Americans love their sports, and team owners are increasingly cashing in on fan loyalty by building bigger and better venues. These structures are not just fields of play but feature offices, retail, hotels, dining — everything to draw people in during the off-season as well as on game day. In various stages of planning and construction, these monuments to competition stand ready to give the audience, sports fans or not, an experience they won't forget.
We're tracking the progress of the latest and greatest sports facilities under construction — some just beginning and others nearing completion.
Los Angeles Rams stadium
At the National Football League owners' annual meeting last year, their decision about three teams that wanted to ditch their current cities and head to Los Angeles resulted in three stadium sagas. The three franchises — Rams, Chargers and Raiders — all set their sights on the move, but team owners gave a firm "yes" to only the Rams and Chargers.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke already had plans for a major venue in Inglewood, CA, surrounded by its own entertainment district. Earlier this month, construction crews broke ground on the new $2.6 billion L.A. stadium, which will be the centerpiece of a 300-acre commercial and entertainment district that is expected to create thousands of construction and temporary jobs. Hollywood Park Land Company, under Kroenke, announced in July that it had chosen the joint venture of Turner Construction and AECOM-owned Hunt Construction to build the stadium.
Oakland Raiders/San Diego Chargers potential stadiums
NFL owners gave the OK for the Chargers to share the Rams facility if they decided to follow through on the move. The Chargers have until January to make their decision, and San Diego voters increased the odds that the team will take the NFL up on its offer by recently voting against a hotel tax increase that would have helped fund the new stadium's construction.
There is one caveat to the Raiders denial. If San Diego chooses not to move to Los Angeles, the Raiders can take their place. However, that is up in the air, as the team has struck its own deal with the state of Nevada for a new stadium in Las Vegas. State legislators voted to kick in $750 million towards construction, backed by an increase in Clark County hotel taxes. The only hurdle left for the Raiders is approval from the NFL owners at their annual meeting in January. The NFL has always been leery of allowing a football franchise in Las Vegas because of the close proximity to sports gambling, but Commissioner Roger Goodell said he wouldn't stand in the way of the team's relocation from Oakland. The Raiders are still trying to nail down a site for the new stadium.
Atlanta Falcons stadium
The biggest question surrounding the Atlanta Falcons new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium is whether the retractable roof will work as designers hope it will. The last beam for the fixed part of the roof was installed in October to much fanfare, and the next step is to mount the multipiece, petal-like structure that will open and close much like an eight-blade camera lens aperture.
The project has seen around $200 million in change orders, much of it due to the roof's state of "continuous engineering," as Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay told the press. The stadium should be ready for the 2017-2018 NFL season, and engineers are confident that the retractable roof will operate as expected when game day rolls around.
Atlanta Hawks arena renovation
Although not on the scale of the Falcons' stadium, the City of Atlanta has agreed to pay $142.5 million toward a $192.5 million renovation of the Hawks basketball arena in order to keep the team from moving until at least 2046. If the Hawks move before then, they will be subject to penalties as high as $200 million. The city plans to fund the deal through general property sales, a rental car tax and the proceeds from the sale of Turner Field, the former home of the Atlanta Braves. The Hawks announced this week that they chose a Turner Construction-led joint venture to manage the renovation.
Golden State Warriors arena
On the other side of the country, things are not quite as rosy for the Golden State Warriors. On the positive side, the team has hired the joint venture of M.A. Mortenson and Clark Construction to build its new $1 billion San Francisco arena, tapping into a high level of sports construction experience.
The not-so-good news is that there are considerable protests and a lawsuit pending regarding the location of the new facility, which is to be built next to children's and women's hospitals. A California court sided with the Warriors in July and validated its environmental impact report. This should have cleared the way for construction to begin, but the state Court of Appeals agreed to hear arguments earlier this month. The Mission Bay Alliance, which filed the original lawsuit requesting a new environmental impact study, said the arena would cause disruptive traffic congestion and noise near the medical center. An appeals court ruled Nov. 30 in favor of allowing the team to proceed with construction. However, opponents can still appeal the case to the state Supreme Court.
