Archive for the ‘stadiums’ Category

Removing Statues — Changing Stadium Names

The officials running the city of New Orleans decided to remove the public statues of Confederate States of America figures. Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council sparked both huge protests and large rallies of support. The same historic moments mean heritage to some and bondage and misery to others. The city leaders declared the statues a public nuisance and determined that the pain they inflicted outweighed the heritage they represented. The statues reminded many of their past oppression but also remind people of today’s inequality in New Orleans.

New Orleans is largely segregated. Stagnating wages and gentrification have compounded income disparity here. People in East New Orleans suffer from extremely limited economic and social opportunities and the area has not recovered from Hurricane Katrina.

In Melbourne, the tennis stadium bears the name of tennis great Margaret Court. The 74-year-old is currently a Christian pastor and has over the past several years made anti-gay statements, including personal attacks on specific players. The comments certainly represent the heritage and attitudes of a segment of the population but have also generated significant opposition and backlash. The majority of professional tennis players have made their support for same-sex marriage known.

Several interesting questions arise from this controversy. Does the Australian Tennis Federation elect to remove Court’s name from the stadium because of the public rancor and hurt she now represents? If they don’t will tennis professional elect to skip the Australian Open? Stay tuned.


Five-Ring Circus

The cycle of national group bids to host the Olympic Games usually has not generated the type of openly negative discussion that occurred this year in the United States. From newspaper articles to blogs, to “Olbermann” on ESPN, Boston’s winning bid to represent the U.S. as a potential Summer Olympic site generated a firestorm of criticism and even some incredulity.

Sports historians, social scientists and other academics have written extensively regarding the cost of constructing stadiums Early books, such as Dean V. Baim’s The Sports Stadium As a Municipal Investment, used economic analysis to demonstrate that the stadiums cost significantly more than their projected cost. Few stadiums built from the 1960s through the 1980s ever earned a net positive financial gain.

One prime example was the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, built for the 1976 Summer Games and used by the Montreal Expos baseball team. According to Robert C. Trumpbour’s New Cathedrals, the stadium left the city with a $ 1 million debt. Paying the debt through the mid-2000s, according to Garry Whannel in Culture, Politics and Sport marred the memory of the games in the minds of citizens. The memory and current circumstances regarding the stadium have not improved as the stadium has basically been empty since 2005,

The books on stadiums have focused on stadium proponents main argument: that stadiums generate economic growth. Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College has written extensively about the falseness of this purported reason for supporting public financing of stadiums. He and Roger G. Noll’s book Sports, Jobs and Taxes concluded that sports teams and stadiums were not a source of local economic growth and employment and that the public financing provided to the team far outweighed the new jobs and taxes that the team and stadium provided the city or state. The message about the economic viability of stadiums started to reach more of the public.

In some cities, opponents of publicly financed stadiums made pitched but unsuccessful efforts to stop these expenditures, In 2004, Kevin J. Delaney and Rick Eckstein captured these battles in their book, Public Dollars, Private Stadiums. Intriguingly, stadium proponents downplayed the economic gain argument, and adopted two others to win the financing in cities ranging from Pittsburgh and Cincinnati to Denver, Phoenix and San Diego.

The Olympic Games offered two key assets to the hosting city and nation. The first, particularly important during the Cold War, centered on national pride. The second, promoted the economic gains that the Games reportedly brought. Proponents asserted that economy of the host country attained growth spurred on from new construction that occurred before the start of the Games. The gains continued during the games from event and visitor spending during the event.

Montreal showed that the economic gains often still leave a debt. Ferran Brunet’s study, “An economic analysis of the Barcelona’92 Olympic Games: resources, financing and impacts,” offered a somewhat more positive example. The author observed the typical underestimation of the cost to the Olympics, “In the development of the Olympic project the forecasts went from 237,000 million pesetas in April 1985, to an estimated 768,368 million in March 1991, to the final figure of 1,119,510 million pesetas in July of 1993.” The city and national governments and private partners invested this money and actually generated $ 2.2 million in profit. The Games provided a rise in employment and a stronger sense of confidence and world presence for the city and nation. However, when I visited a decade later, much of the Olympic area in the city appeared empty and devoid of people and games.

