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.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Suburban stadium/arena interest a function of new, younger generations of ownership or a better real estate play?

With a couple of exceptions -- Atlanta Braves to suburban Cobb County, the San Francisco 49ers to Santa Clara, 42 miles from the SF City Hall, and the Buffalo Bills staying in the suburbs outside of Buffalo -- most stadium/arena rebuilding efforts tend to be focused on urban locations, if not necessarily the center city per se, at least in Los Angeles where an NFL stadium and a forthcoming NBA arena are in urban places, but outside of LA proper.

-- "Framework of characteristics that support successful community development in association with the development of professional sports facilities," 2021

The Oakland A's are moving to a more central Las Vegas location, the Tampa Bay Rays to another location in center city St. Petersburg, the Philadelphia 76ers want to move to the heart of Downtown Philadelphia, the Kansas City Royals want to move Downtown from their more suburban location, the Golden State Warriors moved to San Francisco, etc.

That's why I find what's happening in Salt Lake City so interesting as it is counter to these trends.  

(The Larry H. Miller Company) The Salt Lake Bees broke ground on a new stadium in South Jordan's Daybreak neighborhood on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023. The Triple-A team has released the first renderings of the Bees' new home.

First, earlier this year it was announced that the minor league baseball team Bees will be moving to Daybreak in Draper, 21 miles from Salt Lake City ("Salt Lake Bees break ground on new 2025 Downtown Daybreak ballpark," Ballpark Digest).

A residential community in Daybreak.

But that's because the team owner is a major real estate developer, with big holdings in Draper, and they figure a minor league team can activate the area, even though it never did in the Ballpark neighborhood of SLC 

So the empty land around the stadium as shown in the rendering is a feature, not a bug ("Take a look at the first designs for the Salt Lake Bees’ new Daybreak stadium," Salt Lake Tribune).

Second, Ryan Smith, the new owner of the NBA Jazz, a reasonably young 46 years old guy wealthy from Internet application firm Qualtrics, is talking not only about trying to get a hockey team even though the SLC market is pretty small ("Jazz Owner Ryan Smith Talks NHL, Future Of Utah Sports," KSL), but moving out to the suburbs as well, following the Bees, maybe to Draper as well ("Would Fans Support Jazz Move Out Of Downtown?," KSL, "Salt Lake City is ‘working hard’ to keep the Utah Jazz downtown, city leaders say. What happens next?," Salt Lake Tribune).  

Smith also bought the Real Salt Lake soccer team which is headquartered in suburban Sandy.

Part of the attraction is being closer to Utah County, which is fast growing, 800,000 residents to Salt Lake County's 1.2 million.  But it's also the location of the state's "Silicon Slopes," the home to companies owned by people like Smith.

Suburban mentality?  I wonder if in part this is a function of next generation team owners and executives who weren't party to the lessons that teams learned after moving to the suburbs, that the locations weren't that great, leading them to return to the city.

But also that cities are better places to win subsidies ("The Baseball Stadium That “Forever Changed” Professional Sports," The Ringer).

Real estate play.  But it's also about the opportunity for complementary real estate development.  This isn't new, but the problem with urban locations is the inability to monetize proximate real estate, because it's already owned by other parties.

The Guardian has a good article about this, "‘The stadium is secondary’: how US sports teams became real-estate speculators."  Maybe it's better for team owners to make more money from ancillary real estate that they control, than it is to generate day of game ticket revenues.  From the article:

... More than ever, sports franchises are a real-estate play as owners seek to stimulate revenues amid escalating costs in a period of high inflation. 

Mixed-use developments where people can live, work, shop, dine, drink and play have become ubiquitous as teams seek to squeeze as much profit as possible from their land. The old paradigm was to build a new stadium with high-end facilities inside to cater to the corporate set, boosting matchday income and attracting showpiece events such as Super Bowls, World Cup games and blockbuster concerts by stars like Swift. 

Now teams also want to dictate how dollars are spent each day in the streets around their venues, a trend turning billionaire sports owners into influential city planners.

... Kroenke financed his plans privately, but pledging to revitalize a neighborhood with projects that typically include public green spaces makes giving financial incentives such as tax breaks or covering infrastructure improvements more palatable to municipal leaders and voters who might be wary of handing subsidies worth potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to billionaires.
A problem with this is that the beneficiaries of such "investment" are increasingly just a few players, the team owners. 

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At 10:18 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Another good topic for you to put together a PDF/online "book".

Take all your entries on it, dump each one as a "chapter" and come up with an intro. See how it flows and if you need connective text.

Not an emotional issue for you, but one that does get more attention.

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Ah, the value of jumping on a hot issue. Makes a lot of sense. Would draw attention and be an entree to other "books."

Eg the recent book by Henry Grabar on parking. To me, Shoup said it all, already. But for Grabar, it was jumping on a hot issue and selling books.

