Stadium architects asked to imagine future ballpark, go mad with power

Populous, the stadium-architecture company that changed its name from HOK because it wasn’t pretentious enough, has seen the future of baseball stadiums, and dear lord:

Seats made of dirt and grass! Windows you can’t see through because there are images projected on them! Some kind of neon pneumatic-tube monorail thing to whip people past the stadium at high speeds! And, for good measure, a square home plate and bases that are several feet off the foul line, because baseball’s rules are just stuck in the past, man.

SI.com is predictably breathless about all this CGI futurism, since they’re the ones who asked for it, and it would presumably be churlish to say, “We asked Populous what stadiums will look like in 16 years, and they used that as an excuse to just go take a lot of drugs and play with Photoshop.” But it had to be hard with quotes like this one:

“Technology is keeping people in their homes,” [designer Greg] Sherlock said. “We reversed that notion, and in this urban context, this park-like setting is the community living room where you go to get super technology at your fingertips.”

Whoa, it’s like, it’s like. Whoa.

AEG still insisting it may build L.A. stadium, someday, maybe

AEG’s Los Angeles football stadium plans may have been going nowhere fast even before owner Philip Anschutz put the company up for sale and then took it back off the market but booted stadium czar Tim Leiweke, who ended up running the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ parent company, but that doesn’t mean they’re giving up on building a new stadium for no NFL team in in particular:

Even though the NFL appears to have little interest in coming to Los Angeles, AEG’s plans for a stadium are still in play, said Ted Tanner, the company’s vice president.

Addressing a Los Angeles Convention Center panel last week, Tanner presented updated renderings for Farmers Field, the proposed 78,000-seat downtown stadium, to a group of commissioners and officials.

I guess anything is possible, but given that lately more talk has focused on other sites in L.A., this seems more like a pro forma effort to keep AEG’s stadium plans alive on the back burner, at least. But why the announcement now?

The City Council in 2012 approved the stadium deal, but the AEG rights expire in October. Asked if AEG would seek to extend the contract, Tanner said it was too early to say, though others with the company say it is likely it will seek additional time.

Yeah, that’ll do it. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Keeping Our Development Options Open Field!

Here’s what the Sacramento Kings arena will look like, if you’re a computer-rendered avatar

The “final” renderings of the new Sacramento Kings arena are out, and they look to involve lots of aluminum mesh, an interior designed as a backdrop for a black-and-white minimalist comic (Adrian Tomine, maybe? Hey, he’s from Sacramento!), and hip young white people staring blankly into the sky. (What’s with the guy in the porkpie hat whose arm is permanently attached to his girlfriend?) Commenter MikeM has already dubbed it the Jiffy Pop Arena; other suggested nicknames, disparaging or otherwise, are welcome.

As far as the actual effect on seeing a basketball game goes, it’s tough to tell much from these, except that it follows the typical modern wall-of-luxury-seats-and-screw-those-people-in-the-upper-deck model that I’ve complained about at the Brooklyn Nets‘ Barclays Center. Though if everyone’s more interested in the sky, it doesn’t matter if they can see the game, right?

In other sports venue design news, the Atlanta Braves have announced that they’ve hired Populous (formerly HOK) to design their new building in Cobb County, which isn’t really news given that just about everybody hires Populous to design their baseball stadiums. Still no word on when they might finalize their long-awaited stadium operating agreement, meanwhile (which will go a long way toward detailing the level of public subsidies the stadium would require), or what’s up with their possible demand for state tax breaks, or the lawsuit against the property-tax extension to pay for the place, or the charges that Cobb County violated open meetings laws in approving the project. Just lookit the pretty pictures — okay, there aren’t any pictures yet, so everyone just imagine your own versions in your mind. It’s crowdrendering!

Manhattan Jets/Olympic stadium plan: the cost that keeps on costing

The New York Jets Manhattan stadium plan may be long dead, but its legacy lives on in the form of “Hudson Yards,” the mixed-use development project that was supposed to surround it on Manhattan’s West Side. Back in 2005, you will recall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg succeeded in convincing the city council that key to getting tens of thousands people to shlep several blocks west of Midtown to see football, the Olympics, or whatever, was to build an extension of the #7 subway line west of Times Square. This would cost $2 billion (if you think that’s a lot, don’t get me started on the 1,500-foot tunnel in Queens that cost $645 million), but never worry, as it would all be paid off by increased property tax payments by new development on the site — that’s right, a TIF.

Except that the development still hasn’t happened, which as Juan Gonzalez reports in today’s Daily News has resulted in the inevitable consequences:

The Bloomberg administration paid $234 million during fiscal year 2012 to a city-created development group that oversees the huge new commercial and residential complex, one of the mayor’s most ambitious projects.

City Hall quietly earmarked most of that money — $155 million — to the Hudson Yards Infrastructure Corp. in late June, because the group has not been generating enough revenue to pay the annual interest due on $3 billion in bonds it issued.

Of course, there are still hopes that Hudson Yards development will one day take off as originally planned — as Gonzalez wryly notes, “Maybe it will in 50 years, when most of us are dead.” If only anybody could have seen this coming.

Some guys want to build a $1.4b Bills stadium with $400m+ in state subsidies

The Buffalo Bills stadium battle has been simmering for a while, but now it finally has what it’s been missing: a grandiose, hugely expensive plan for a new stadium with a retractable roof. According to the Buffalo News, a company called Greater Buffalo Sports & Entertainment Complex — which formed early this year and is based in Delaware, giving new meaning to “greater Buffalo” — will today present the city Common Council with a plan for a $1.4 billion development project that would include a 72,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium, on land owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

Obviously, $1.4 billion is quite a bit more than the $200 million that the Bills were talking about for a renovation of Rich Stadium, so where would the money come from? According the the News, GBS&EC vice president George Hasiotis helpfully explained that while

it was premature to talk about financing a stadium but that based on other stadium projects across the country, it was reasonable to expect the State of New York to pay about $400 million, the NFL $200 million to $400 million. Such a project would bring in hundreds of millions for the construction trades, since 10,000 such jobs were expected to be generated, he said.