Do cities in the United States need the Games for similar reasons? Atlanta won the 1996 Summer games and sought to use them to promote tourism and attract businesses to the region. Again, pre-Olympic projections expected the creation of 77,026 jobs and $5.14 billion into the state economy. Despite Barcelona’s success, it’s jobs total capped out at less than 67,000. According to Steven P. French and Mike E. Disher in “Atlanta and the Olympics,” Atlanta spent over $200 million each for an indoor stadium and Olympic stadium. Much of the money came from private sources and very little public funds.

At the close of the Games, the estimate of economic benefits from the Games fell over a billion dollars below initial projections. What organizers either did not consider or perhaps include was the Olympics would not bring new spending. The games shifted spending away from other entertainment activities and other revenue-generating activities could not occur in Atlanta because of the presence of the Olympics. Additionally, visitor spending on food and lodging totaled less that expected.

In their book Olympic Dreams: The Impact of Mega-Events on Local Politics, authors Matthew J. Burbank, Gregory D. Andranovich and Charles H. Heying analyzed how three US cities fared in their attempt to use the Olympics as an approach to economic growth. They argued that the Atlanta region benefited from the tourist, employment and construction windfall. City officials replaced aging infrastructure, although residents paid double the cost for water and some other utilities since the changes. Their chapter focused on urban development aspects that did and didn’t happen with the Olympics. That will be the focus on the promises and deliveries for US cities with hosting the Olympics.

Historic Arena Saved

The DC Preservation League celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first US concert while enjoying the years of hard work they put in to save Uline Arena and the Washington Coliseum from being torn down.

Here’s the video telling the story:

DC Preservation League Video

Douglas Development has owned the Uline Arena/Washington Coliseum for years, using it as a parking lot until the time for development was right. With the NOMA corridor development springing up all around the former arena on M St and First St, NE, the time appears to be good now.

The company submitted a proposal for the arena. I’ve noticed the arena while riding the Metro Red line for years. My friend and I decided to write a book about Washington, DC Professional Basketball that includes the 1940s, when the Washington Capitols played at Uline and the 1969-1970 season when the Washington Capitols played in the ABA at the Washington Coliseum.

The Bullets, the Wizards, and Washington, DC, Basketball flyer_rev

This morning Raphael Mazzone and I discussed the basketball and social and cultural history of the building for the crew that are creating the video for the DC Preservation League. I’m standing in front of the old concession stand.

2013-08-11 10.37.01

This was the press box.

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Some of the remaining seating.

2013-08-11 10.38.21

DC United and Soccer Stadium

I appreciate this article but wonder about a few things. Could the city have gotten more for the Reeves Center with its prime location on U and 14 Streets? How will Metro handle the soccer crowds? They sometimes struggle with moving the Nationals fans after games. Cost overruns are common in development projects. How will the city and DC United handle the probable increased costs to building the stadium. Has the $300 million accounted for the cost of the land as well as the building?

To build a soccer stadium, DC will swap the Reeves Center

by Dan Malouff   •   July 25, 2013 9:40 am

DC has agreed to a preliminary deal to build a dedicated soccer stadium at Buzzard Point, and to redevelop the Reeves Center at 14th and U streets NW with a new mixed-use building.


Rendering of a Buzzard Point soccer stadium. Image from DC United.

Under the deal, the stadium would be located at the southern base of Potomac Avenue SW, just 4 blocks from Nationals Park. It would seat 20,000-25,000 people, and cost around $150 million to build. DC United would pay for construction, but the District would donate the land.

Development firm Akridge currently owns the land for the stadium. Instead of buying the land outright, DC would swap it for the Reeves Center. Akridge would then tear down and redevelop the Reeves Center, while United would build a stadium at Buzzard Point.

The deal must still be approved by the DC Council.

Is this a good idea?

Is Buzzard Point the right place for a stadium? Usually it’s not a great idea to put two large stadiums so close to each other, because when so much land is given over to sports, there’s not enough left over to build a functioning mixed-use neighborhood. That’s a major problem with Baltimore’s Camden Yards area, with the South Philadelphia Sports Complex, and with most multiple-stadium complexes.

