Field of Schemes
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October 09, 2009

Here comes the next stadium wave

Blame it on Cowboys Stadium, or blame it on Ed Roski, but there certainly seems to be a rush of teams looking to get back on the new-stadium line these days, despite having old stadiums that aren't even of legal drinking age.

The latest is Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who yesterday reiterated that he wants a new home to replace the 17-year-old Georgia Dome, ideally as soon as the dome's bonds are paid off, which could be as soon as 2015. "The Falcons are falling behind other teams in the NFL in terms of the experience for our fans," Blank told reporters, in what has to be an allusion to the Cowboys' new building. The Falcons owner was previously reported to be scouting sites around Atlanta for a new building; he says it would be paid for by a mix of public and private funds, which doesn't actually explain anything, but sounds good in the papers.

Also upping the ante: NFL VP Frank Supovitz, who the day before told the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce that the Miami Dolphins' 25-year-old Land Shark Stadium — don't worry, only a couple more months of this before we can go back to calling it Dolphins Stadium — may not be modern enough to host more Super Bowls after this season. "You have to look at what the other cities are offering in terms of comfort," said Supovitz, noting that in Miami fans and players are actually exposed to the weather. "I'm not going to have anyone rained on in North Texas. They're not going to get rained on in Indianapolis." Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said the team is "working with the NFL to see what should be done," which is certainly a nice way of casting the league as Bad Cop should the team demand a new or vastly renovated stadium.

Then there's Milwaukee, where the Bradley Center just turned 21 years old last week, and Ulice Payne, the chair of the arena's board of directors, declared Tuesday that the buildinghas only eight years left before it turns into a pumpkin. (Among Payne's complaints: Its scoreboard is 14 years old, and it has ceramic tiles, which are so 1990s.) Bucks owner Herb Kohl hasn't commented yet, but he's previously proclaimed his desire for a new, younger facility. As for Payne, he first got involved in sports as a member of Miller Park's board, which he then parlayed into a turn as CEO of the Brewers — so it's always possible he's just angling for a job in basketball this time.


17 year-old stadium?? My gawd. The Skydome (Er, Rogers Centre) just turned 20, and it has some mileage left. Even my Calgary Flames are looking at a new arena to replace the relatively young Saddledome (26 years old, still modern compared to Edmonton's Rexall Place), and that seems a bit too soon.

I think 30 years is a decent age for a stadium. Was it too hard for people to think of that sort of lifespan in the early 90's??

Posted by Shocked on October 9, 2009 10:26 AM

Well, it's not as if these places are falling down - they're just "obsolete" in the sense of not being as new as newer ones.

I've mentioned this several times here before, but not long after the Miami Heat got a new arena in 1999 after just 11 years at Miami Arena, I asked sports economist Rod Fort what he thought was a reasonable shelf life for a sports facility. He replied, "From the owner's perspective, I don't see what's wrong with a new stadium every year, so long as you're not the one paying for it." I think that about sums up the dynamic at work here.

Posted by Neil on October 9, 2009 10:48 AM

I guess when you put it like that....Owners can pretty much operate with that attitude. 11 years??

I'd like to predict that 25 years from now, Pro Sports will implode like magazines and newspapers today. An outdated form of entertainment made extinct by lack of interest and unrealistic business model.

Posted by Shocked on October 9, 2009 11:31 AM

What's funny is that if you go to Cowboy stadium it really doesn't have any amenities that a place like Dolphin Stadium doesn't have other than the larger TV and some stripper poles from the average fan's perspective. A game is no more enjoyable at Cowboy Stadium then it is at the Georgia Dome. And if you asked their average customer in St. Louis, they're perfectly happy going to see games at the Edward Jones Dome. Many reviewers actually pointed that out that Cowboy stadium for all the hype really isn't all that different and in many ways is just a plain jane stadium, particularly on the outside. New Yankee Stadium too many have a big "hall of champions" but at it's core it's just another Camden Yards knock off again with a bigger TV.

Posted by Dan on October 9, 2009 11:53 AM

No the won't implode entirely. But what you'll see is what you've already started to see in places like the SF Bay Area and LA. The municipalities will have had enough and will start pushing back on any requests for a publicly financed venue and demand the owners build it themselves. I suspect you'll see this play out again in the Bay Area in the next year when Santa Clara rejects the 49ers publicly funded stadium plan.

