Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Design for a future Washington Redskins football stadium to be featured on "60 Minutes" tv show

The campaign for the next generation Washington Redskins football stadium has been going on for awhile.  Unfortunately, a fair number of DC's elected officials salivate over the chance to bring the team back to the City of Washington.

The stadium is currently located in suburban Prince George's County ("Parris Glendening helped the Redskins move to FedEx Field, now he wonders if that was a mistake," Washington Post), but as more football stadiums are relocating back to the center city, the team has been angling for relocation back to Washington, DC--something I don't support because there is little spillover economic value from a football stadium--while Virginia continues to make a play for the team's relocation also.

Recently the team received plenty of press coverage ("Redskins advance plans to relocate, hire Google's architect," Post) for retaining an international starchitecture firm, Bjarke Ingalls Group (BIG), to design their next stadium.

Hiring flashy and renowned architecture firms is a tried and true strategy by developers to get positive attention for projects that might otherwise have defects.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports ("New Redskins stadium will be featured on Sunday's '60 Minutes'") that the team's stadium proposal will be featured this Sunday on the CBS television program "60 Minutes."

The team has a lot invested in Virginia, being headquartered in Northern Virginia and in 2013 the team relocated their summer practice facility to Richmond although the city hasn't benefited all that much ("City of Richmond, Virginia not making much economic return from holding Redskins football practices").

Football stadium development trends.  Trends for stadium development in football are still bi-modal, some in the center city and others in suburban locations.

While the St. Louis Rams will be moving to Inglewood in Los Angeles County, and creating a two-team stadium with zero public finance, funded in part by development adjacent to the stadium, the San Francisco 49ers opened their new Levi Stadium in 2014 in Santa Clara, some 40 miles from San Francisco.  A new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings is under construction in Minneapolis.  This, like most new football stadium projects, involves a great deal of public financing.

Generally, there seems to be a tendency, the 49ers notwithstanding, to keep teams in central locations.  St. Louis hoped to keep the Rams in a new downtown stadium.  The same is true for San Diego and the Chargers.  A few years ago the Detroit Lions relocated to Detroit from Oakland County.

From the standpoint of cities, problems with football stadiums is that the facilities are huge, parking dependent, empty for most of the year and have limited opportunity for ancillary development.  This could change with the Inglewood Rams stadium complex which is being described as a "Disneyland for the NFL" ("LA Rams' Inglewood stadium an NFL Disneyland," Los Angeles Daily News.

Stadium district development trends.  With the LA project, it appears as if football teams are waking up to the value of adjacent development and the creation of stadium districts.  This has already been happening with baseball stadiums, such as Wrigleyville around the Cubs stadium in Chicago or the Fenway district surrounding the stadium of the Boston Red Sox.  From the LA Daily News article:
Inglewood wasn’t just a stand-alone stadium. It was an NFL Disneyland.

The 300-acre site across the street from the Fabulous Forum wasn’t just a one day a week destination point 10 weekends a year. It was a 365-day entertainment hub that could draw in millions of paying customersthroughout the year.

That wasn’t just musical dollars to the ears of the NFL, it was a stadium-vision awakening in which the league envisioned similar developments across the NFL.
Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, was one of the earliest such developments in the modern era ("Development Plans for Staples Center Area OKd," Los Angeles Times, 2001), and this has influenced similar projects in Buffalo ("Buffalo Banks on a Hockey-Centered Development to Boost Civic Rebirth," New York Times), Detroit, around the new Red Wings arena ("Building city blocks: Area around new Red Wings arena teems with planned projects," Crain's Detroit Business ) in Sacramento ("Sacramento Kings build entertainment mecca downtown as team struggles," Sacramento Bee ), and St. Louis ("St. Louis' Ballpark Village an example for Milwaukee arena," Milwaukee Business Journal) among others.

Displacing economic activity vs. creating new activity.  The challenge for localities is figuring out how much of this development is sports-team specific and dependent, its potential longevity and how much opportunity there is to share the value that is created, rather than let it all be captured by the team owners ("Making sports-oriented mixed use work," Urban Land Magazine).

I would argue while it makes sense to leverage everything possible, I am skeptical that sports facilities generate patronage beyond sporting events.

A good example of such failure is the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.  It's a NASCAR Disneyland, but not enough of a draw on its own to attract visitors ("Nascar Hall of Fame Leaves Charlotte Home With Bank Debt," Bloomberg).

Another example is the Super Bowl.  While the team and the NFL benefit, other than hotel rooming nights and a little bit of hospitality (food and beverage), there doesn't seem to be a lot of spillover economic benefit for other businesses.

Effects at the metropolitan vs. intra-city scales.  While certain communities can benefit over others as sports facilities shift locations, expectations that sports-related districts will have an extranormal drawing power--like the NFL's dreams of the Inglewood facility as a football-themed destination--is probably unrealistic.

Rams Stadium development rendering.

The extra economic return from the Inglewood site will come from the additional activities present there, such as a 6,000 seat concert hall, not from the association with football.

An example of how local economic activity can be displaced is in St. Louis, where the Ballpark Village district adjacent to Busch Stadium, home to the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team has added supply to the city's hospitality offer without significantly driving new demand.  The result is that existing establishments have lost business or closed ("Some dispute Ballpark Village effect on St. Louis restaurant closings," St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

Going beyond sports-related consumption.  The advantage in creating a district has to do with the positioning and branding value, and the ability to develop 365-day exchange and living opportunities, rather than focus solely on event-related business which can be from 16 to 82 days/year in ordinary circumstances.

For example, the Verizon Center in DC is in the heart of the city's central business district and is part of a multifaceted residential, commercial, and cultural district.  Lacking housing or other components reduce the ability of such a district to have greater economic impact.

By contrast, there is little mixed use development around FedEx Field, nor was there when the Washington Bullets and Washington Capitals played at the old US Air Arena/Cap Centre.  

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At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

another stadium built in DC made out of crummy temporary materials by another star chitect- why are these idiots even taken seriously? It is likely true that if called upon to build a modern version of one of our neo classical buildings these morons would fall flat on their cartoon faces. They simply have no capability to build quality anymore- it is all glitz that lasts maybe 25 years at best before they have to tear it down and rebuild it- and the process starts all over again. When are people in this silly society of ours going understand that to build something to last means you do not have to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild?

At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"When are people in this silly society of ours going understand that to build something to last means you do not have to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild?"

@10:54 am: When Mother Nature puts the kibosh on the human race... and not a moment sooner.


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