But Buzzard Point may be different. Nationals Park has helped induce strong redevelopment east of South Capitol Street, and along M Street SE/SW, but the west side of South Capitol Street has lagged behind. The west side clearly functions as a different place, and a stadium there could help.

On the other hand, maybe the west side of South Capitol Street hasn’t redeveloped as much precisely because Nationals Park superblock is a barrier.

From a transportation perspective, Buzzard Point makes sense. Although it’s further from a Metro station than Nationals Park or RFK, it’s still within walking distance. And actually, a little bit of distance is a good thing, since it means soccer fans will pass by retail areas between the stadium and Metro, and that the most valuable land nearest the station can still be used for mixed-use development.

On top of the Metro connection, DC is planning for both the Georgia Avenue and Anacostia streetcar lines to terminate at Buzzard Point, directly adjacent to the proposed stadium site.

As for the Reeves Center, it cannot be redeveloped soon enough. A large city office building was a useful and necessary investment along U Street in the 1980s, when central DC was declining. But now the neighborhood is booming, the land is in high demand, and the Reeves Center is obsolete.

In a perfect world, I still think Poplar Point would have been a better location for a soccer stadium. But in the real world, Buzzard Point works. Since DC taxpayers won’t be on the hook to pay for construction, let’s do it.

Gay Big Man, Big Deal in Basketball and Sports

Jason Collins is now the first active male team sports player to announce his sexuality. For members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community this is a big deal because sports has been a pillar in the maintenance of the sanctity of heterosexuality for men in this country. His declaration helps disrupt the image of the American male athlete as the heroic individual who wants and gets the girl.

As importantly, Collins’ declaration offers a big difference to the wish fulfillment fantasy that has long been part of the view of sports. How many boys and girls have looked at the successful athlete and thought, “I want to be them.” Now, a gay boy and teen can own that feeling to a much greater extent. Here is one guy who plays ball and has said that he is like me. The gay male adult can fantasize about having a relationship with a male athlete now.

A quick look at the comments shows how far the country has come and how far it needs to go. The usual suspects and stars like Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade, have announced their support. Also thrilled that former teams, including the Washington Wizards, expressed their congratulations to him, as did current Wizard players such as Bradley Beal and Jan Vesely and Trevor Ariza.

Members of the Fox Sports online readership have not! The first usual argument is that the announcement is not a big deal. Then they malign his playing ability, as if simply being a NBA player for 12 years is an easy task. Next is to attack the announcement as more personal information that they don’t want to know. One wonders if they feel the same about knowing who Tom Brady had a baby with, or whom Derek Jeter is dating.

Finally, there is the crew that impinges on Collins’ manhood and calls being gay a choice or sick. Many of these people are the usual Christians who exhibit their usual tolerance for someone who does not think or act like them, yet they consider their selves good Christians. Here’s one example: People may congratulate and agree with gays coming out, but what really matters is what God says. The Bible says homosexuality is a sin against God, just like stealing, lying, and pride. It doesn’t make someone worse than a liar, but it does make them a sinner. And that sin un-paid for by Christ’s sacrifice will lead to eternal punishment in hell.

what I’m learning is NBA players are exponentially more tolerant than NBA fans… Awesome.

Overpriced Seats at Stadiums

For years many of us have wondered, who could afford to buy the best seats at the new stadiums. Yes, corporations can buy some, but they usually like the suites in the middle tier of the stadium or arena. Some celebrities and wealthy buy court seats or sit behind the dugouts, but they make up a small number of the population. There are many seats that are empty and everyone can see this on television.

Here’s an article that challenges announcers to mention this fact:

We must be seeing things. Rather, we must not be seeing things.

The public used to rely on the media to fight for it, to go to bat for the bat-less. Not so much anymore. Most in the news take their corporate orders — real, tacit and imagined — or make themselves available to be bought and sold to multiple masters, restricting what they would otherwise report.

Thus, ugly, smack-you-in-the-senses realities go ignored. Worse, on TV, we’re often told to ignore what we see and instead believe what we’re told.