At 5:47 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Lawmakers could vote today on plan to bring Capitals, Wizards to Virginia

At 8:55 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

RE: pdf/book

Yes, this is why 90% of current non fiction books suck. Basically that is th process. Write a first chapter and a table of contents. Send around to agents and look for a deal. You can tell when a book is written like that versus sharing years of learning.

But if I go through your stadium articles for the last 10 years, I suspect you've captured 75 to 85% of everything written in the current press about it. And in particular almost everything written about integrating stadium into the urban fabric.

I'm a bit confused about the Monumental Sports plan as I thought Alexandria had a plan already for Potomac Yards.

If I bought a townhouse just south of there, thinking that the north of me is going to be nice offices and residential in 10 years, that is bad planning.

Net loss to DC. As you've said, DC is way too aggressive on promoting "entertainment" districts and that is to a large degreee what happened to Chinatown. I stopped going there around 2004? Around the times the transgender gangs started harassing everyone. It's a complete shithole now. Too many other options in DC and could not support the level of restaurants/bars, and because of green line constant crime issues.

So putting $600M into a new basketball facility isn't going to turn around Chinatown.

I also doubt there is enough demand to turn the facility into "mixed use". Nobody wants to live there. DC never focused on brining actual amenities (Supermarket!) to the area although you now have the Safeway at Mt. Vernon.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I sent an email to Svrluga today in response to his piece. Events DC floated the idea of the arena moving to the RFK site in 2018. But the plan was focused on recreation not mixed use. Economically it doesn't make sense to do it for the NFL team because there are so few events. For Capitals, Wizards + Mystics + arena football (planning for seasonality, even if there is reduced summer patronage overall) plus Hoyas it does, even if I don't think the teams are always super well managed, and DC can't charge income tax on the players. I don't know how much Monumental does with community benefits. More than baseball probably.

Plus need to do separated Silver Line to improve transit connectivity.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Years ago I met with Jemal trying to get him to do a mini supermarket downtown, more upscale like Fresh Market, this was before Streets came to be. He wasn't that interested (maybe because he figured the companies wouldn't be interested and didn't want to waste his time) but was willing to meet.

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The entry failed to (re)mention 1. Separated Silver Line + better and extended streetcar service. 2. Ability to spark redevelopment of the Pepco site. 3. Probably the rest of the corridor and Minnesota Avenue.

Centrality is better but this keeps tge facility with a lot of additional benefits to the city. I think it's a worthy exchange but it does require extinguishing the NPS recreational easement and difficult lease extension matters with the feds.

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

At the same time that entry lists the pieces I wrote about the Anacostia corridor.

You could tie it in, and finally have an East of the River economic development strategy.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Fwiw, not with an arena or stadium, starting in 2003 I advocated for adding housing to the RFK parking lots, when I called for H Street Main Street to develop a housing growth strategy for its retail trade area. RFK, Hechinger Mall and Bladensburg Road, and the parking lot of Delta Towers (it may have been redeveloped since), the old Sears site (since redeveloped), were the primary focus.

The Pepco plant didn't shut down til 2012 so it wasn't considered.

These days it would be too controversial still, but the Langston golf course would be a good redevelopment candidate. I'm not a golfer. Really good couple articles on courses in London and alternative uses.

Interesting discussion on how few people can actually be accommodated each day.


At 12:40 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

At 1:53 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I know Mystics and DC Go Go play at Congress Heights. Maybe they could play both venues. I do know that there is value to playing in appropriate sized places in terms of audience.

At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Potomac Yard is a far from ideal location for such a use. Lousy actually. I suspect some kind of power play between the state and JBG. Hope this is just a ploy to get DC to up the incentives.

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Me too. The "start" of a conversation.

I just wrote a new piece on the topic. But didn't mention PY as sub optimal, because my proposal is less optimal too. But still good.

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

At 6:10 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Point about Downtown Minneapolis, study on how to revive downtown. Former mayor talks about "urban villages" not one specific CBD.

OTOH, DC has too many in close proximity, as discussed in comments above.

At 7:05 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

As architecture professionals, we support a new Crossroads stadium for the KC Royals

My colleagues undersigned below and I would like to express our enthusiastic support for the proposal to build a downtown-area baseball stadium in Kansas City. As a collective of current and former presidents of the American Institute of Architects from the past 15 years, and leaders in the architecture and business community, we understand that such a project would bring numerous benefits to our community and contribute to the ongoing revitalization of our Crossroads and downtown area. We recognize there have been missteps in the communication of plans for the ballpark site to the neighborhood, and efforts are now being made to reach out and gain input from community stakeholders and local businesses. Community engagement and clear communication is a critical part of any large civic-scale project. The community benefits agreement announced on March 20 is a great step forward to rectify this. First and foremost, the trend nationally toward constructing city-center ballparks has demonstrated their immense potential to stimulate the local economy. These stadiums serve as magnets for tourism, drawing visitors from near and far to experience the excitement of baseball games and the unique atmosphere of downtown neighborhoods. This influx of visitors translates into increased business for local shops, restaurants and hotels, providing a significant boost to small businesses and driving economic growth in the surrounding area.

