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Volume 21 No. 42


Looking back at the two-decade evolution of sports venues, SBJ saw growth, consolidation, stability and some things that just left us scratching our heads.

Some things are bigger

Scope: The oft-broken “build it and they will build around us” promise, such as Tropicana Field and BB&T Center, has matured, with developers integrating sports venues into a grander plan. Patriot Place, with its 1.3 million square feet of shopping, dining and non-football entertainment, may have broken the mold but recent mixed-use developments, such as the 50-block District Detroit and the 25-acre ICE District in downtown Edmonton, have pushed the boundaries even further.

Price tags: In 1998, six major league venues — one arena and five stadiums — opened or wrapped up massive renovations, at a combined cost of $1.2 billion. The stadium now under construction in Inglewood, Calif., that will serve as the home of the NFL’s Rams and Chargers is projected to cost $2.6 billion.

Video displays: Daktronics installed a video board 20 years ago that was the biggest in sports: a 24-by-90.5-foot-wide board at Raymond James Stadium. The company last year again erected the biggest display in sports: Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s halo board, which at 58 by 1,075 feet is the equivalent of more than 1.4 acres.

Menus: Gluten free, vegan, craft beers and deep fried brisket were not part of the food and beverage options 20 years ago. They are now, as facilities highlight regional favorites, partner with well-known chefs and spice up the menu in other ways to cater to a more food-centric crowd.

Seating: Maybe as a result of those expanding menus, seats installed in venues now are about 20 inches wide, 1 to 2 inches wider than the installations that were done 20 years ago.

Control rooms: If you complained to a team about its poor Wi-Fi 20 years ago, they’d tell you to get new speakers. Today, fans, security personnel, concessionaires, media partners and the folks running those massive video boards all demand the best Wi-Fi. Fans at this year’s Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium used an average of 407.4 megabytes of Wi-Fi data at the game. The PalmPilot you were using when we launched boasted 2 megabytes.

Soccer stadiums: When we launched, the U.S. had exactly zero soccer-only stadiums in professional sports. More than two dozen are now open, with several more on the horizon.

Naming-rights deals: In 1998, 45 big-league venues were called by a corporate name. Today, 114 such deals are in play. Similarly, college venues had only a handful of such agreements; they have more than 60 now.

Bunker suites at the Warriors’ new arena will set a high-water mark for pricing.
Photo: golden state warriors


Some things are smaller

List of concessionaires: Gone are Volume Services America, Boston Concessions, Fine Host, Restaura, Elias and Ogden. Also smaller is the portfolio of teams that handle their food and beverage operations in-house.

MLB ballparks: The average capacity of an MLB ballpark in 1998 was 47,495, thanks largely to the cavernous leftovers from the two-sport, cookie-cutter era; today it is 43,001. Much of that decrease has come as teams have converted under-sold seating areas into social gathering spaces.

Suite business: Seven of the eight arenas that opened in 1999 boasted more suites than their market’s predecessor (AmericanAirlines Arena opened with 20 suites, compared to Miami Arena, which had 26). Philips Center, an alumni of that Class of 1999, is currently knocking down many of its suites, following a trend that has permeated all pro sports in recent years. Little Caesars Arena, which opened in Detroit last year, has fewer suites (52) than Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings’ previous home (66), and the Palace (175), where the Pistons played before moving back in to the city.

Our footprint: More than two dozen venues now boast solar installations that generate significant power in their community. Golden 1 Center, home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, obtains 100 percent of its electricity from solar energy, and obtains 90 percent of its food from within 150 miles.

Risk: Extended nets in ballparks and speedways and higher dasherboard glass in hockey arenas have made attending events safer.

Distance between fans and the action: During 2002 and 2003 renovations at Fenway Park, nearly 300 dugout seats were built along the first and third-base lines, a trend that has continued throughout sports. Additionally, if a friend called you on your Nextel phone in 1998 and invited you to a game and said he had “bunker seats,” chances are you’d never return his call. Access to these premium sections close to the action will cost you $2.25 million a year at the Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center when it opens next fall.

The Red Wings’ new arena is tied to the District Detroit mixed-use development.
Photo: rick osentoski / oz llc


What we didn’t see coming

Esports: When we launched, gamers were waiting for the debut of EverQuest, and the term “massively multiplayer online role-playing game” sounded like a get-together that would happen only in Las Vegas. Today, those participants don’t need to exert all that energy actually playing video games — they can go to arenas that are being built specifically to watch other people do it. High-tech, eports-specific arenas have opened recently in Las Vegas and Santa Ana, and a $10 million venue is being developed within walking distance of the Texas Rangers’ and Dallas Cowboys’ stadiums.

Hockey games in ballparks,
football games at speedways, basketball games on flight decks.

Toasted grasshoppers, an item that sells out every night at Safeco Field.


What’s the same?

In 1998 Billy Joel sold out his 10-night concert series at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in his native Long Island, and all six of his shows at Madison Square Garden. Joel is now a permanent resident of MSG and has sold out 51 straight shows.

Hot dogs are still the top-selling concession item in sports.

Freebies: Fans still like giveaways and not long ago that likely was a poster or keychain. Bobbleheads have sat atop the giveaway leaderboard for six straight MLB seasons.

Since the launch of SBJ, more than $79 billion has been spent building or renovating sports venues that are home to a professional or college team.

Note: Figures in millions; Source: SBJ research

Hartford, Conn.

Adriaen’s Landing (1999)

As part of the city’s proposed $1 billion Adriaen’s Landing development, the New England Patriots agreed to move to a 68,000-seat, $350 million, taxpayer-funded downtown stadium beginning in 2001. The HOK Sport (now Populous)-designed venue was to feature 150 luxury suites and 6,000 club seats. But weeks after the project was announced, Massachusetts ponied up for infrastructure improvements in Foxborough, clearing the way for Robert Kraft’s $325 million, privately funded Gillette Stadium.

