Stadium impact varies with vision


A sampling of stadium projects with bigger visions:

LUCAS OIL STADIUM, Indianapolis

Opened: 2008.

Cost: about $720 million. Colts kicked in $100 million, the rest financed jointly by state and city.

Goals beyond sports: Expansion of convention facilities, addition of hotel, greater lure for downtown with a heavy concentration of events and climate-controlled connections. Project is finished.

PETCO PARK, San Diego

Opened: 2004.

Cost: $474 million, most from local government development agencies.

Goals beyond sports: Rejuvenate run-down downtown area, add residences, offices, retail and restaurants. Stadium built, private development continues.

COORS FIELD, Denver

Opened: 1995.

Cost: About $215 million, $47 million from team owners, the rest from sales taxes.

Goals beyond sports: Accelerating rebirth of an old warehouse district with restaurant, bars and clubs. Stadium built. Private development continues.

BALLPARK VILLAGE, St. Louis

Slated to open: 2014.

Cost: $650 million project; only the $100 million phase one is underway. The Cardinals are developing and financing the project in partnership with the Cordish Companies of Baltimore.

Goals beyond sports: Revive area just outside the new Busch Stadium with entertainment, restaurants, bars and retail. Ground broken last month.

Sources: ROMA Design Group, Visit Indy, Indianapolis Mayor’s Office, JMI Sports, Cordish Companies, Brookings Institution study by Roger Noll and Andrew Zimbalist, Denver Urban Renewal Authority

Atlanta officials on Thursday announced a pact that would pour millions of dollars into improvements in the neighborhoods around a new football stadium for the Falcons.

The latest chapter in the stadium saga added an element largely missing until now — the extent to which building a state-of-the-art sports complex can, or should, be designed to revitalize nearby neighborhoods.

It is a dilemma faced by many civic leaders the past few decades.

Across the country, cities have grappled with similar issues. Their solutions range from using a new stadium as the centerpiece of broader plans to lift the host community to raising taxes, putting up a building and driving away.

“Each deal is different – there is no cookie-cutter,” said Mark Rosentraub, co-director of the Michigan Center for Sport Management, University of Michigan. “You are only limited by what you can imagine.”

In Atlanta, the Falcons will pay most of construction costs for the $1 billion stadium with the city’s economic development arm issuing $200 million in construction bonds backed by hotel-motel taxes. Another $100 million or more in hotel-motel tax would go to operations and upgrades over time.

As talks progressed the city’s role expanded and questions arose about potential benefits to surrounding areas.

The deal laid out last week calls for the Falcons to pay $50 million toward road, sewer, utility and other infrastructure improvement around the new retractable roof stadium.

The private foundation begun by Falcons owner Arthur Blank will spend $15 million toward neighborhood improvement – an amount to be matched by Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm. Those improvements haven’t been specified.

That seems to place the Atlanta deal somewhere in the middle of the pack as far as stadium projects of the last two decades: It offers help for the area, but stops well short of a visionary plan aimed at dramatic change.

Here is what some other cities have done:

San Diego - Petco Park, home of the Padres, won praise for design. Yet the stadium, which opened in 2004, was only the centerpiece of an unprecedented effort to rejuvenate the surrounding area.

The Padres made high-profile promises to bring private investment into the area – a strategy that was good business as well as good citizenship, said Boris Dramov, principal in ROMA Design Group, which worked on the project.

“San Diego ownership was not just being philanthropic. They felt this was the way to make it more successful.”

The area where Petco sits had been blighted, rife with abandoned buildings. Now, it has high-rise residences, offices, retail and restaurants – and nearly all that investment has been from the private sector.

“The thing is to have the leadership who will build the stadium as a part of building a better city. If leadership is only interested in getting a sports facility built, that will not happen.”

Dallas - Cowboys Stadium is the anti-Petco. The 85,000-seat stadium opened in 2009 with a huge, high-definition video screen, high-tech amenities - and no intent beyond the fans who show up. The stadium, which opened in 2009 in the suburb of Arlington, has no connection to any mass transit, but there is lots of parking.

Construction costs were about $1.15 billion, about one-third coming from the taxes raised by the city of Arlington.

Denver - Coors Field, home to the Rockies, opened in 1995 in an old warehouse district.

The park is considered a key reason that the LoDo – short for Lower Downtown – has become more vibrant, although critics say the rejuvenation would have happened anyway.

St. Louis - Ballpark Village is supposed to be a people-friendly area outside the new Busch Stadium, opened in 2006. The village was envisioned as a 10-block urban entertainment hub, peppered with restaurants, bars and 100,000 square feet of retail.

Only there have been glitches in the financing. Proposed as a $650 million project opening in 2014, Ballpark Village had its groundbreaking only last month. And that is just for the $100 million “phase one.”

Brooklyn - Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn is denser, more costly, controversial and perhaps bolder than almost any other sports project: a 22-acre development that will eventually include 6 million square feet of residences, 247,000 square feet of retail, 336,000 square feet of offices, transit improvements and eight acres of open space — as well as the arena for the Nets of the NBA.

Total cost is estimated in the billions of dollars.

Indianapolis - For Atlanta, this is an intriguing comparison, since the city – like downtown Atlanta – has a flagship convention center, companion arena and an escort of hotels. They are the result of an overarching strategy doggedly pursued.

Starting in the 1970s the city targeted conventions, sports events and sports organizations for downtown. It has consistently drawn major events, including pro and college basketball and Big Ten football. And of course, the Colts.

About a decade ago, the Colts began lobbying for a new stadium. Meanwhile, city leaders wanted more convention space, and the NCAA had just agreed to let Indianapolis host the Final Four for several decades.

The city commissioned a study, then doubled down on downtown’s strengths.

The old stadium was demolished, the convention center dramatically expanded. A new Colts home was built – Lucas Oil Stadium. Then, pretty much everything was connected with skywalks and tunnels that let visitors move around downtown without going outside.

Lucas Stadium was designed so that on the roughly 310 days a year that the Colts don’t use it, there can be other activities. The stadium has ballrooms, meeting rooms, curtains to set off concerts and a 183,000 square foot exhibition space.

Shops, restaurants and bars line nearby Georgia Street.

“You have a mall, you have office workers and other people shopping or going out to eat after work,” said Marc Lotter, spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard. “And when you have a Big Ten or a Colts game, there are just have tens of thousands of people out there. There is a lot going on.”

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