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Volume 21 No. 27
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A reset, then a reboot

Record run ends, but construction spending to take off again in ’19

Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.

Banc of California Stadium
Courtesy of: LAFC

Construction spending on sports venues will sink slightly in 2018, but it won’t stay there for long.

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■ What's on Deck? 2018 facilities.

Sports facilities scheduled to open this year in the United States and Canada are expected to tally $4.1 billion in construction costs, capping off an unprecedented three-year stretch that saw nearly $17 billion spent to build or renovate sports venues. This year’s total represents a 40 percent drop from the record-high $6.9 billion that was spent on projects that opened last year. However, SportsBusiness Journal research indicates that the dip will be temporary, as $11.4 billion has already been allocated for projects scheduled to open in 2019 or later.

Another reason for optimism is that there has not been a slowdown in the number of active projects: 75 jobs are either under construction or have been approved to begin soon, a level that has remained consistent over the past several years.

Audi Field
Courtesy of: DC United

The decline can largely be attributed to two factors: 2017 boasted a near-record $5.1 billion on stadium construction, driven largely by projects such as SunTrust Park and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and 2018 will see a shift toward the completion of a number of smaller projects. More than a quarter of the stadium construction wrapping up in 2018, for instance, will be soccer-related.

That’s a trend that architects and contractors expect to continue.

Bruce Miller, a senior principal at Populous, said that the growth of the soccer facility market in the U.S. is paralleling the global trend of teams making significant investments in better stadiums. He said that as MLS continues to expand, lower division teams are also spending money to upgrade their facilities, “with aspirations to someday grow into an MLS franchise.”

Populous’ soccer portfolio of D.C. United’s new Audi Field, National Training and Coaching Development Center (Sporting KC), Allianz Field (Minnesota United in 2019) and Miami’s proposed stadium accounts for nearly $1 billion in overall financial commitments.

Soccer stadiums tend to cost less to build than MLB or NFL stadiums. For example, Banc of California Stadium, the venue scheduled to open in April for the MLS expansion Los Angeles FC, is expected to cost approximately $350 million to build. By comparison, the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field has a sticker price of $1.1 billion, and the stadium being built in Inglewood, Calif., for the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers has a projected cost of $2.6 billion.

Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center

Away from pro sports, more than $1.5 billion will be spent building new or upgrading college venues, with a quarter of that happening on Northwestern University’s campus in Chicago (see directory, previous page).

In an increasing trend, much of the college construction is happening on venues that won’t even be used on game day. UNLV, for example, a program with one winning season since 2000, is scheduled to open its $28.5 million Fertitta Football Complex — a practice facility — this year.

Additionally, vendors across the sports construction spectrum say that enhancements to venue security systems and wireless communication networks will also help sustain spending for a while.

Looking ahead, 2019 is expected to be a record year for major league arena ($1.8 billion, which includes Chase Center in San Francisco) and minor league stadium ($498 million) construction, part of the projected $5.8 billion in sports jobs on the hook for that year.