While we understand that local broadcasters are frightened to tell certain here-and-now truths about the teams that employ them, MLB’s national networks have no such restrictions.

SOMETHING FISHY: Shortstop Jose Reyes swings in front of prime empty seats at Marlins Park — but don’t expect baseball’s TV announcers to comment on this epidemic.

SOMETHING FISHY: Shortstop Jose Reyes swings in front of prime empty seats at Marlins Park — but don’t expect baseball’s TV announcers to comment on this epidemic.

Heck, for the billions paid to MLB in rights, ESPN, Fox and TBS should insist that their announcers speak all truths. What’s MLB going to do about it, not cash their checks? Forbid them from bidding next time?

In other words, ESPN, Fox and TBS might have — could have and should have — spent the last four seasons hammering a point so embarrassing to MLB that it might have shamed teams and Bud Selig to exact greater-good changes.

Specifically, the best seats in new parks — those most often in view throughout telecasts — are so over-priced that they’re going empty, greed-wasted. After all, these are ballparks where ballgames of pre-undetermined value are played; they’re not destination resorts.

Over the weekend, the Mets played the Marlins in Miami’s new, climate-controlled stadium. The Marlins were returning from an 8-1 road trip.

Yet, clearly visible during Friday night’s telecast on SNY and throughout Fox’s on Saturday afternoon, many of the best seats — hundreds, if not thousands, behind the backstop and along the infield lines — went unoccupied.

On Fox, not only didn’t play-by-player Rich Waltz and analyst Tim McCarver seem to notice, they seemed to think that we didn’t either. In fact, they seemed to see people where we saw none.

“Another big crowd here, on a Saturday afternoon” said Waltz, after applauding the new park.

“They built it here in Miami,” said McCarver, “and they have come.”

The biggest big ticket for Marlins home games is $250, dirt cheap by Yankee Stadium standards, yet still illogically expensive to watch any baseball game. The family of four, with eats, drinks, travel and parking, is reaching for over $1,000 to attend a game.

No thanks, they’ll sit upstairs, or at least outside the Yankee Stadium-type moat that separates and designates — a financial caste seating system. Above and beyond such seats is where crowds now begin to gather.

Read more:

Navy Again Bests Army

The Naval Academy won the big game of the year defeating the Army yesterday afternoon.

Navy won a down to the wire game 27-21 at Fed Ex Field, in suburban Maryland.

Different takes include this complaint by fans of New England Patriots who play the Washington Redskins at Fed Ex Field today. The White House offers this one as President Obama attended the game.

Washington, D.C. is the biggest winner. The city has tried for over 1oo years to get the Army-Navy game played in its area and failed. Back in the early 1900s they offered to build a stadium in Potomac Park.

The one hundred years of effort is in the book, Capital Sporting Grounds.

Potomac Park Army Navy Stadium

Unbuilt Architecture

The National Building Museum has an upcoming show called Unbuilt Washington. The exhibition will feature large and small-scale buildings of all kinds that were planned but never erected.

Imagine that you are traveling into Washington, D.C., from northern Virginia. As you approach the Potomac River, you see the tall, craggy, medieval-looking towers of the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial Bridge looming in the foreground, largely blocking the view of the National Mall beyond. As you reach the end of the bridge, now you can clearly see the enormous pyramid that was built to honor Abraham Lincoln. Going around to the side of the pyramid, you note the odd, pagoda-like structure dedicated to George Washington—a design that was executed after the original obelisk had stood unfinished for decades. Surrounding these monuments are informal paths that meander through dense woods, which help to filter the noise from the two elevated highways running along either side of the Mall. Barely visible in the distance is the Capitol, a dignified but modest structure that looks rather like a classroom building at a liberal arts college, topped by a tiny cupola.


John Russell Pope, Proposal for Lincoln Memorial, 1912. National Archives.
Among the buildings not constructed in the city were several stadiums.
An architectural plan shows a large stadium on what has been used as the polo grounds of West Potomac Park. Click on the link below:
Another is the memorial to Theodore Roosevelt at the east end of the Mall.And one for the veterans of World War II.
Finally, there were great plans for Olympic Stadiums in Washington and Baltimore during the early 2000s.

