- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The completion of the Washington Nationals’ new ballpark next month marks the start of a new era for the team — and the beginning of the end of the construction boom in professional sports in the United States.

By the time Nationals Park opens, all but 10 major league teams will be playing in stadiums built or heavily renovated in the past 20 years. Of those 10, seven are expected to enter new or renovated ballparks in the next five years, and the other three play in historic ballparks unlikely to be replaced in the near future.

The story is similar in pro football, basketball and hockey, in which the number of teams in need of new homes has dwindled to single digits.

“We look at the U.S. pro sports market as about 80 percent built out,” said Bob White, director of marketing for Kansas City-based architect HOK Sport Venue Event, whose numerous designs include Oriole Park and Nationals Park. “So we’re not at the end of that phase, but we can certainly see the end.”

Architects, construction companies and advisory firms should be busy over the next five years. Ballparks are being built for the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics, and new stadiums are possible for the Tampa Bay Rays and Florida Marlins.

In football, the Indianapolis Colts move into their new home this year, the Dallas Cowboys next year and the New York Giants and New York Jets into their shared stadium in 2010. And in MLS, several teams, including D.C. United, hope to move into soccer-specific stadiums by 2012.

But the pace of construction has slowed significantly since the late 1990s.

“In 1999, we had six arenas open in that year alone,” said Tim Romani, president and CEO of the ICON Venue Group, a Denver-based stadium development firm. “Nowadays, you see six arenas open in a decade.”

Romani and others said the stadium boom already is shifting, and international sports teams are the next target.

“We’ve seen great growth here in the United States, but it’s moving overseas very, very rapidly,” said Tim McManus, global director of program and construction management for AECOM, which is helping manage construction of the main stadium for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

In Europe, more than 70 soccer stadiums are proposed for construction over the next five years, and many cities also are constructing new multipurpose indoor arenas for basketball, hockey and other events.

HOK and ICON combined to develop The O2, a 20,000-seat, $300 million multipurpose arena that opened in London last summer. They also worked together on O2 World, a 16,000-seat, $240 million sports and entertainment center expected to open in Berlin in September.

“Our growth is international,” Romani said. “We’re doing more in Europe than we’re doing in North America. So we’re taking the model that we created here, and we’re taking it there.”

Meanwhile in Asia, China is building more than dozen new facilities for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and Singapore recently announced a public-private partnership to construct a $1.87 billion sports and entertainment venue.

Companies in the United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, are constructing Dubai Sports City, a massive sports complex on 50 million square feet of land.

Stadium developers said some of their business in the United States now will be for colleges but that construction of new facilities at that level often is constrained by budget concerns. For that reason, much of the market in the United States will be focused on improving existing professional stadiums and arenas.

In Kansas City, voters approved more than $400 million to be used to renovate both Arrowhead Stadium and Kauffman Stadium rather than build new facilities for either team.

Historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay and Soldier Field in Chicago also have recently undergone massive renovations, and several NBA and NHL arenas, including Verizon Center, are undergoing improvements.

“There’s a group trending toward updating and upgrading, so renovation will be a big part of our business going forward,” White said.

Another trend, stadium experts said, is building facilities capable of occupying large amounts of temporary seating.

The stadium for the London Olympics, for example, will hold 80,000 spectators for the games but shrink to 20,000 after the event is over. HOK also has proposed building a new ballpark in Omaha that normally would hold 6,000 fans but could be expanded to hold 28,000 for the College World Series.

END OF THE BOOM

By the end of 2012, nearly every American sports team will be playing in a facility that is 20 years old or less. Here are the projects coming along in the tail end of the stadium construction frenzy in the United States:

BASEBALL

New York Yankees: New Yankee Stadium is expected to open in 2009. The price tag has been reported at more than $1 billion.

New York Mets: The team will leave Shea Stadium and move into Citi Field in 2009.

Oakland Athletics: They are awaiting final approval to build Cisco Field, a 32,000-seat ballpark to be constructed in Fremont, Calif. The ballpark is scheduled to open in 2011.

Minnesota Twins: An open-air ballpark for the Twins is scheduled to open in 2010 in downtown Minneapolis.

Florida Marlins: There has been recent progress in getting public funding for a $525 million retractable roof stadium at the site of the Orange Bowl. The Marlins could be in the facility by 2012.

Tampa Bay Rays: Team owners recently proposed an open-air replacement for Tropicana Field. Talks are in the early stages.

Kansas City Royals: Kauffman Stadium, built in 1973, will not be replaced but is undergoing a $250 million renovation. Work is expected to be complete for the 2009 season.

NFL

New York Giants/Jets: The teams combined on a $1.5 billion new facility at the Meadowlands. It is scheduled to open in 2010.

Dallas Cowboys: The team will move out of Texas Stadium and into a 100,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium in Arlington in 2009. It will play host to the Super Bowl in 2011.

Indianapolis Colts: Lucas Oil Stadium, a retractable-roof facility, will open for the 2008, replacing the RCA Dome.

NBA

Seattle Supersonics: The team has failed to get pubic approval for a replacement to KeyArena. The owners are pushing to move the franchise to Oklahoma City.

New Jersey Nets: They are scheduled to move into Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2010. The arena is part of a $3.5 billion development project.

Orlando Magic: A $480 million facility, set to replace Amway Arena, is scheduled to open for the 2011-2012 season.

NHL

Pittsburgh Penguins: Their $290 million multipurpose facility, which will replace Mellon Arena, is expected to be completed in time for the 2011-12 season.

MLS

New York Red Bulls: The team will move into 25,000-seat Red Bull Park in 2009.

Real Salt Lake: A 20,000-seat soccer-specific stadium will open this season.

New Philadelphia franchise: Pennsylvania officials recently announced an economic revitalization package for Chester, Pa., that includes a stadium for an MLS expansion team.

Tim Lemke


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