Posted by Dan on October 9, 2009 12:05 PM

Yes, Dan, you are right. I worked the Santa Clara art and wine festival anti-stadium booth in mid-Sept., and loads of people wanted to get on our mailing list and take literature about the detrimental effects of the stadium on Santa Clara's finances. Loads of people can't wait to vote 'no' on the stadium. I was at a retreat a few weeks ago and a number of seniors from Santa Clara were there, and all of them said our city leadership has gone downhill over the past decade, and our leadership cares only for moneyed interests now. There are many disgusted Santa Clarans, and the stadium issue is bringing those feelings of disgust with our elected reps. to a head. I hope this will spur change in the makeup of our city council. For one thing, we need more city council members who can do math-5 members of our city council, including our mayor, just ignore the information on stadium costs, and instead might as well be wearing their 49ers logo gear to city council meetings.

Posted by SantaClaraTaxpayer on October 9, 2009 12:24 PM

Santa Clara would make a good retirement community---lets see--12% unemployment in Silly Valley---and people will reject a 1 Billion dollar investment with the city contributing a mere $70M out of its redevelopment agency which can only invest in economic development projects---the remaining city investment comes from hotel tax of visitors to the city--come on---look around you--the economy sucks and this is one way to get things moving again---

Posted by SanJoseA's on October 9, 2009 05:58 PM

Saying things like "a mere $70 million" is why this thing will fail. 70 million is not a "mere" amount of money to 99.9% of voters. And it is not a "mere" amount of money to a city as small as Santa Clara. That's almost half their entire redevelopment fund. On a stadium that will get used 8 times a year for a team that won't even acknowledge it plays in Santa Clara or the south bay... and that doesn't even take into account revenue shortfalls.

And yes it's a one billion dollar investment, that primarily benefits the rich owners of the Niners. It will not have a large impact beyond the Niners on the city of Santa Clara as there isn't much around the Niners stadium. There's not many resturants that will benefit in the area, hotels won't benefit much since Niners fans drive to games, and SC has no downtown to speak of that would have any benefit from this stadium either.

Posted by Dan on October 9, 2009 06:26 PM

I suspected this would happen when Jones previewed his new toy on national tv. Even the announcers stopped just short of saying "Everybody should have one of these".

It's no surprise that sports leagues are using Jerry's playground as an extortion tool. I just hope it doesn't succeed. It's truly amazing how quickly new facilities go from being the "8th wonder of the world" to "old, tired, in need of replacement".

A Superbowl in Indianapolis? Well, I don't think the ones in Detroit did all that well compared to Phoenix/Miami/San Diego. Turns out people like warm weather... and spend more money on refreshments and t-shirts when it's hot out.

Sooner or later, municipalities will have to start saying no to sports owners. I've no problem with a small contribution to a major project, but that contribution must be covered by either payments from the team or at least increased tax revenues over the expected lifetime of the facility. No more gifts to billionaires.

Posted by John Bladen on October 9, 2009 08:24 PM

I came up with a huge brainstorm...If the Raiders
bolt for LA(most likely scenario+to the NFL's delight because of marketing purposes),the 9ers
can go across the Bay to Oakland.
That will most likely kill 2 birds with 1 stone.
They're still in the immediate Bay Area,however it
also fills the void for now till they get their own
permanent gridiron in Frisco,if not they can make
their home in Al Davis territory.Now that's ironic.

Posted by Kirk A.Grant on October 9, 2009 08:34 PM

Nice Brainstorm Kirk.

Move the Raiders back to LA though I think Al Davis will make the move for Las Vegas just to spite the NFL Offices in New York.

I agree with John Bladen as well. I don't really care for Cowboys Stadium one bit though I am a Cowboys fan. The only thing that makes it stand out is the big screen TV. Otherwise the stadium is just like any other out there, and almost as if they moved University of Phoenix Stadium from Glendale, AZ to Arlington, TX. All that was added was a big screen TV. Next they'll move the stadium from Arlington to Brandon, GA (Atlanta Suburb) and add a Hard Rock Cafe, then to Brooklyn Park, MN where they will drop the dome but add a video screen bigger than the one in Texas and hot tubs. Following that, the dome will be added for the location in Fort Lauderdale, FL, but the location will feature the world's largest homage to Don Shula whereas the largest is currently in Canton, OH new dome home of the Lions which will add all of the above and include NFL history without having to move a muscle and is perfect for 800 pound fans who have nothing better to do than sit around, order pizza, watch NFL football, bet on NFL football, bet on football using fantasy players from NFL rosters, and have the first question be coming out from your latest heart surgery be, did [insert NFL Team here] win yesterday.

Here is my prediction, the NFL is a TV game and I am betting that we will soon see the Las Vegas Raiders, the Nevada 49ers, the Orlando Rams (if Rush Limbaugh has his way), the Atlanta Jaguars, the Oklahoma Falcons and the Seattle Bucks.