Unbuilt Washington reveals the Washington that could have been by presenting architectural and urban design projects that were proposed but, for widely varied reasons, never executed. Such projects often exercised a profound influence on what was built and may offer lessons that inform ongoing debates about the design and development of Washington and other cities. What were the motives, assumptions, and cultural trends underlying such proposals? Why were these designs never realized? What was their impact on projects that were completed?

The physical character of Washington, D.C., that we take for granted today is the unique result of countless decisions, debates, successes, failures, reconsiderations, missed opportunities, and lucky breaks. To tourists and residents alike, the city’s greatest landmarks may seem so appropriate, so correct—it is hard to imagine that they could have turned out completely differently. But nothing in the built environment of Washington (or in any other city, for that matter) is predestined.

RFK Stadium: 50th Anniversary

Columnist Tom Boswell offered an interesting piece on RFK Stadium at its 50th anniversary. When the Dc United gets a new place to play there will be little need for RFK Stadium. Will it be another big blowup event like the demolition of Veterans Stadium in Phladelphia and Three Rivers in Pittsburgh?

Thomas Boswell
Thomas Boswell

RFK Stadium: After 50 years, it’s still personal

View Photo Gallery —  RFK Stadium, which turns 50 years old this week, has a special place in D.C. sports lore. The stadium’s days as home to D.C. United are likely numbered, as the club is looking to build a soccer-specific stadium somewhere in the D.C. region.

By , Published: September 30

RFK Stadium never got the love it deserved. The stadium was in
the wrong part of town. (Mine.) It never entirely beat the rap. That didn’t keep it from being, over a lifetime, my favorite structure in Washington.

For me, it even tops the Capitol. If you were a kid growing up in Northeast Washington in the ’50s, that is a mountainously high hurdle because, back then, the Capitol grounds were perhaps the biggest, best playground in the world.

Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs talks about his favorite memories from RFK Stadium, where the Redskins played until 1996. The stadium turns 50 this year.

Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs talks about his favorite memories from RFK Stadium, where the Redskins played until 1996. The stadium turns 50 this year.

Fifty years ago this Sunday, when RFK opened for its first Redskins game, the west side of the Capitol, looking down the Mall at the Lincoln Memorial, was a scene that cannot be imagined today, or perhaps even dreamed of as part of our future. Families spread beach towels
for picnics. My parents would come with a jug of ice tea
and sandwiches, and my
friends and I would have the
run of the place (until we
couldn’t run another step).

For a kid who lived just a 10-block walk away, it was like having access to the backyard of a billionaire. You could play hide-and-seek amid groves of huge trees so dense that, from a few feet away, you might be invisible.

Then, when you got a little older, you could rocket down the steep sidewalk on the Constitution Avenue side on bicycles or skates, scattering adults who might have been senators. It really is Capitol Hill. None of us could even coast our bikes all the way to the bottom. At some point, you flew so fast (usually standing on the pedals) that you got scared and just had to tap the brakes.

Cops? They only chased you if you played ball in the alleys. The Capitol grounds belonged to America. How could you deny kids?

And when it snowed, my God — go on, tell me all about your hill.

That’s the astronomically high “emotional investment hurdle” that any new destination had to surpass to get top billing in the Kid World of my youth.

Then, miraculously, the unseen but suddenly benevolent forces of the adult universe opened that huge snow-white spaceship of a stadium with the wavy architectural lines that still make almost every other design in town look old-fashioned. Yes, you can call it a formative experience. In fact, it’s possible that I still haven’t overcome it. I’m lucky it wasn’t a pool hall.

* * *

To grasp what having a big-time stadium just a bike ride from your house meant in those days, consider this: When RFK (then named D.C. Stadium) opened, the NFL and major league baseball had as much “mind-share” among me and my peers as all forms of entertainment combined would hold now for a teenager. We had rock ’n’ roll. We had the Redskins and Senators. And we had any game we could invent, such as “chase” across the roofs of a block of row houses with gaps between some of them.

