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Looking ahead to 2014

Posted by Sean Rowland on January 2, 2014

What will be the future of the Oakland A's (picture from Stadium Journey)

What will be the future of the Oakland A’s (picture from Stadium Journey)

Heading into the year 2014, there are a lot of interesting stories to follow in the world of stadiums. These are worth keeping an eye on and I am particularly intrigued by some of the following:

– What happens to the Oakland A’s? This has been a multi-year battle between many different forces with the San Francisco Giants also playing a role in the territorial right of blocking a move to San Jose. Everyone may have a differing opinion on where the team should go, but I think all will agree the Coliseum is just a bad ballpark. I personally don’t mind if Oakland goes to another city, just as long as it is somewhere still in Northern California.

– How will MLS expansion play out? Doug Garber’s vision of 24 teams by 2020 means that we are likely looking at three more teams to be announced in the coming years. Here’s hoping that they stay away from cities that already have plenty of other pro teams (Minneapolis, Atlanta) and go into smaller markets with rabid soccer fan bases. Otherwise, their looking at repeated mistakes (see: Miami). While I think Beckham will get his wish, that will leave two new franchises. My hope is that they go to San Antonio and Indianapolis.

– Speaking of MLS, how about planned stadiums? Lots of questions here…Where will NYCFC play when they start in a year? Will the DC stadium situation get completed? When will San Jose’s delayed stadium open?

– Will new arenas get built in Seattle or Las Vegas? I think the Seattle situation depends on whether an NBA or NHL tenant arrives. Vegas is another story. At some point, the glitziest arena ever will become reality, but who does it and when is the question. Lots of ideas and proposals over the years and they just keep flying in, one more ridiculous than the next.

– Who will keep up in the College Football Stadium arms race? It seems to be never-ending, but all the big name schools keep expanding their stadium in the name of the Benjamin. This upcoming year it is Texas A&M, Ohio State and LSU that see their facility go over the 100,000 mark for seating capacity.

How many more crazy court designs will we see on the college hardwood? It all started with Oregon’s “Deep in the Woods” design and in this copy-cat world, other teams have followed suit in recent years. Teams with a beach nearby seem to love this concept (see Fullerton, Long Beach State and FIU, where the ocean and out-of-bounds meet). Unfortunately, I see this trend continuing.

– How will the stadium-city battles play out? Three cities to watch for…Sacramento, Tampa and Richmond. Both Sacramento and Tampa have had the most media play and publicity. While both are intriguing, an under-the-radar battle is in Richmond, where the site of a new ballpark is hotly debated. The Diamond is in the Boulevard section of Richmond, an easily accessible area of the city. Leaders are looking at the Shockoe Bottom district, however the controversial site is a former slave-trading center and not everybody wants a ballpark there.

– Will the number of empty seats at professional events continue? Yes. This was most evident during the last month or so of the NFL regular season.
Pittsburgh (where the supposedly greatest fans are) featured tons of yellow open seats the last several home games. Club sections everywhere looked many times like they were filled to half the capacity (Cincinnati and Kansas City come to mind). This isn’t just an NFL thing either as the smaller attendance is occurring in other leagues too, especially MLB. This trend may not show up in the hard numbers as paid attendance figures remain stationary thanks to either inaccurate reporting or inflation due to comps, giveaways or buyouts (see owner Ralph Wilson buying up to 3,500 Buffalo Bills tickets to ensure a sellout). However, the number of people staying home and skipping out on all the high costs is noticeable.

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