The Philadelphia 76ers basketball team (owned by the managing partner of the group that recently bought the Washington NFL football team), released a proposal last year to build a new arena as part of the sputtering Market East shopping center on Market Street, using examples of DC's Capital One Arena and the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn to demonstrate the value of centrally located arenas ("A downtown arena for the Sixers can be a Philly thing, too," Philadelphia Inquirer).
-- "Proposal to build new basketball arena in Downtown Philadelphia," 2022
Much of the opposition has centered around the potentially negative impact on Philadelphia's Chinatown, which may well lose Chinese related businesses and residential buildings as a result of the kind of reproduction of space that is unleashed as a result of such developments ("In Philadelphia, a new threat looms over Chinatown," Washington Post).
Along premier Inquirer urban design writer Inga Saffron argues the proposal will have significant negative effects on the Jefferson Street SEPTA station, which serves regional rail and the Market Street line ("Off track? A Sixers arena at 11th and Market would compromise Jefferson Station").
While not the reason--both outmigration to the suburbs and the earlier creation of the DC Convention Center is why--DC's Capital One Arena certainly hasn't strengthened the presence of Chinese-related community and commerce in what for a long time I have derisively called "Chinablock" in DC.
Philadelphia's Design Advocacy Group, uniting more than 2,000 professional architects, designers, and planners, has come out against the proposal too, because it argues it will have a deadening effect on Market Street at the ground level ("A large Philly-based group of architects and designers just came out against the 76ers’ arena plan," PI).
Note that when I started out in revitalization work, DAG's Urban Design Evaluation Tool helped me think about how to approach proposals for new development in a systematic and "demanding" fashion.
That's a legitimate argument. The buildings are big and usually the ground plane is not set up to be vibrant and active, the rents are high for the spaces that exist, and retail businesses focused on events in the building still have to find customers for the other 200-300 days of the year when there isn't anything going on in the arena.
When I've written about new arenas, I tend to focus more on the transportation demand management elements, although "Framework of characteristics that support successful community development in association with the development of professional sports facilities" has a big section on urban design:
- centrality of location: Downtown/central business district/waterfront versus outlying locations within a city or suburbs. Negative examples include the Salt Lake Bees stadium outside of Downtown, with limited redevelopment opportunities; how the Atlanta Braves chose a suburban location for their new stadium, counter to the trend of siting in center cities; the debate in Oakland about a waterfront location versus a new stadium in their current location ("A's plan to build a new waterfront stadium at Oakland's Jack London Square takes big step forward," San Francisco Chronicle), and the location of the Real Salt Lake soccer team in the suburbs instead of the center city. Positive examples include the waterfront stadium for the San Francisco Giants, the Downtown stadium for the Baltimore Orioles, and the relocation of the Washington Wizards basketball team and Capitals Hockey teams from the suburbs to the City of Washington;
- size of the facility and its ability to be integrated into the urban fabric (baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer), bigger stadiums--football stadiums specifically--are harder to integrate in the urban fabric.
- 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. The classic example is Wrigley Field in Chicago versus White Sox Stadium ("Expert offers his dream Sox stadium," Chicago Tribune). Wrigley Field is embedded in its neighborhood, while White Sox Stadium is disconnected from its. But also in how Oracle Park in San Francisco leverages its waterfront location.
But the reality is that the point, "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" needs to be further developed.
For example, while some arenas have nice public spaces around them--again, overall, minimally used--they don't generate a lot of activation on the ground plane. This is definitely true of Capital One Arena in DC.
Capital One Arena, 7th Street NW, west facade
Actually, the Design Advocacy Group could be a significant boon on this issue, with impact nationally, if it addressed this issue as a charrette, and came up with a series of recommendations on how best to integrate arena ground planes into the neighborhood outside the arena, in ways that make it very active and vibrant.
Golden 1 Center. Image Credit: Sacramento Kings. The Sacramento Kings arena is set off from the buildings around it, providing little opportunity for spillover activation. Together Credit Union Plaza, Ballpark Village, St. Louis.
A lot of teams now are into the idea of complementary developments to add activity during events, on non-event days, and to generate revenues theoretically to support team revenue needs to be competitive ("A Great Team, an Ambitious Plan and an 'Existential' Issue," New York Times). From the article:
He generally keeps his distance from the field and clubhouse, focusing on the business of the organization. His priority for now is not a lease extension — Angelos does not like the word lease — but a “public-private partnership” that would reinvent the Camden Yards campus.
The plans, naturally, would include the usual live-work-play stuff — residences, hotels, shops, restaurants, bars — that modern owners covet.
But Angelos mentioned several other possibilities: an elementary school located in the warehouse, a health and wellness clinic, internship and mentorship programs for local youth.
“People will speak about Baltimore like, ‘Wow, Baltimore is cutting-edge,’ which is what they said about Camden Yards,” Angelos said. “If we develop it right, and we include that impactful community program module, we can change the whole brand of Baltimore.”
While Camden Yards inspired a building wave of stadiums and arenas designed to lift surrounding local businesses (at least in theory), the Atlanta Braves’ complex in suburban Cobb County, Ga., is the new standard. Instead of only profiting from in-ballpark sales, the Braves essentially built their own city — known as the Battery and opened in 2017 — to give them a stake in adjacent properties, too.
You see it all over: The San Francisco Giants developed the area on the other side of McCovey Cove; the Boston Red Sox built a 5,000-seat music venue at Fenway Park; the Chicago Cubs bought several buildings that border Wrigley Field. But Atlanta is the ideal, and Angelos has visited the Braves’ complex with Maryland’s governor, Wes Moore, and stadium authority officials.
“The Braves have a couple of things going for them,” Angelos said. “They’ve done very well on the baseball side. They have a really big market, which helps a lot. And then they’ve developed this whole other revenue stream, this whole other business.
“And if big markets like Boston and Atlanta are doing it, it becomes existential — how are we going to compete and keep pace? Everybody won’t be able to do it. But I think because of what’s here — the brand of this ballpark, this piece of property of 60-odd acres with other land around it that could be accessed, maybe bolted on, with the mass transit you don’t even have in Atlanta, with the great highway systems — we think it’s existential.”
I'm skeptical. I think they want more money, but with limited guarantees they will invest it in the team.The Battery Atlanta, a mixed-use development with offices, residences, restaurants and bars, was built next door to the ballpark and attracts customers year round. Photo: Mortenson Construction.
And interestingly, while the Atlanta side project is touted as a national best practice ("New Atlanta Ballpark Considered Model for Royals Coming Downtown," CityScene KC), Kennesaw State University professor J.C. Bradbury, argues it hasn't done much for Cobb County, which provides significant subsidies ("Study finds Cobb residents are paying $15 million dollars to run Truist Park home of Atlanta Braves," Atlanta News First, "Reply to Zimbalist: 'Report on the Fiscal Impact of Truist Park and the Battery'," Social Science Research Network).
Mutual benefit should be the outcome of so-called "public private partnerships."
Good for the team, bad for the County? It doesn't make sense to me that the high cost of sports income for owners and players should be subsidized by local and state government.
Labels: Downtown, public finance and spending, public private partnerships (3P), sports and economic development, stadiums/arenas, urban design/placemaking, urban revitalization