Sacramento Kings arena
Fortunately for the Sacramento Kings, they've had better luck with construction of the new $557 million Golden 1 Center. The indoor-outdoor facility is open for the 2016-2017 NBA season, and it already hosted two concerts last month. Golden 1 Center is the first indoor sports venue to be certified LEED Platinum and is powered entirely by solar energy. The arena is constructed of 36% recycled materials and used recycled athletic shoes for a layer of its portable courts.
The cost of the arena increased $80 million from the original estimates, but the team chalked that up to design changes and to the addition of a practice facility. Turner Construction built the AECOM-designed arena and drew attention to the project last year with its progress-monitoring drones. Recently, the team agreed to dim the night lights on the roof after complaints from nearby high-rise residents and motorists who said that the glare interfered with their driving.
Los Angeles Football Club stadium
Although the United States has a ways to go before it catches up with the rest of the world as far as the popularity of soccer (a.k.a. football), MLS owners are going all out on new stadiums. The celebrity-owned Los Angeles Football Club's $350 million Banc of California Stadium will be ready for the 2018 season, and crews have already broken ground. In addition to the 22,000-seat arena, the complex will also include retail, restaurant and office space, as well as a soccer museum. PCL Construction is the general contractor, and the MLS said the stadium will be the most expensive "soccer-specific" venue in its history.
D.C. United stadium
Regulatory delays have the construction of the $300 million D.C. United project in Washington, DC, on hold. Crews, under general contractor Turner Construction, already broke ground on preliminary work around the stadium site in April, but design considerations have held up permits for the most substantive work.
Surrounding property owners — and even some zoning commission members — found the design too uninviting, with one commissioner comparing it to a prison. The primary beef from surrounding businesses, however, was that a lack of retail would not entice visitors to travel beyond the stadium into the adjacent business district. After some minor drama, the team and nearby landowners came to an agreement on design, and the final plans are being presented to the zoning commission for approval. The commission decided to postpone their final decision to Dec. 14.
Detroit Red Wings arena
The Detroit Red Wings owners and management are creating their own de facto district as they build the Red Wings' new home — the Little Caesars Arena. Team owners, the Ilitch family, have reportedly spent more than $1.2 billion toward arena construction and retail, residential and hotel developments in the surrounding neighborhood. State-of-the-art additions like LED displays, a practice rink and other graphic elements for fans have pushed the price up from its original estimate of $450 million, and the Detroit Downtown Development Authority recently announced that arena costs reached $732.6 million. Olympia Development said the official cost of the arena remains unchanged at $627.5 million and that the city's figures include items that the organization does not recognize.
The team's contractors also recently ran afoul of the city for failing to meet local hiring requirements. The city imposed a 51% local hiring requirement, and fined contractors a total of $500,000 for not achieving that goal. However, according to some officials, contractors missed the mark because there aren't enough skilled workers in the area available to work on the project. The arena should be ready in 2017, and, in a twist, the Detroit Pistons announced last week that they would also move to the Red Wings arena.
Texas Rangers stadium
Stadium advocates in Arlington, TX, got some good news this month, when voters agreed to a $500 million city bond deal that will help build a new $1 billion ballpark for the Texas Rangers. The bonds are backed by a combination of various city tax increases, and the Rangers will pick up the rest of the construction tab. The vote cleared the way for construction to begin, but stadium officials are still in the design phase. They did say that the team would be playing in the new venue by 2020.
Rangers fans have long suffered under the Texas sun, and the team said the new venue will have air-conditioning and a retractable roof. The new facility is slated to be built in a far parking lot of the Rangers current home at Globe Life Park, and the same construction manager will oversee the building process. Currently under construction near the site of the new ballpark is Texas Live!, a $250 million mixed-use entertainment complex. Crews began work last month on Texas Live!, sooner than scheduled after the Rangers were eliminated from the playoffs.