Keeping with the current theme of the post, I predict that future baseball stadiums will be based on Target Field. There will be baseball teams such as the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, and Los Angeles Dodgers, looking for a new ballpark simply because the Twins are going to open up the best home-field advantage in the Majors with the third base visitors clubhouse having a railroad line running right beside it, holes above the main grandstand that could help cause problems for teams that aren't dressed warm enough for April or October baseball in cold weather, and finally the prevailing winds will make for pretty interesting plays in the summer.

Posted by Jessy S. on October 9, 2009 10:41 PM

It is a myth that the Santa Clara stadium would cost just 70 million. That is a myth perpetuated by the Santa Clara mayor and the 49ers. It is RDA 42 mil in bonds plus 35 mil in bond servicing (interest) plus 20 mil to move an electric substation plus 17 mil for a parking garage, 35 mil in new hotel taxes (what if this amount can't be raised?) and the city will take on 330 million in debt through its agency the Stadium Authority. In other cities, Stadium Authorities have not been able to raise the amount of funds they promised, and that always comes back to bite taxpayers in the city budget. Then, there is the interest and taxes on the bonds the Stadium Authority is going to take out (many more millions), the cost of hiring a company to manage the stadium, the cost of hiring another company to sell personal seat licenses and naming rights. The 49ers have offered loans to Santa Clara in several of these areas, should Santa Clara not be able to raise the required amount of funds-but Santa Clara has no way to pay back any loans because we have no cash-we are running a budget deficit. There are no guarantees that the stadium won't have a detrimental effect on our city budget through increased taxes or fees, or reduced city services. If you add everything together that Santa Clara is responsible for-without debt financing, it is $444 million.

Posted by SantaClaraTaxpayer on October 10, 2009 01:29 AM

Jessy, while your analogy is amusing in regard to baseball I suspect nothing of the sort will happen. Unlike football, all baseball stadium in the last 17 years have all been based on Camden Yards to some extent or another. And even today Camden Yards is still the cream of that crop. Meanwhile in the interim the White Sox have completely renovated their park so that it is a Camden style stadium now too, Coors Field is still comparable to all the other stadiums in MLB amenities. And Dodger Stadium is in the midst of a renovation the owners are saying will make it a competitive venue for 50 years and have no intent to leave. So while it may seem like Yankee Stadium might start a new wave in MLB I seriously doubt it. Yankee Stadium really doesn't have much separating it from Camden Yards and all the parks that have come in the time since Camden was built other than a big TV. And if you look at what is the one addition most of the baseball parks have been making in the last few years... it's a bigger TV.

Posted by Dan on October 10, 2009 02:10 AM

Dan & Jessy, good points.

I'd add that Angels stadium is regularly rated as one of the best fan experiences in the game. And we all know what Angel Stadium used to be... the multipurpose home of the Rams and Angels.

In the old days, it was terrible for baseball, and not much better for football. But Mr. Moreno (who, for all his faults and questionable business decisions vis the city) has worked to improve the facility more or less annually (albeit sometimes with public money, yes).

There are some facilities that just couldn't be effectively modernized. But that said, an awful lot of sprucing up can be done for 10% of the cost of a new facility (not to mention the hidden infrastructure costs that are sometimes crippling for municipalities).

Replacing a stadium because it's 15 years old is no smarter than bulldozing your house on it's 15th birthday. It only works if you can get someone else to pay for it. And, if you can get someone really dumb (like the city of Oakland) to agree to buy any unsold tickets as well, hey, presto! You've got a winner on your hands, no matter how badly you manage it...

Posted by John Bladen on October 12, 2009 12:28 AM

/\/\/\ I believe that was San Diego that agreed to buy unsold tickets. If Oakland had/has one it was not well-publicized.

Posted by Brian on October 12, 2009 12:57 PM

Atlanta will be doing pretty well if they wait until the current debt is paid. Indianapolis levied a one percent food and beverage tax specifically to pay for the RCA Dome (nee Hoosier Dome). After 25 years, that structure was razed, the Lucas Oil Stadium was built and - oh, yes, - we were told that, by the way, NOTHING has been paid on the principal of the original debt. No one - politician, chamber of commerce, "investigative" reporter - is willing to ask where the money went. The new stadium, by the way, cost approximately ten times the original effort -$750m as opposed to $70m- and the food and beverage tax was doubled. No word yet as to whether those revenues actually will be used for the stated purpose.

Posted by Fred McCarthy on October 12, 2009 05:01 PM

In the past Oakland has bought the missing tickets. However there have been so many unsold tickets in recent years I believe they've backed off that. Buying out almost half the stadium isn't practical.

