The anticipated opening of the new $5-billion-and-counting, 70,000-seat stadium for the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers in 2020 — the most expensive sports stadium ever built, by the way — underscores a trend that architects say is shaping the next wave of professional sports project developments.
The Los Angeles venue will anchor the Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District (LASED), a redevelopment of the old Hollywood Park racetrack.
“Plans for the district include 890,000 square feet of retail space, 780,000 square feet of office space, 300 hotel rooms, 2,500 residences, a 6,000-seat performing arts venue, a TV studio, restaurants, conference spaces and 25 acres of public parks,” according to Building Design+Construction, a publication serving the non-residential construction industry. ”Based on recent examples where sports-anchored mixed-use developments have flourished — most prominently The Battery Atlanta and Arlington Entertainment District in Texas — the key to success lies in assembling the right combination of building types and activities.”
The magazine cited Sports Business Journal estimates that more than $12.2 billion in sports construction and renovation have anchored new entertainment developments over the past 20 years.
In fact, every sports project that Kansas City-based architectural firm Populous currently is working on includes a mixed-use component — because “it’s what cities want,” “John Shreve, senior principal and senior urban planner for Populous told Building Design + Construction, adding that “the relationship between sports teams and their communities has evolved over the past 50 years. And the connection became more strained as sports facilities migrated to the suburbs and became isolated from their fan bases.”
Shreve points to three milestones in this evolution: Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium, which “was embedded within mixed use” when it opened in 1970; Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which Shreve says, established a new paradigm for a ballpark within an existing industrial sector of a city when it opened in 1992; and Sun Trust Park in the Cumberland suburb of Atlanta, which opened in 2017 and is adjacent to a mixed-use “micro neighborhood” called The Battery Atlanta.
Another prime example is Milwaukee’s Deer District — 30 acres surrounding Fiserv Forum, the city’s newest sports arena and home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and Marquette University Golden Eagles. “Once fully developed, the district will host dining and entertainment options, commercial space, and residential opportunities,” reports Athletic Business, which covers the athletic, recreation and fitness industries. “A website dedicated to the project calls it ‘Milwaukee’s newest neighborhood,’ embracing its multifaceted nature. If all goes according to plan, Deer District would become a go-to destination for events and entertainment year-round.”
“You’ve got to become a catalyst,” Bucks president Peter Feigin told The Atlantic. “We’ve got to really put the foundation in the ground and look to transform the city.”
Indeed, this past season (in which the Bucks came within a game of securing a berth in the NBA Finals), team officials noticed more fans arriving earlier to the Fiserv Forum’s neighborhood than they did previously for Bucks games in the nearby (and now-demolished) BMO Harris Bradley Center.
“The fact that people are coming to venture out to explore and see the new structures and operations are incredible,” Feigin told Forbes.com in April. “Not only does the time period get extended on the front end, but we are seeing lingering post event, whether the Bucks, Marquette or concerts, with hundreds of people staying in the district for an hour-plus afterward. It is just what strategically we wanted, to make the district sticky with folks.”
That stickiness now appears to be the driving force that will keep cities and their sports teams together for the long haul.