Photo: ap images


New Fenway Park (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. 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, under a new ownership group led by John Henry, spent nearly $300 million from 2003-12 to meticulously renovate the historic venue.

Photo: rendering courtesy of gensler

Los Angeles

Farmers Field (2002)

AEG proposed a $1.3 billion, roofed stadium adjacent to L.A. Live and Staples Center, positioning the venue as the perfect spot for the NFL’s return to Los Angeles. AEG secured Farmers Insurance as a naming-rights partner for the 72,000-seat stadium, but abandoned the project in 2015 after competing stadium proposals garnered more attention from NFL owners. A $4.9 billion stadium complex is scheduled to open in 2020 in Inglewood, Calif., as home to the L.A. Rams and L.A. Chargers.

Photo: gehry partners

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Brooklyn Arena (2003)

The then-New Jersey Nets and renowned architect Frank Gehry unveiled a futuristic, $1 billion arena surrounded by angled towers that would open in 2006. However, team owner Bruce Ratner later scrapped the plan in favor of a proposed $800 million design by Ellerbe Becket (later acquired by AECOM). The reimagined Barclays Center, which wound up costing $1 billion, opened in 2012.

Photo: rendering courtesy of getty images

New York City

West Side Stadium (2004)

The New York Jets released plans for a 75,000-seat stadium on Manhattan’s West Side, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, 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.

Photo: crawford architects

Blaine, Minn.

Northern Lights Stadium (2005)

The Minnesota Vikings agreed to a deal with nearby Anoka (Minn.) County to build a $675 million, 72,000-seat retractable-roof stadium. 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 later killed the deal, however, 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 in 2016 in downtown Minneapolis, partially on the site of the former Metrodome.

Photo: oakland a’s

Fremont, Calif.

Cisco Field (2006)

SBJ was 8 years old when the Oakland A’s began trying to secure a deal for a new ballpark to replace the aging Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. 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 compelled the A’s to abandon the project in 2009. In the latest move, the team last month offered to buy the publicly owned, 130-acre coliseum site.

Photo: tampa bay rays

St. Petersburg, Fla.

Rays Ballpark (2007)

The Tampa Bay Rays drew inspiration from sailing in the design of a $450 million waterfront ballpark that would 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. In February of this year, the team announced that Ybor City, the center of downtown Tampa’s historic cigar industry, would be the site of its new stadium, although financing has yet to be obtained.

Photo: ap images

San Francisco

San Francisco 49ers Stadium (2006)

Before building Levi’s Stadium 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 Santa Clara.

Miami MLS Stadium I, II, III (2013, 2014, 2015)

In 2013, David Beckham revealed that he wanted to build an MLS stadium at the county-owned PortMiami. The cruise industry blocked the plan, which was designed by Miami-based Arquitectonica and Kansas City-based 360 Architecture. Over the next year, a proposed site next to AmericanAirlines Arena and one facing Marlins Park in Little Havana also failed for various reasons. Beckham announced a new site in December 2015, but last month Miami United co-owner Jorge Mas confirmed that the ownership group now is considering multiple locations for its stadium, including the grounds of the Hialeah Park casino.

Photo: manica

Carson, Calif.

Los Angeles Stadium (2015)

A $1.7 billion, 65,000-seat stadium was proposed as part of a mixed-use project contingent on the NFL’s plans in California, whether it was moving a team to the state or relocating the San Diego Chargers and/or Oakland Raiders. The NFL owners’ decision allowing the Rams to move to L.A. shelved the Carson project. The Chargers will share a stadium in Inglewood, Calif., with the Rams beginning in 2020, and the Raiders are scheduled to move into a new stadium in Las Vegas that same season.

Photo: hok

St. Louis

National Car Rental Field (2015)

Shortly after the start of the 2015 NFL season, with the St. Louis Rams seeking a return to Los Angeles, St. Louis community leaders made their case for the team staying put, offering a $1.1 billion stadium proposal with a $158 million naming-rights deal from National Car Rental. The city approved funding $150 million of the project, but the Rams headed to the West Coast anyway.

Editor’s note: This chart is updated from the print edition.

1. MetLife Stadium (2010)
New York Giants, New York Jets
2. (tie) Yankee Stadium (2009)
New York Yankees, college football Pinstripe Bowl
2. (tie) Mercedes-Benz Stadium (2017)
Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United FC; college football Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Celebration Bowl
4. AT&T Stadium (2009)
Dallas Cowboys
5. Levi’s Stadium (2014)
San Francisco 49ers, college football Foster Farms Bowl
6. U.S. Bank Stadium (2016)
Minnesota Vikings
7. Barclays Center (2012)
Brooklyn Nets, New York Islanders
8. Madison Square Garden (2013)*
New York Knicks, New York Rangers, St. John’s Red Storm basketball
9. Nationals Park (2008)
Washington Nationals
10. Citi Field (2009)
New York Mets
11. Lucas Oil Stadium (2008)
Indianapolis Colts
12. Soldier Field (2003)*
Chicago Bears
13. Wrigley Field (2018)*
Chicago Cubs
14. Little Caesars Arena (2017)
Detroit Pistons, Detroit Red Wings
15. Marlins Park (2012)
Miami Marlins
16. SunTrust Park (2017)
Atlanta Braves
17. Lincoln Financial Field (2003)
Philadelphia Eagles, Temple Owls football
18. Ford Field (2002)
Detroit Lions, college football Quick Lane Bowl
19. NRG Stadium (2002)
Houston Texans, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, college football Texas Bowl
20. Paul Brown Stadium (2000)
Cincinnati Bengals