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.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Brief follow up on DC and a new football stadium for the Redskins

-- "Been to Largo lately? Sports teams often aren't very good partners..."

Yesterday's Post sports section also has an article on this, "'Bring it home': Bowser, Snyder speak glowingly of RFK site for next Redskins stadium."

So it's worth extracting from the 2014 entry, "An arena subsidy project I'd probably favor," the list of criteria I came up with concerning how to best leverage the presence of a sports stadium or arena.  Recognizing too that generally there are limited improvements to neighborhoods ("Residents hope Mercedes-Benz Stadium aids nearby Atlanta neighborhood," Atlanta Journal-Constitution) as opposed to commercial districts.

I came up with the list because taking the position of "no stadium" or "no public funding" rarely is successful. Knowing a project will be approved, the best thing to do is to focus on extracting the best possible deal and urban design, to stake out a position aiming to get the most possible value from the stadium/arena because it's practically a certainty that government will agree to money, land, tax breaks, etc.

This list is focused on the retail/commercial district side.  And it favors sports other than football based on frequency of events and the cost of the facility

Characteristics that support successful ancillary development and local benefits from professional sports facilities

In the attempt to create a more comprehensive list, new items are denoted by bold type.
  • isolation or connection: how well is the facility integrated into the urban fabric beyond the stadium site and does it leverage, build upon, and extend the location and the community around it; (e.g., the difference in Chicago between Wrigleyville and the Chicago Cubs stadium and the disconnected from the community stadium for the Chicago White Sox);
  • size of the facility (baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer), bigger stadiums--football stadiums specifically--are harder to integrate in the urban fabric;
  • cost of the facility [new]
  • lease terms, opportunities for public entities to earn real revenues from the project and benefit from team appreciation upon sale; [new]  See "Even When Teams Pay, Stadiums Still Aren't Free for Cities," Governing Magazine, and media coverage of court proceedings concerning the sale of the Miami Marlins baseball team ("Protecting local government interests: Jurisdictions at risk from slimy sports teams owners and the Miami Marlins as an example");
  • frequency of events held by the primary tenant--baseball has 82 home games/year, football about 10 including pre-season, basketball and hockey have 41, soccer about 17--so football stadiums are very rarely used (according to the Chicago Sun-Times article "Emanuel mulling 5,000-seat expansion to Soldier Field," the facility holds about 22 events including annually, 12 non-football events);
  • how many teams use the facility, maximizing use and utility of the building--for example, Verizon Center in DC is used by professional men's and women's basketball, hockey, and one college basketball team for more than 100 sports events each year;
  • are events scheduled in a manner that facilitates attendee patronage of off-site businesses--a business isn't an anchor if it aims to not share its customers; the earlier events are scheduled, the harder it is to patronize retailers and restaurants located off-site, at night during the week, there is limited post-game spending as well, on the weekends it's a different story with more opportunity to patronize off-site establishments--teams manipulate scheduling to reduce spending outside of their on-site and 100% controlled facilities;
  • retail mix within the facility, support of social enterprise development [new]--see the discussion here, "Building a local economy vs. "economic development" in planning: Wizards practice facility." One concession, West Nest, at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium of the Atlanta Falcons, is run by the culinary training program of the neighborhood nonprofit, Westside Works ("In The New Atlanta Falcons Stadium, One Restaurant Has A Mission," Fast Company), note that these days sports facilities are much more focused on providing better food, some are lowering prices in the face of sales declines, and most are seeking out and bringing into the facility local firms with authenticity and identity;
  • use of the facility for non-game events drawing additional patrons--such as concerts and other types of programming;
  • how people travel to events: automobiles vs. transit--if automobiles are the primary way people get to events, then large amounts of parking usually in surface lots needs to be provided, making it difficult to foster ancillary development because of lack of land and poor quality of the visual environment, whereas if transit is the primary mode, then more land around a facility can be developed in ways that leverage the proximity of the arena;
  • requirements for transportation demand management and support of transit [new]--this needs to be specified because too often, even in places with frequent transit, localities fail to include requirements on sports teams to support/finance transit access when warranted;
  • ticket/parking tax/fee to fund community benefits [new]--one way to fund ancillary programs more directly is through a dedicated ticket or parking tax. See "Hill District seeks more arena-area parking money for development" and "SEA urged to use a portion of parking revenue to support Hill," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

Night baseball and the impact on Chicago's Wrigleyville 
commercial district.  The comment thread on the previous entry reminded me I forgot to mention the journal article, "Revamped Stadium...New neighborhood," Spirou, Costas & Larry Bennett. Urban Affairs Review. v37:5, May 2002, 675-702. It was part of the writing that ultimately was published in the book It's Hardly Sportin': Stadiums, Neighborhoods, and the New Chicago.

(There's a list of related literature in this student research proposalA citation listing of the piece by Chema appears to generate a good listing too.)

It's a great discussion of the changes to Chicago's Wrigleyville as a commercial district, with the addition of night time lighting and a regular schedule of night games to Wrigley Field.

The commercial district shifted from a more balanced retail mix to a focus on nightlife establishments (although the organization of the retail industry was also changing at this time, which contributed, as did the local effects of deindustrialization and the outmigration of industry from the city).

The district continues to evolve. Chicago Tribune wrote about this recently, "Welcome to the boring, tedious confines of the new Wrigleyville," arguing that the changes that have come with in-migration of wealth to the city and development to the district specifically have made it antiseptic and somewhat homogeneous. From the article:
The new Wrigleyville is an assemblage of hard edges and smooth surfaces, offices, condos and storefronts, ice cream shops and sports bars and thoughtful hotels, arranged into gray and beige blocks, impersonal and dull alongside the remaining rowhouses. It’s a lot of “new spaces.” Sound like anywhere you know? Or everywhere you know? The elegant ancientness of Wrigley Field, once bracing as you approached it, now looks buried and cramped. And a 10 screen movie theater and Lucky Strike bowling alley are still coming. Nice if you live nearby; the goal is keeping visitors close year round, especially out-of-town executives eager to pass on the usual Michigan Avenue haunts for “real Chicago.” But the trade-off is a neighborhood where all the restaurants are “concepts” and all the culture is “content.”

Am I being naive?

Probably. I know profit is the driver, and that maximizing profit creates its own justification these days. I know I am arguing for a sleazier Wrigleyville. I know this battle is already lost. But where is the outcry? Not long ago Chicago got worked up when a glass UFO was plopped on top of Soldier Field. And now I hear just everything changes, as if progress inevitably means becoming Stepfordville USA.
This is likely the case of most of the "retail" that develops because of stadiums and arenas.  It's more food and drink than retail, outside of a store or two that sells team merchandise ("Cubs' flagship Wrigleyville store might be a destination on its own," CT).

Community benefits framework needs to be added.  Another element that I didn't include in my listing is what we would call "community benefits."  I'm not sure what to include.  I do like how the basketball arena in Bilbao, Spain also includes a community recreation center, which extends to access to the court when not in use by the sports teams using the facility.

Above I've added items concerning social enterprises as part of the retail mix and a ticket tax to fund improvements in the immediately impacted area of the facility.

Another item would be access to the facility generally, and for community/nonprofit type events. For arenas, if in mixed use areas, including public recreation centers would be a plus.

The Washington Nationals baseball team provides some financial support to youth baseball. For example, this year they paid for the rehabilitation of a baseball diamond and stands at the Takoma Recreation Center ("Nationals to dedicate Bryce Harper Field, MLB). The Washington Redskins paid for the construction (but not the operation) of a community center near their facility in Maryland.

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