Furthermore, the construction of a downtown-area baseball stadium could greatly enhance the connectivity and enforce existing investment in both the Power & Light District and other local establishments. Plans to build the park over Interstate 670 would create a much-needed bridge, linking two sections of the city that were isolated by our highway system. This coupled with the stadium would encourage residents and visitors alike to explore all that our city has to offer, from cultural attractions to local dining and shopping opportunities. A Crossroads baseball stadium has the potential to attract new residents and drive population growth in our urban core. The allure of living within walking distance of a major sports venue is undeniable, and the availability of housing options near the stadium would appeal to a diverse range of individuals and families seeking an urban lifestyle. This influx of new residents would contribute to the vitality of our neighborhoods and support the ongoing efforts to revitalize our urban core. However, it is very important — and there is a great opportunity here — to knit the stadium into the fabric of our downtown-Crossroads neighborhood, with street frontages and pedestrian-scale experiences around the perimeter. Cities where this has been done successfully include historic parks, such as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. From an urban design perspective, the many newer parks in cities where the immediate surrounds of the neighborhood were not considered when ballgames are not happening have suffered. We can do this better in Kansas City.

Finally, a downtown-area stadium would serve as a gathering place where people from all walks of life can come together to cheer on their favorite team, creating shared memories and fostering a sense of belonging among residents of our city. Baseball is an economically accessible sport, with ticket prices still in line with movie theaters.

At 1:50 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Stadium entertainment districts — such as the one proposed in South Philly — are changing the game for fans around the country

When Atlanta Braves fans Jeff and Alison Donovan arrived outside Citizens Bank Park, three hours early and excited for opening day versus the Phillies, they were a bit jarred by the surroundings of the South Philadelphia Sports Complex.

“There’s nothing here,” said Jeff Donovan, gazing across a great plain of asphalt that contains 22,000 parking spaces, three stadiums, and one sports bar. “There’s nowhere for us to really do anything.”

It’s different in Atlanta, he said, where the Braves’ Truist Park connects to the Battery, a big stay-and-play entertainment area that teems with lively restaurants, shops, plazas, bars and attractions. It’s packed on game days.

He and his family travel there from their home in Orlando, Fla., drawn by their love for the Braves and the energy at the Battery, named for an old baseball expression. About 10 million people visited last year.

... It also promises big money for the team owners.

Across the United States and Canada, these types of mixed-use properties are growing like infield grass, with 41 planned or under construction and 43 more up and operating across the five major pro leagues, according to Maryland-based RCLCO Real Estate Consulting, which advises teams and cities on the developments.

Why the popularity?

“It’s the fan experience,” said Erin Talkington, a managing director at the RCLCO office in Washington. “It’s not a great experience to park your car and walk 15 minutes across the parking lot to the game and do the same when you leave.”

Each development differs. All perform two crucial functions.

For fans and families, they provide a fun and safe place to shop and dine and immerse themselves in the aura of their favorite team. In some cities, these districts have become the go-to gathering spot during big games, where thousands gather to watch on outdoor screens that may be half the size of a basketball court.

For owners — and the main reason for the proliferation — they offer a reliable new stream of income. These venues attract people and dollars 365 days a year, so teams earn money not just from one building, not only during games, and even if the home team stinks.

At 1:50 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

“Owners are really trying to think about, ‘How am I going to maximize my profits off of this team?’” said associate professor Nicholas Watanabe, who studies sports economics at the University of South Carolina. “A lot of them realize there’s a lot more money in developing land.”

Owners have become landlords, and income from leases and rents rolls in regularly. The projects give teams new ways to bundle ticket, hotel and dining packages, and new avenues to sell naming rights, sponsorships and advertising.

Last year, the Battery delivered $59 million in revenue to Atlanta Braves Holdings, which owns the team and the complex. That was up 10% from the previous year.

These mixed-use developments help provide a hedge at a moment when the dominance of American sports programming faces new competition, from such entertainment as video games and on-demand TV, and when fan behavior can be unpredictable. Last year’s World Series between the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks was the least-watched on record.

... Of course, that’s not why most people go to the Battery.

They go to ride the mechanical bull at PBR Atlanta, the bar brand of the Professional Bull Riders league, billed as the toughest sport on dirt. They play in the Sandbox virtual-reality center and browse through the unique designs at Baseballism, a fan shop.

“It’s more than just a baseball day experience,” said Winston Parrish, a Braves fan who with his father, Dwight, came from Asheville, N.C., to the Phillies’ opening day game. “You’re able to get a hotel right there in the Battery, and walk from your hotel to the game.”

When Dwight Parrish attended baseball games as a boy in the 1960s and 1970s, the focus was on seeing star players and snacking on Cracker Jack.

“Today, it’s a different thing,” he said. “It’s all about the kids. It’s all about the family experience. It’s awesome.”


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