Posted by Dan on October 12, 2009 05:43 PM

To: Posted by Dan on October 9, 2009 06:25 PM

The stadium will most likely host the 49ers AND Raiders, the DeBartolo Family is interested in picking up the Raiders and have a great relationship with the York Family.

If Santa Clara approves it, I believe the Niners will hold out a hand to the Raiders which gives 16 regular season and 8 pre-season games. The stadium will be able to hold soccer events, college sports, concerts, trade shows, etc. Almost certainly a Super Bowl as well.

Believe me, the stadium won't go completely unused. It's not just 8 games a year and even if it is one team, there will still be a TON of events going on over the year. Just look at Jerry Jones and what he built. He built a multipurpose venue with the Cowboys as his main tenant.

That stadium will be a cash generator which will go to the owner.

Posted by To Dan on October 12, 2009 06:06 PM

It's an interesting theory that the Raiders would move in, but so far it has little basis in reality. As long as Al Davis breathes he will not be selling the team to Eddie DeBartolo or anyone else.

On your second point, again... the Raiders won't be moving in as long as Al owns the team. He's always been an opportunist. He won't want in to the Niners stadium if the LA one becomes available first.

And as for a "ton" of events. Assuming it passes the public vote, which is highly suspect at this point, it will host 8 games a year, maybe a few concerts (though I doubt many because concerts and being directly under an airport's flight path don't exactly go together). It might hold a few soccer exhibitions (maybe one or two a season). I don't know what college football you think it will host. Stanford has a brand new stadium, SJSU doesn't need a stadium that big and just installed several new amenities to their own stadium, and Cal is in the midst of renovating their stadium. I don't know what "trade shows" you think will utilize a large outdoor stadium because as it right now none utilize Candlestick or the Coliseum. And we MIGHT get a Super Bowl, but being a colder weather market whose wet season is in Feb there's no guarantee of that, not when Florida is being threatened that they'll need a roof for the same event.

Posted by Dan on October 13, 2009 12:00 AM


Hate to have you marketing for our company---talk about a wet blanket---lots of opportunity to take advantage of other uses for a stadium--ever hear of college bowl games? Didn't know that you know Al personally and have his committment to move to LA first--of course that is before the Chargers do that who are already in the area--btw---did you notice that Roger D. is promoting the '9ers and Raiders share a stadium in Santa Clara-

I hope you live in SC since you like making such bold predictions as to how us voters in Santa Clara will vote---in the circles I run there is broad support---$70M is a minor investment to getting near $1B invested in your city--

Posted by SanJoseA's on October 13, 2009 09:10 PM

Dan, I was talking about Target Field the new home of the Minnesota Twins that opens in April 2010. Part of the park's new features is that it was built on a small plat of land that used to host parking for T-Wolves games at the Target Center. The third baseline features the visitors clubhouse and includes a subway line that passes the Metrodome and ends at Mall of America. Meanwhile the plaza side is right underneath part of I-394. The ballpark's other features include a team store that sticks out as if Frank Lloyd Wright designed the ballpark himself and the exterior is covered in Minnesota based limestone from the Woodbury area. Finally, the scoreboard is the largest in the Midwest region and in the country except for the ones in Dallas and New York's Yankee Stadium.

With all that said and done, I realize that there is the Camden Yards effect and the retro ballpark craze, but fans don't want to see a retro ballpark and want teams to have their own identity. Not that some retro ballparks don't have their own identity. They do but some features are based on other ballparks with Camden as the original because that ballpark was built with a sense of yesteryear, near a rail yard and a sense that the ballpark was built over Babe Ruth's boyhood home.

Posted by Jessy S. on October 13, 2009 09:57 PM

SJA's, I don't currently live in SC but I did for a number of years and still have many friends in the city. And the "circles I run in" are of the exact opposite opinion. They don't want the city biting off more than it can chew (to the ultimate tune of almost $500 million not 70) in what amounts to welfare for a rich boy's toy.

Posted by Dan on October 14, 2009 12:42 AM

Roger G. (I'm assuming that's who SanJoseA's meant) telling Al to do something usually has the opposite effect.

Posted by Brian on October 14, 2009 03:02 PM

Shocked, the Roges Centre might only be 20 years of age chronologically but in terms of what both MLB wants or needs, and what the NFL, or CFL, wants or needs, it may as well be 100 years old. It's a multipurpose stadium that basically suits no sport very well. It might as well be torn down and replaced, I won't go there for anything except for a Grey Cup and that only because I love going to these championship games. But for average games, no thanks. There's a reason why Rogers was able to buy a stadium that cost around $500 mill to build for just $25 mill.

Posted by Mike on October 30, 2009 04:02 PM

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