opens in April after the recession and its lingering effects delayed the project for several years, Martin said.

“It’s not an easy process,” he said. “We have been successful largely because of our stubbornness. Most people would have closed up shop and left. Whether it required a larger investment or larger equity check, we wanted to make sure that we made it happen.”

Teams and their partners must recognize the long-term commitment required to develop an entertainment district; otherwise, don’t bother doing it, said Bob Newman, president of AEG Facilities. In addition, be prepared to make adjustments over time, Newman said.

“The original vision is never what you exactly end up with,” he said. “You have to have the flexibility to adapt as you go along, whether it’s in the tenant mix, shape, design and flow. We have 15 million to 20 million people [a year] going through L.A. Live and the O2 in London. We’re still tweaking it. Some things are working in them, some aren’t. A really important lesson we learned is to keep saying ‘What if?’ [and] not ‘This is enough.’ One idea leads to another and it may bring additional outside investment and another venue, a use that we never thought of.”

> PERSONNEL: Lori Peterson has joined Woods Bagot Sport as its director of sports interiors in New York. Peterson is working on the renovation of Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas as well as interiors for the new AS Roma stadium project in Italy. Peterson, married to former Kansas City Chiefs executive Carl Peterson, spent the past 20 years with Populous. Dan Meis, head of Woods Bagot Sport, has expanded the New York office to 42 people since relocating from California in September. … Drew Berst, formerly with DLR Group, joins AECOM as a director of business development. He shares the title with Brett Fuller.

Don Muret can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @breakground.