Yes, as longtime Washingtonians know, basketball was always hot at the grass roots in the whole region. But in a town with no NBA or NHL teams, and where college basketball was still dormant, the glamour was condensed in the Redskins and Nats — separate, but pretty darn equal in our hearts.

Both teams had been great once — Sammy Baugh, Walter Johnson— but both had been lousy long enough that “bad” was their identity. These days, with a thousand amusement choices, losing matters. Then, they were yours, and you absolutely loved them regardless. The snide child hadn’t been invented.

So to us, the new stadium didn’t provide proximity to rotten teams. It put our heroes in our laps.

However, though I grasped it slowly, I eventually realized that ballparks and stadiums are also among our most personal places. Our memories may be of teams, games or rock concerts, but they are also, perhaps primarily, about those who went with us. And what it meant to watch together.

For example, I didn’t realize that baseball on summer nights was an emotional sanctuary. Then one night my mother, who had a stressful job as a congressional speechwriter, said, as a full moon rose over yet another awful Senators team, “This feels like being in church: the ritual, the peace.”

My father was the Redskins fan. He also had helped found the union at the Library of Congress. For my birthday, he took me to a Redskins game. Strikers surrounded the front gate with “Unfair” signs. My father, I’m certain, never crossed a picket line.

I said, “Let’s go home.” He said, “Go in.” So we did.

Even stadiums that get bad-mouthed as much as RFK for being out-of-date and insufficient cash machines for team owners last for decades and span generations.

When my son was the same age that I was when RFK opened, I took him, and his best buddy, there for a symbolic occasion — but not a game. It was his first rock concert — an all-day festival, with a huge mosh pit in front of the stage. We sat in the upper deck behind high schoolers passing their joints. My rule was: Come back every hour. They did. But in the end, we did more talking about all the things they’d seen than any music played.

* * *

My favorite RFK memory isn’t the return of baseball in ’05, or any World Cup game or U2 concert. It is, as it should be, an instant of Redskins glory, but with a personal twist.

On Dec. 31, 1972, for the first time in my life, a Washington team had a chance, with one more victory, to play in its sport’s ultimate game — in this case, the NFC championship against the Hated Cowboys. (Little known fact: That is the official name of the Dallas franchise.)

The Post’s Dick Darcey, the best newspaper sports photographer of his time, knew the Redskins so well that they sometimes swore him to secrecy, then told him parts of their game plan so he could be in the best position to get shots of key plays. For Dallas, they had scripted a bomb up the right sideline from Billy Kilmer to Hall of Famer Charley Taylor but wanted to save it for a pivotal moment. When the time came, Dick had a tipster.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Redskins led, 10-3, at the Dallas 45-yard line. A score for a 17-3 lead would be a Cowboy crusher. In the press box, one of our writers said: “Look at Darcey. Here it comes.”

Carrying equipment that seemed to weigh as much as he did, Dick was sprinting from midfield, where all the other photogs were, toward the north end zone. He got to the goal line just in time. Kilmer threw it about as far as he could. Taylor beat his man by a stride. And Darcey snapped one of the best Washington sports shots ever taken, with the ball on Taylor’s fingertips just as he’s about to run straight off the page and into your breakfast cereal bowl.

When a stadium stands for 50 years and hosts several teams in various sports, and even has a pope drop in for visit, there are a multitude of memories that we hold in common.

And we grip them as passionately as Joe Gibbs, who loved the raucous place so much I thought he would cry when Jack Kent Cooke built a much bigger but less advantageous home for his team. What are we going to do without those sections of lower-deck seats that bounce up and down, he’d ask “Mr. Cooke.” And how can we duplicate the volume that rumbles out of an upper deck that sometimes seems to move like a minor earthquake as the crowd stomps and sways?

The answer, of course, is that you can’t. The past is gone. And it wasn’t better. Just different. Besides, come on, be honest: By the time the 21st century arrived, the place was often a dump compared to modern norms.

What remains unique — but entirely personal to each of us who remembers RFK — is the people with whom we shared the place, the stories that belong only to us, not merely to the public record.

As athletes often say when a world title is won: “They can never take this moment away from us.”

We get to say the same, except it felt like we had a million of ’em.