The best that never was
With the challenge of securing funding and community support for facility projects, many plans never see the light of day. Here are a few projects that looked great on paper, but never became reality.
For more than a decade, the Oakland A’s have been trying to secure a deal for a new ballpark to replace the aging Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. In 2006, then-managing partner Lew Wolff hired HOK to design a $450 million ballpark in Fremont, a Bay Area suburb. With a design in hand, the A’s secured Cisco to a 30-year, $120 million naming-rights deal, touting the next-generation venue as a showcase for the company’s products. But community opposition and likely legal challenges compelled the A’s to abandon the project in 2009.
(Frank Gehry design)
Renowned architect Frank Gehry envisioned a futuristic, glass-clad arena surrounded by angled towers. However, Nets Sports & Entertainment later scrapped that plan in favor of a more affordable, yet still innovative, design by Ellerbe Becket (later acquired by AECOM). The reimagined Barclays Center opened in 2012.
New York City
In 2004, the New York Jets released plans for a 75,000-seat stadium on Manhattan’s West Side, featuring a retractable roof and dotted with wind turbines to generate power. The project, expected to cost $1.5 billion, was cast as part of New York City’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics, and the NFL sweetened the pot by awarding the 2010 Super Bowl to the stadium. New York lost its Olympic bid, however, and the Jets couldn’t obtain public funding for the project, forcing them to kill the effort and instead join the Giants in building MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands.
New England Patriots stadium
The February 1999 news release from Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development read: “Get ready tailgaters and fire up your grills, football is coming to Hartford.” As part of the city’s proposed $1 billion Adriaen’s Landing development, the New England Patriots had agreed to move to a 68,000-seat, $350 million taxpayer-funded downtown stadium beginning in 2001. The HOK Sport-designed venue was to have 150 luxury suites and 6,000 club seats, and team owner Robert Kraft was to invest up to $70 million toward a $125 million hotel development there. Weeks later, Massachusetts agreed to kick in $70 million in infrastructure improvements in Foxborough, and Kraft’s $325 million privately funded stadium opened there in 2002.
St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Tampa Bay Rays drew inspiration from sailing in the design of a ballpark first proposed in 2007 for St. Petersburg. Plans called for the waterfront ballpark, projected to cost $450 million, to feature a retractable fabric, sail-like roof over the 34,000-seat venue. However, in 2009, the team postponed the project indefinitely after being unable to secure community support. The team continues to explore options, including one last fall in Olsmar, Fla., that would include a new ballpark as part of a mixed-use development.
Arena of the Stars
During the second round of the 1991 NHL playoffs, as the Minnesota North Stars were on their way to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in a decade, club owner Norman Green announced plans to remodel the team’s aging home, the Met Center, into an entertainment district that he said “would be second to none.” The Arena of the Stars would include a skyway connecting the arena to the adjacent Mall of America, and new hotels and restaurants would be built. However, the team relocated to Dallas following the 1992-93 season and in 1994 the Met Center was demolished, making way for a parking lot and an Ikea store many years later.
Northern Lights Stadium
In September 2005, the Minnesota Vikings agreed to a deal with nearby Anoka County to build a $675 million, 72,000-seat retractable-roof stadium in Blaine, Minn. The deal required at least $395 million from taxpayers. The mixed-use development called for corporate offices, hotels and more than 3,000 residential units. The county killed the deal 14 months later when the Vikings began looking at sites in downtown Minneapolis. After also reviewing sites in the suburbs of Arden Hills and Shakopee, the Vikings struck a deal to build the $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last year in downtown Minneapolis partially on the site of the former Metrodome.
New Fenway Park
In 1999, a proposal for a replacement for Fenway Park, made by then team-CEO John Harrington, had the team moving across Yawkey Way into a bigger, modern version of Fenway Park. The $545 million, HOK Sport-designed facility would have relocated or replicated the Green Monster, Pesky Pole and other iconic features. The idea was to begin play in the new stadium in 2003. A year later, Boston developer Frank McCourt, in a pitch to buy the team, unveiled a plan to build a new Fenway Park on land he owned on Boston’s seaport. Instead, the club spent nearly $300 million from 2003-12 to meticulously renovate the historic venue.
In the middle of the 1997 season, Montreal Expos President Claude Brochu unveiled plans to build a $181 million ballpark downtown. Plans also called for spending another $72 million for a proposed retractable roof. Once finished, the team would move out of the cavernous Olympic Stadium. Canadian brewer Labatt pledged to pay $67 million over 20 years for the naming rights. Montreal architecture firms Provencher Roy, and Richard Meier, were tabbed to build the structure. The project never materialized, however, as the Expos moved to Washington, D.C., in 2005 and became the Nationals.
The coalition of New York architect Peter Eisenman, HOK Sport (now Populous) and Phoenix-based Hunt Construction Group envisioned a stadium for the Arizona Cardinals that would be the first of its kind in the world: a 63,000-seat oasis in the desert featuring a rollaway, natural grass field and a retractable roof. The club was forced to abandon its planned site in suburban Tempe when the Federal Aviation Administration ruled that the stadium might pose a hazard to aircraft using nearby Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. The Cardinals would go on to build the same stadium 20 miles northwest, in Glendale.
S.F. Mayor Willie Brown and Eddie DeBartolo Jr. and Carmen Policy of the 49ers reveal a stadium model in 1997.
Before building their new home in Santa Clara, the San Francisco 49ers twice unveiled plans for a new stadium on or near Candlestick Point. In 1997, then-owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. teamed with San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to gain voter approval for a $100 million bond to build a $525 million stadium and shopping mall. The project died after DeBartolo lost control of the team amid a federal bribery investigation and guilty plea in Louisiana. In July 2006, the team proposed a privately financed, 68,000-seat stadium on a landfill southeast of what was then Monster Park. But by November that same year, the team’s attention turned to the South Bay. Eight years later, Levi’s Stadium opened.
Source: SportsBusiness Journal research