Well, yes, if you spend $1.4 billion on construction, it’d be hard not to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the construction industry. Ah, the wonders of “economic activity.”

In any event, those “reasonable” figures are likely to raise some eyebrows both in Albany and at NFL headquarters: $400 million is more than the state has kicked in for another other recent stadium project, and the NFL’s G-4 stadium fund caps out at $200 million per team. Plus, the project would apparently require an “option” on 167 acres of harborfront property owned by the state-run Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which it’s not clear whether GBS&EC would pay for.

Still, if nothing else, Buffalo now has a stalking horse notable enough to make the newspaper, which if nothing should be enough to make $200 million for renovations look cheap by comparison. As I’ve noted many times before, half the battle for teams seeking stadiums is shifting the debate from whether to build something to how and where to build something, and by that measure, even overpriced vaportecture is an important first step.

Ex-Mayor Daley says Chicago’s problem is not enough football stadiums

No, wait, maybe this is the most jaw-dropping story of the day:

In an interview with Comcast Sports Net, [former Chicago mayor Richard] Daley said the city should build a new stadium and add a second NFL team to the market.

“I really believe we could get a second football team,” the former mayor said. “I’ve always believed — the Chicago Cardinals, Bears — why is it that New York has two? Florida has three, San Francisco has two. Now you think of that, we could easily take — Chicago loves sports and we could get a second team in here.

Because if the NFL has waited two decades to put a team in L.A., surely it’ll rush to pay to build a stadium for a second team in a much smaller metro area, right? Also, the last NFL stadium in Chicago was such a rip-roaring success. And Florida isn’t a city, and San Francisco … you know, this is more than an offhand radio remark by a guy who isn’t even in charge of anything anymore really deserves, so I think I’ll leave it at that.

Oakland plans second vaportecture stadium for A’s

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, not content to have one A’s stadium plan with no real idea how to pay for it, announced on Friday that “we are sending today a letter to Commissioner Selig to make it pretty clear that Oakland wants the A’s, that we have two sites for the A’s that are viable that could be delivered by 2014.”

Site #2 is, in fact, the current site of the Oakland Coliseum (I can’t be bothered to remember its latest corporate name — nice investment, whoever owns naming rights this week!), which would be replaced by a new A’s baseball stadium, a new Raiders football stadium, and a new hotel under the latest plan. (Not-very-detailed renderings available at Newballpark.org.) This “Coliseum City” would be paid for by … okay, Quan didn’t actually mention that part, but the city has a Request For Proposals out for the project, which … actually asks the developers to submit “a description of its approach to developing financing measures.” Three guesses how many of the six developers who’ve reportedly responded to the RFP will be proposing to fund the whole project themselves?

Coliseum City, incidentally, would also include a renovated arena for the Golden State Warriors, which is significant because the Warriors owners last week met with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Giants CEO Larry Baer to discuss a new arena near AT&T Park to open in 2017, the year the Warriors’ lease at Oracle Arena — which was completely rebuilt in 1996 for $121 million — runs out.

One more item from the Quan news conference: She said that the Giants claim they can use legal measures to delay any A’s move to San Jose for as much as ten years. Which is exactly what they would say, and exactly what she would say, but just passing it along.

Developer proposes $1.95B Vegas sports complex

Texas developer Chris Milam has bought the minor-league Las Vegas 51’s baseball team, which wouldn’t normally be notable here — except for what Milam insists he plans to do next:

Milam has labeled the privately financed $1.95 billion project the Las Vegas National Sports Center.

With a 9,000-seat ballpark for the 51s, the proposed center, which will be located on a 63-acre parcel, will feature a 17,500-seat arena designed to house an NBA basketball team and a 36,000-seat stadium for a Major League Soccer squad.

“It’s the beginning of the greatest thing ever to happen for sports in this community,” said 51s executive director Don Logan, who helped broker the sale of the Pacific Coast League franchise.

That’s right, $1.95 billion for an MLS stadium, an NBA arena, and a minor-league baseball stadium — and all privately financed! Since typically all three of those items put together wouldn’t cost more than $600 million tops, either Milam has something up his sleeve or he’s completely insane, or both. Though to be fair, it’s got to cost a lot to build stadiums out of liquid metal.

For those playing along at home, this looks to be the warmed-over Cordish plan, which hasn’t been heard from in a couple of years, but stadium and arena plans never really die, especially in Vegas. The baseball stadium would be expandable to 36,000 seats to be MLB-ready if a team could be lured there; as Craig Calcaterra notes, Las Vegas’ entirely tourist-based economy is a lousy fit for MLB, but as vaportecture goes, at least Milam is dreaming big.

In space, no one can hear you boo

Just when it was looking like a terminally slow news day: SPACE STADIUM!

Placed inside a half-kilometer crater, the Stadium of International Lunar Olympics would be round, with space for 100,000 spectators. It would use digital lighting to project field markers. On the tower, there would be a huge hotel, restaurants and a Jeff Bridges-lookalike in space suit, watching people killing each other.

No word yet on how much such a stadium would cost, what its marginal revenue impact would be on the lunar economy, or how long it will be before the Cincinnati Bengals demand their own algae-driven life-support system.